The primary task of a pastor is to preach the word. This happens in day-to-day conversations of ministry, planned meetings and classes, and the congregational sermons that will be delivered every week. I am convinced that a pastor shouldn’t plan his congregational sermon at the last minute but should instead plan a preaching calendar ahead of time (see my previous article 7 Reasons You Should Plan a Preaching Calendar). But how can he actually do that?
7 Essential Spokes to Planning a Preaching Calendar
I believe there are at least seven spokes that he must have to plan a preaching calendar. I say spokes because planning a preaching calendar is a process. But the process isn’t always linear like climbing a ladder. It’s more like a wheel. The wheel needs multiple spokes to propel you forward. You don’t check spoke one-off and never return to it. You need all of them throughout the entire process. Let’s briefly look at those seven essential spokes.
Spoke #1: Pray
I can’t emphasize this enough: you can’t plan a preaching calendar without constant and intentional prayer. Ask the Father what you should preach next year, what books you should walk your congregation through, what cultural issues you need to be aware of, and anything else you need to ask him. Our good Father is a good gift giver (Matthew 7:7-11) who has prepared your good work of preaching beforehand (Ephesians 2:10). Persistently ask him what you should preach over the next year.
Spoke #2: Constantly Read the Bible
You must know the Bible well and continually be marinating in it. J.I. Packer says “…every Christian worth his salt ought to read the Bible from cover to cover every year.” How much more should that be the case for every pastor? Make sure that you are continuing to be a lifetime student of the book. Know the metanarrative of Scripture well. Never grow tired of mining God’s word for all of its riches. Amongst many things, this will allow you to know what books of the Bible or passages you should preach next year.
Spoke #3: Be An Expert Exegete
In the preaching world we know we must be expert exegetes of the Bible. But as pastors, we must also be expert exegetes of our people, culture, the times, and our church calendar. We must study and know our sheep well. What do they need? Where are they lacking in their walk with Christ? Plan your preaching calendar accordingly.
The same is true for culture and the times. What is happening in your city and the world? Is there perhaps great civil unrest because of racial injustices, global pandemic, and a contentious and complicated upcoming election season (like all that would ever happen at the same time, right)? Study and exegete the culture and times well as you plan. And don’t forget to do this for your church calendar too. What Christian, church, and federal holidays matter to your church? How do those events and other annual rhythms of things like school and the seasons of the year impact your people? What parts of the year do you expect to have more unbelievers present? When will it be mostly just your people? A wise pastor will plan his preaching calendar in light of his expert exegesis of all these areas.
Spoke #4: Preach the Whole Counsel of God
In Acts 20 Paul told the Ephesian elders that he had preached the kingdom for two and a half years while he was with them. During that time he said he preached the whole counsel of God. There are a few things that preaching the whole counsel of God means. But, in short, it means that your people need a balanced diet of the whole scope of Scripture through the lens of the gospel (Luke 24:27). This means that you can’t have pet genres, pet doctrines, or pet topics in your preaching calendar. Make sure you are rotating through different genres, doctrines, and topics throughout the year. Then you can be confident in the work you have done just as Paul was (Acts 20:26).
Spoke #5: Plan in Community
Proverbs 11:14 teaches us that we need an abundance of counselors. We were made to make decisions in community. Planning a preaching calendar shouldn’t be any different. Sure, the primary preacher should be most involved and have the most say-so in the process. But, carve out some time for others to speak into the preaching calendar. Make sure everyone on your preaching team can speak into the final product. Your preaching calendar will be better because you planned in community.
Spoke #6: Learn from Other Like-Minded Churches
Brothers, realize that you aren’t in this by yourself. There are other brothers fighting around the entire world to preach the gospel week in and week out too. Learn from them. As you are working through these spokes you can see what other like-minded churches have recently preached too. Trust that they are working through this process as well. Perhaps you will get fresh ideas on how to disciple your people from them.
Spoke #7: Be Organized
As you are planning your preaching calendar you have to be organized. There’s nothing worse than getting a good idea and forgetting about it a day or a week later. I strongly suggest writing your ideas down in a journal or word document of some sort. Once it comes time to plan the preaching calendar you’ll be ready. I suggest getting a giant dry erase calendar like this so you can see the entire year at once and can brainstorm as you plan.
Then put a more detailed plan in a document and a digital calendar that your entire team can see. Consider planning how long each series will be at minimum for the entire year. Also, have the main idea for each of the series for the year so you know where you are headed. You can choose to fill in the exact passage breakdowns and main ideas for each sermon as you plan the calendar or as you get closer to the series. The choice is yours. But you must be organized as you do it.
Find Your Rhythm
Pastor, do you have a regular rhythm of planning a preaching calendar? If not, put a date on the calendar today. Have one by then. These seven essential spokes will help you serve your church well as you plan your preaching calendar.