Here is another little list of 10 pointers, this time on planning your preaching calendar. (I understand that some churches are tied into a lectionary, which will restrict the value of this list, but for the rest of us…)
1. Pray and ask what the congregation needs to hear in the coming months – We are under-shepherds, but the Good Shepherd has the best perspective on how to care for the sheep. It is no more spiritual to plan at the last moment. In fact, it may be less spiritual to work that way. Pray and plan.
2. Be alert to the church calendar (within reason) – If people come to church just before Christmas and you are preaching part 34 in your Ezekiel series they will find that strange. They would be right. Preach Christmas leading up to Christmas, Easter leading up to Easter, etc. Beyond those two seasons, select appropriately for your context. A rural setting may make a big thing out of harvest time, while an urban setting probably won’t. Some events can be marked without a full sermon (perhaps Mother’s Day?)
3. Recognize key seasons for the church – While Christmas and Easter may be prime time for visitors, other seasons are key for church life. September and January are two key months for leadership and vision casting. August may be the time people are away and you need to plan a series of stand-alone messages instead of a tight series.
4. Beware of extended series – Lloyd-Jones preached through Romans for many many years. You are not Lloyd-Jones. 4-8 weeks seems to be ideal these days, with a little bit of flexibility at either end. A new series creates energy and opportunity to invite folks (so don’t make the next new series too far off).
5. Plan buffer weeks – Having a flexible week or two between series will be useful. It is easier to fill a week than to find a week when you need it.
6. Be aware of canonical balance over time – Different cultures, church cultures and preachers will tend toward a certain part of the Bible. Don’t always preach Gospels, or Epistles, or 2 Chronicles. Mix it up over time and seek to offer a balanced diet over the course of a few years.
7. Every series does not have to be the same – It is great to go through a book, or a section of a book, but it is also helpful to mix in an expository-topical series now and then (that is, a selected set of passages that are still preached carefully according to their intended meaning), or a character study, or a few key values of the church.
8. Avoid predictability within each series – Galatians in six weeks does not have to be one chapter each week. Consider a whole book introduction or review at the end. Preach longer chunks and shorter sections. Preach thematically through a book.
9. Strengthen the series beyond the preaching itself – See if the music team can mark a series with a fitting song. Tie the series together with careful branding and imagery. Get input into the series from people in the church, or even people in the community (what would you ask God if you could?) . . . those who input tend to come and listen more attentively!
10. Plan, but be prepared to change – A national or local disaster may require sensitive reshaping of a series or preaching calendar. Prayerfully and carefully plan, and where necessary, prayerfully and carefully adjust those plans. The calendar is for the church, not the church for the calendar.
(Previously in this series we have had 10 pointers for younger preachers, older preachers, trained preachers, untrained preachers, preaching Easter, team preaching, special occasion preaching and evangelistic preaching.)