I was recently asked by a local pastor to share how I put together my preaching calendar. As I’ve mentioned before, I share the pulpit with our senior pastor, so planning for preaching initially involves the both of us. Two weeks ago we shared the preaching schedule for 2014 with our Worship/Arts Team which allows them to get ahead with brainstorming, planning, etc. So the topic was fresh on mind. For pastors interested in planning their preaching further out than the next Sunday, I thought I might share some things to consider in constructing a preaching calendar. They revolve around your church’s needs, strategy, traditions, and rhythms.
Always start here. If preaching is a way to shepherd the congregation then pastors should ask the question:”At this specific stage in the life of our church, where do we corporately need to mature, repent, or learn as followers of Christ?” I believe in order to answer this question well we should open up the circle to others who also have their fingers on the spiritual pulse of the congregation. This could be age-graded ministry leaders, small group leaders, or anyone else who serves within the discipleship processes of the church. For example, I seek the input of our Spiritual Formation Team for helping us identify specific needs to be addressed from the pulpit. Why? This team is composed not only of our campus pastors but also those responsible for the oversight of our small groups. It’s as front-line as we can get without inviting the hundreds of small group leaders into our conference room.
The main idea is to include others outside the pastor who also know the spiritual temperature of the congregation. Who else can tell you about the church’s state of the union? Use them in your planning process. You may find they can identify critical areas in your congregation which can be addressed in a series for the upcoming year.
Are there any specific strategic emphases you want to push in the upcoming year? For example, we wanted to address the orphan need in our area as a opportunity to express our gospel witness to the world around us, so (in addition to many other things) we did a message series on our being adopted by God in Christ. While our congregation grew in the glory that is the doctrine of adoption, the sermon series also pushed the flywheel for our strategy to be missional about the orphan need in our area.
What strategic initiatives are you planning on next year and how can you appropriately leverage the pulpit for it?
What church traditions or seasons do you want to maintain or begin? At Clear Creek Community Church, we know December is reserved for Advent. What will you do with Holy Week, Lent, or Mother’s Day? Your answers will either reduce or multiply the number of weekends you have available for non-seasonal series.
What is the rhythm of the culture in which your church finds itself? For better or worse, in our community, our numbers at worship services swell two times a year – at the beginning of school in the fall and the start of the year in January. We refer to it as the “two hump camel.” We peak attendance-wise during those two seasons and that influences how we decide about sermon series planning. For example, we like to begin series during those times instead of continuing a series from either the summer or the year prior. In what cultural rhythms does your church find herself (e.g., Spring Break)? Ask yourself how those things might influence your preaching calendar.
Another part of church rhythm is your personal rhythm. When do you take vacations, sabbatical, or just a weekend off? This can inform us when we may want to begin a new series or conclude one. I know I’ve moved a series up in the calender a week just so a specific teacher could kick it off.
A final part of rhythms has to deal with the bandwidth of your congregation. For example, if you’re doing a topical series, what’s the optimal amount of weeks for your church to be exposed to that one series? Or, if you’re going through a book study, do you need to do Romans for fifteen weeks or three years? This can be the hardest thing to think through because often the side of you which “loves teaching a certain subject” will have to do battle with the side of you which “lives in reality.” Getting a number of weeks to put on the calender for this or that message series can be a real challenge. Once again, this is where getting the input of others is helpful. Invite the opinion of some trusted parishioners on the length of your future series. You might be surprised, blessed, or challenged by what you hear.