If I’m honest, I did far too little regular planning of my sermons when I was a young pastor. No one had discipled me about scheduling a sermon series, and I was too unorganized at the time to think far beyond the next Sunday. Now, though, I believe that strategic sermon planning is on target. I’d love to hear your thoughts and reflections in response to these suggestions below:
- Pray. And then pray some more about the direction you’ll take. I fear that too many of us decide where we want to go with our preaching, prepare the sermons, and then ask God to bless them. We turn to Him more after our prep is finished than before.
- Plan and prepare out of your “alone time” with God. “Let your preaching come from the overflow of your life with God” is more than a spiritual slogan; it’s a life-giving goal. Spend time with the Father as you consider what your preaching schedule might be.
- Welcome the input of others who walk with Him. Sometimes we get so focused on our immediate thinking that we miss things others might recognize. For example, they might see that I’ve preached the same general material three years in a row, or that my plan seems to forget the church’s commitment to be more globally focused. More sets of spiritual eyes are helpful.
- Think wisely as you plan long sermon series. Here, I admit my bias, and I welcome your input. Given that we often don’t have dozens of years to invest in others through our preaching, I debate within myself the wisdom of taking years to preach through one book of the Bible. I’m concerned that while our hearers may learn that book really well, we’ll have missed an opportunity to introduce them to other books in that same amount of time.
- Preach the Word, but be open to various approaches. I believe strongly that we must exposit the Word, but I’m not convinced that approach means we can only preach through entire books. While I do think book-by-book preaching is the best overall approach, I’m open to occasional topical sermons that are clearly driven by and derived from the text.
- Plan to preach books from both testaments of the Bible. You would think this is a given, but most of us have a preference for a particular testament or particular books. It’s easy to get out of balance if you don’t intentionally plan for preaching both the Old and New Testaments.
- Plan for regular events that will likely influence your preaching choice. As you plan your preaching for the year, factor in the holidays that require some attention (e.g., Easter, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Thanksgiving, Christmas, etc.). Consider any special emphases the church annually plans (e.g., a homecoming service, a Global Impact Conference). Pay attention to the liturgical calendar if your church follows it.
- Be flexible. When 9/11 happened eighteen years ago, most of us adjusted our sermon the next Sunday to address the national crisis. Sometimes things like a local disaster, an unexpected death of a church leader, or a moral crisis/discussion in the news require us to make a change. Again, though, prayer can move us as needed in our sermon prep.
What are your thoughts about planning a preaching schedule?
I’m retired now, but over the last years of active preaching I found the best plan was the revised common lectionary which gave the congregation and me Psalms, OT, Gospel and Epistles and were, with some surprise, very contemporary to what we needed to hear and preach.
Next year, I am planning to preach through all of the “one chapter” books to my congregation. They are often overlooked (even by me). I have preached a 9-part series on Romans 8 and 7 weeks each on the signs and “I AM” statements in John’s Gospel. While these have been more”topical”, it has been a rich time in the Word for the congregation and for me, personally.
One thing I have done that’s been fruitful is to plan my personal devotional study to be several months ahead of my preaching plan. So I read and ask God to speak to me first in the text long before I start planning to preach it to others. This has two effects. First, it allows me to read and consider the text personally without the distraction of how I will communicate it to others, and second, it cuts my prep time considerably when I come back to it when it’s time to prepare the sermon, because I’ve already dealt with key questions and heard from God from the text, and written it in my notes.
well Steve, personal devotional and sermon plan are two things. But often our devotional Bible reading is to find sermon material, and not feed my soul. But I certainly believe in a sermon plan. In the past I lectured Homiletics at a Bible College overseas
The advice to not preach too long in one book is well taken.
I made that mistake — preaching through John. While it keeps the preacher “on subject” and allows him to ignore the things that “make him mad” enough to take it out on the people in the pulpit, sometimes people get lost in the long series, especially if the same type sermon is preached.
It is best to take 2 or 3 chapters out of a book.
What about getting feedback from the learning gaps of your congregation?