As we continue our series on the why and how-to of a preaching calendar, we are now ready for the “nuts and bolts” of assembling our plan. Once you have set yourself apart from a time of reflection and planning, and have focused your attention upward, where God has your undivided attention, you’re now ready to listen and respond.
First, decide that your congregation is on a journey. You are not simply providing fifty-two opportunities each year to “start your week right.” The preaching plan says “we are headed somewhere–on purpose!” So what are the most critical steps in that journey?
1. Vision–where are we going?
If you are going to move in a direction as a church, people need to know where we are going. I’d suggest that Sundays be given every year to shaping or “casting” vision for the church. Typically, this can involve multiple Sundays, where you might present the big picture purposes of the Church, the unique manner in which your local church lives that out, and the specific steps we wil take in the year ahead. There’s much to share in a “vision month” including your church values, and a clear presentation of how they are lived out Monday through Saturday. Without vision, people perish (the idea is that they scatter their own way in the desert and they die)!
2. Biblical Living
Consider which larger portions of the Bible you will study together this year. Think of these sermon series as the best fuel for your congregation’s journey. Many who use preaching plans prefer an expositor approach to preaching where they tackle one book of the Bible at a time. How deep they go determines how long the series lasts. While there are no clear “thou shalts” when it comes to the best length for a sermon series, I would recommend 4-12 weeks for most of us. Some go longer, but if you’re in your 43rd week in the book of Leviticus, you better be a really good speaker 🙂
For most of us, choosing 2-3 books of the Bible each year as foundations for sermon series is the best place to get started. When preaching such series, consider an outline for each message that reveals–What does it say? Why does it matter? What does it look like? Studying the Bible for historical context and understanding alone will help you figure out Moses’ journey, but not your as a local church. The point of such preaching is to bring the text’s proven wisdom into my world and show me how to live it on Tuesdays.
3. Doctrinal Themes
Most churches and denominational groups have doctrinal statements they adhere to on some level. And there are key themes that define a local church and shape its values. So perhaps you will want to include a short (4-6 week) series that walks through your most critical beliefs. Again, be sure to do more than inform. Help people see how these fundamental beliefs shape daily life.
4. Christian Living
You may want to include some “topical-textual” series that give guidance for specific needs on the journey. By “topical-textual” we mean sermon series that address specific topics, but do so from a clear Biblical foundation that uses passages which speak clearly to the topic. This is not a potpourri of proof-texting, where random Scriptures may be separated from their context and true meaning, but the Biblical writers tackled topics, and you should too.
So, here you may want to provide a series on stewardship, or the elements of the fruit of the Spirit, or the characteristics of Biblical leadership, or some other set of subjects you believe your people need to strengthen the journey. These type of series usually work best in the 4-8 sermon range.
5. Special events
Of course, you’ll want to plan for special events, guests speakers, and holiday observances. These include missions conventions and services, advent/Christmas celebrations, Easter series, and perhaps a community-focused event or two. While you may not be certain of the exact Sundays where a guest speaker will be scheduled, plan for it and you’ll have a basis for saying “yes” or “no” to the request.
When it comes to holidays, don’t feel obligated to provide an extended celebration of every holiday every year. Perhaps you could prepare a 4-week Easter series this year and a 4-week Christmas series next year. One year, you may preach to moms on Mother’s Day while the next year you choose to spend that Sunday in the series you’re currently preaching. (You don’t have to let Hallmark and the cultural calendar dictate half of your preaching year. Your church can celebrate these holidays effectively, even if your sermon isn’t a part of that celebration.)
Once you have identified the series pieces and individual sermons of your upcoming year, now you’re ready to place them on the calendar. We’ll discuss this next step in Part 4 of our series next week.