1. Spend time fasting, praying and preparing yourself spiritually to hear from God– the amount of time and the way you do this will depend on the individual. There is no substitute, however, for getting yourself spiritually prepared to hear from God. As I prepare to start work on my preaching plan, I like to spend 3-4 days fasting, dedicating several periods of time during each day for spiritual examination and prayer. No amount of planning can substitute for prayer and hearing from God. Every step in this process must be bathed and saturated in prayer. The more time you spend in spiritual preparation the better.
2. Identify the key issues and needs facing your congregation-I like to take an afternoon to simply pray through our church directory, asking God to call to mind the needs of individual needs of my congregation. As the Lord calls various issues to my mind, I make a list of issues and needs. Once I have prayed through every name in the directory, I then go back and categorize the needs and identify the most pressing issues facing our church.
3. Outline your preaching strategy– one of the key factors for effective preaching is to have variety in your styles and approaches. I highly recommend for you to make preaching through individual books of the Bible the backbone of your preaching ministry, but I have found that it is effective to vary my style of preaching throughout the year. You will have to adjust the plan to meet your needs but I try to include the following in my yearly plan:
– Preach through two books of the Bible
– An expository topical series on the family
– A theological expository series on a major doctrine of the Bible
– Individual holiday sermons or short series
– Standalone messages dealing with specific issues in the community
3.) Decide how you will observe the ordinance and special Sunday’s- every church has its own special services and ways of observing the ordinances but this does not mean t we cannot get creative in how we deal with them from the pulpit. Graduation Sundays, homecoming services and other special days need to be put on the calendar and given special attention in our planning.
4. Plot the number of messages in each series– this is not an exact science and I caution you to leave 1-2 Sunday’s open after each series on your calendar. This way if you decide to add an extra message or get interrupted in your schedule you have already built room into the calendar. Here are a couple general guidelines:
- For series through a book I build the number of messages around the outline that I have developed for that particular book. Usually, I will read through the book 5-8 times and then consult a couple of commentaries to see how others have outlined the book. Once I have gotten a good grip on the structure of the book, I will draw up an outline of the entire series of sermons. I find that the most effective way of doing this is to identify a connecting theme that runs through the book. A couple of years ago, for instance, I preached through 1 John using the theme, “Authentic Christianity.”
- For a topical series I will study all of the Bible passages related to a particular topic, then choose 4-5 of the key passages that I will use when I preach the series. This is a topical expository approach because I choose the passages based on topics, but then preach the individual passages in an expository fashion.
5. Put together the schedule for your preaching:
- Start by marking holidays, special Sunday’s, vacation days ect… on your calendar.
- Look for openings and schedule the larger expository series where they can be as uninterrupted as possible. Personally, I like to start expositional series either at the beginning of the year, right after Easter, or at the beginning of fall. You will have to decide what works best for you.
- Schedule in the other series where they will fit the best on the calendar or fit with other emphases of the church.
6. Make a list of resources you will need to collect for each series- I like to purchase commentaries as I am preaching through the individual books of the Bible. As I draw up my plan, I will also do some research to find the most helpful commentaries and resources for the book that I am preaching at the time. Since I operate on a limited budget I need to plan when and how I will purchase resources. Over the past couple of years I have begun purchasing most of my commentaries and Bible study materials to work with my Logos Bible study software. If you are planning on using video or other resources, this would be a good time to start thinking about these issues as well.
7.) Decide how you will promote your preaching through print and social media- As modern preachers we also need to be thinking about how to promote our sermons through print and social media, in order to attract the largest possible audience. If you have a church Facebook site or twitter account, these can be effective tools for promoting a series of messages. But in order to make the maximum impact you need to plan ahead.
For more help in how to plan your preaching for the year, I would recommend Dr. Stephen Rummage’s book entitled “Planning your Preaching: A Step by Step Guide for Developing Your Preaching Calendar.”