The secret of all victory lies in the organization of the non-obvious.Marcus Aurelius
Planning ahead isn’t for God’s benefit but ours. The same God that speaks to you in the moment is the same God who can guide you six months out. We can probably count on one hand the number of times we’ve felt the Holy Spirit speak to us and quickly shifted our plans accordingly. But what is amazing is the number of times we began preparing for the next series and realized this is exactly what our church needed at that moment.
The Benefits of A Preaching Calendar
1. YOU HAVE MORE TIME TO PREPARE.
When you know what topics you’re addressing in the future, you are more alert when applicable ideas and insights come your way. Life circumstances, news articles, books, stories and conversions, and moments when God speaks to you during your devotional time can build up a library of resources available for when you sit down to prepare your message.
2. YOU CAN BE MORE CREATIVE AND INVOLVE OTHERS.
When your team knows where you are going, you can design entire services around a single concept or point. You can build tension with a song, relieve tension with a funny skit, assign any next steps or homework, find a perfect illustration to bring the message home and focus your social media on expounding on your message.
3. YOUR PREACHING WILL BE MORE DIVERSE.
We naturally gravitate to our favourite topics and passages, especially when crunched for time. A preaching calendar will force you to stretch, address uncomfortable topics or simply better organize messages around relevant seasons in people’s lives. It will help ensure that you are hitting the majority of people’s felt needs, not just your favourites.
Preparing the Calendar
1. Pray & Prepare
What are the top felt needs of your congregation? Of your community? What questions do you hear your friends and acquaintances asking? What are the people you interact with in need of but not talking about? This is essentially a prayerful mind-dump, where you’ll list all of the topics you believe God wants you to cover in the next year.
- Discipleship/Bible understanding
At Parallel Church, Pastor Kelly Stickel plans his sermons around these six key topics. Additionally, he considers which ones will focus more on grace versus truth or faith versus wisdom. Too many heavy in one focus can create problems in your people’s spiritual development.
2. Get the Big Picture
Using a calendar, notebook, or personal copy of the Series Planner Template provided above, fill in holidays, special dates, community or school events you need to be aware of that could affect or enhance your message.
3. Flesh it Out
Begin filling in the topics on the calendar, asking yourself when would be the best time to preach on a particular subject based on your attendance trends, highest felt needs and seasons of the church? Be aware of your culture and context as you sketch it out.
For example, Parallel Church’s attendance in Alberta, Canada, typically fluctuates over the summer as various people are away on holiday. We wouldn’t choose a series vital to the church’s growth in this season. Rather than fight it, we embrace it and take the opportunity to experiment. We create highly invitational experiences focusing on building relationships and having fun. “Summer at the Movies” is an excellent example of embracing summer trends.
4. Involve Others & Dig into the Details
Once you’ve got your general plan, you can begin to put down thoughts to investigate, message titles, specific message focus, creative ideas etc. As the year progresses, continue to update your document and keep it in a place where your entire team can see it so they can be on the lookout for creative supporting elements.
Remember, a tool is just a tool and will only be as effective as its commitment to implementation. Some leaders plan quarterly, others every six months and still others yearly. Regardless of what you choose, it won’t be effective if you build it and never look at it. It won’t be as effective if you use it personally but never share it with your teams. The key here is collaboration and allowing your team to create compelling invitational tools for your church to use when inviting friends and family.
ACTION STEP >>
Commit to using the series planner for the next x months with your team (we recommend six months to allow everyone to adjust to the new system), then honestly evaluate its effectiveness. Did the team feel more aware of what they should be working on? Was there a higher level of collaboration among team members? Was there a higher quality in your team’s work relating to the messages? Did you feel better prepared? Did your congregation feel more aware of what was happening and invite people more effectively?