The Bible is surprisingly silent regarding many of the specifics surrounding pastoral ministry. Though it’s clear regarding WHAT we’re to do, the Bible is often quiet about HOW. How we carry out our preaching ministries is a great example of this.
The Bible doesn’t tell us how many weeks out of the year we should preach, how long our sermons should be, nor what specific form our sermons should take (i.e. expositional, topical, etc.).
The Bible also doesn’t tell us how to plan a preaching calendar. A Facebook friend reached out to me recently asking how I plan my preaching calendar. To be honest, I’ve never thought about my process. Since this is another area about which the Bible is quiet, there is room for many different approaches. What I realized in thinking through my process is that my preaching calendar is the result of answering five questions:
1. What type of preacher am I?
Some pastors preach 52 weeks out of the year, others are a part of a teaching team and don’t even preach half that many. Some preachers prefer long series through entire books, while others are more suited to shorter textual, or topical preaching.
On average I preach between 40 and 45 times a year. I do better with shorter series through chunks of a book rather than long series through entire books. I find topical preaching terribly difficult and do best with one primary text. You have to know these things about yourself before you can plot a productive preaching calendar.
2. What are the special days?
There are holidays and strategic Sundays you may want to take advantage of. Christmas and Easter are obvious, but Mother’s Day, Father’s Day and others present us with unique opportunities to shepherd in focused areas.
My first step in planning the preaching calendar is typically to identify where the days land and what, if any influence they will have on what I preach those weekends.
3. What is gripping my heart?
God is always doing something in you and me. As Christians, we must be mindful of this so we can work in conjunction with God’s Spirit in our own sanctification. If you’re a preacher, God may mean at least some of what He’s doing in you to benefit your church as well.
Many of the series I teach are the result of a text that haunts me, sometimes for weeks on end. Other times, I read a book on a particular topic that is especially formative and know that it’s something that would be helpful for Redemption as well. Consider what God is currently doing in you, as He may want to do the same thing in His people through your preaching.
4. What do our people need?
Every church is different. The spiritual maturity of your church may be different from the spiritual maturity of mine. There may be theological issues people need clarification on. Maybe there is a particular area of Christian practice where people need instruction. The epistles are great examples to us of good pastors having a pulse on what God’s people needed to hear.
Two ways I gauge this are questions and prayer requests. I pay attention to the questions I’m asked after services and in counseling. Similarly, I read through all our prayer requests that come in on Sundays and look for areas of doubt, discouragement, or disappointment that seem to be common. If themes appear, I preach into them. Regardless of our means, we all need to have some pulse on these issues.
5. What haven’t I preached?
In Acts 20:27, Paul tells the Ephesian elders, “I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God.” It’s bad form and pastoral negligence when preachers only preach to their pet issues. God’s Book is big and has lots to say. That means that our preaching should be diverse and cover a wide range of topics.
As much as possible, I try not to preach the same text over and over. If I’m preaching on generosity and have already preached from 2 Corinthians 8 on the topic, I will choose another text to preach from. I know this will get harder the longer I preach, but I want to teach as much of God’s Word as possible so that I, too, am benefitting from the full counsel of God.
There are no set rules for how far out you should plan. I used to do 12 months but found that to be too much. By the time I was six months into the calendar, I was changing stuff. This is how I learned that being about six months out is best for me personally.
Your process will be determined by what works for you. Preach Christ from God’s Word week in and week out and everything will work out:-) I hope these questions are helpful and aid you in your pursuit of teaching the full counsel of God.