I started using a yearly preaching calendar in 2013. I was desperate for a way to plan ahead for my sermon series and ideas. Most weeks I was up late on Saturday night after my family was in bed trying to finish a sermon, or even worse, sometimes I was trying to come up with a sermon idea.
Over the years, I’ve used a few different layouts and resources, but what has worked best for me is a simple one-page spreadsheet that allows me to view the year at a glance and preach my best sermons at the best times.
Here are a few tips to help you get the most out of an annual preaching calendar:
1. Start With Prayer and Fasting
As with most strategies and tools to help a pastor be a better leader, preaching calendars aren’t controversy-free. Some feel it is less spiritual to plan ahead, or that somehow God doesn’t inspire us in advance. My experience has been the opposite. My best sermons have come from months and months of time to think. Kind of like giving your sermons a chance to “marinate.” Any planning, dreaming, and scheduling has to begin with a time of prayer and fasting. You need God to inspire you with content beyond your ability. You need discernment to gauge the season of your church. You need God to burden you with the material. Preaching is a supernatural activity and requires supernatural intervention. Planning isn’t an absence of prayer and prayer better not be an absence of planning. You need both.
[clickToTweet tweet=”‘Planning isn’t an absence of prayer and prayer better not be an absence of planning. You need both.’ @jasonisaacs” quote=”Planning isn’t an absence of prayer and prayer better not be an absence of planning. You need both. “]
2. Use broad strokes
Often, when I talk to pastors about using a preaching calendar or planning your year, the response is “I could never have my sermons ready that early in advance.” I agree. To be clear, I don’t have my sermons ready that early in advance either; I have my ideas prepared in advance. For example, next year we’re taking 12 weeks leading up to Easter to preach through the Gospel of John. I know that for sure. What I don’t know is what 12 stories were using from John. After reading John a few times, I made some notes. I know one week I’m going to preach on John 2 where Jesus made a whip and cleared the temple and the very next story he turned water into wine. Some people need to know Jesus makes whips and some people to know Jesus goes to parties. That’s all I know. I’ve written it down, and I will revisit it a few weeks before I preach, make sense? You don’t have to know specifics about your sermons right now, but you can know topics or themes you want to address. Don’t get caught up in the details.
3. Be strategic
If I’ve learned anything pastoring the same for 10 years, I’ve learned that church has a rhythm to it. If you go back and look at your stats and trends, you’ll probably find certain months where attendance is up or down, giving is up or down, group and volunteer participation is up and down. You can feel it instinctually, but if you keep records, you can verify with numbers. Whatever the rhythm of your church is, plan your sermons accordingly. When do you need to preach sermons about spiritual growth as opposed to outreach and evangelism? The right sermon series at the right season of your church can have a drastic difference.
[clickToTweet tweet=”The right sermon series at the right season of your church can have a drastic difference. @jasonisaacs” quote=”The right sermon series at the right season of your church can have a drastic difference.”]
For what it’s worth, your family has a rhythm too. There are seasons where life is more stressful or times that are better to leave town. Use the preaching calendar to maximize your families rhythm.
4. Think themes
Similar to seasons in your church, a yearly calendar has natural themes; capitalize on them. A few examples might be:
- Talk about relationships in February
- Family in November
- Change in January
- Outreach in August/March/December
It’s not an exact science, but there a few seasons where topics resonate more than other seasons. Over the years our thematic calendar has changed some. That’s why it’s important to start with prayer and fasting. For several years our relationship series in February was one of most significant, most impactful series, but we began to notice after 3 years that it wasn’t as effective, so we changed it up for a few years, and then brought it back in 2018. Don’t be predictable, dress up consistent themes with creative ideas and fresh content, and when it’s necessary to shake it up.
5. Get creative
Planning far enough out gives you the chance to involve others in the process, and gives you time to get the creative juices flowing. Find videos, write dramas, or plan special songs. For example, I have a playlist on Spotify called, “Creative Openers” that I put songs in any time I think they might be something our team could use to maximize the message. My worship pastor has that playlist on her phone as well. Your team will thank you for the advanced heads up. Also, as you read magazines or blogs, save articles or research that might be helpful because you know you’re preaching about that topic soon. Every creative piece of art, story, or data, adds a level of depth to your message that cannot be accomplished through last-minute planning.
If you haven’t downloaded the free 2019 one-page preaching calendar, provide your email address below and I will send it to you, along with my 2018 preaching calendar as an example you can use.
Also, be sure to read, “4 Reasons Every Pastor Should Use A Preaching Calendar.”