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Preaching

4 Reasons Every Pastor Should Use A Preaching Calendar

We’ve all done it; it’s Friday or Saturday, and you need a message for the weekend. As communicators, the biggest challenge we face is creating relevant and creative messages 52 weeks a year. And sometimes the inspiration or preparation is lacking.

Chances are you pulled it off, but how amazing would it feel to get ahead— to know what you were going to preach in 2 weeks, 6 weeks, or 6 months? What if you were able to be strategic about what you communicated and when you communicated it? What if you took Sundays off at the right times, and preached your best sermons on your biggest weekends? It’s possible!

I started using a preaching calendar in 2013 after years of frustration trying to create fresh content. We have fine-tuned our schedule and strategy over the years, and now it’s one our best tools for planning impactful services. I’ve downloaded a lot of other preaching calendars, and they all were helpful in different ways, but over the years I’ve found I really just needed a simple one-page spreadsheet to help me plan.

I’ve provided a free 2019 Preaching Calendar download at the end of this blog, but first, let me tell you why you should use one.

Using a preaching calendar has allowed me to do 4 things:

1. Preach a thematic calendar

That’s just a fancy way of saying I’m able to plan the topics I want to preach at the most strategic times. Don’t overthink it. January = Fresh starts, February/March = Relationships, April = Gospel, etc. Themes don’t have to be based on holidays; maybe you want to launch a church initiative, using a calendar would allow you to be strategic about the content you present before and after the initiative. A preaching calendar helps you think “seasons” instead of weeks.

2. Plan for rest

As I put together our preaching calendar the first thing I do is mark the weekends with the most potential impact. The second thing I do is mark the weeks I will not preach. There are several factors to why I don’t preach on a particular Sunday: high vacation season/low attendance, the conclusion of a series, a vacation with my family, just to name a few. By using a preaching calendar I know before the year starts what Sundays I will have off, and my goal is to have 10-16 Sundays off per year. I will still be in attendance most of those days or preach at another church, but I can be strategic about when and why by looking at the year as a whole instead of week to week.

3. Share the Platform

If I know when I’m preaching what I’m preaching, and why I’m preaching it, it’s much easier for me to decide the most strategic times to platform other communicators on my team. For example, by using a calendar and knowing all the holidays (major and minor) in advance, I know specific Sundays I won’t be speaking. With that knowledge, I can inform my team member months in advance, and they can know what sermons are being preached before and after them. They appreciate having extra time to prepare.

4. Collect research and stories

This is probably my favorite benefit of using a preaching calendar. Since I know the general topics I will be preaching over the upcoming months my antenna is up for any articles, videos, or stories that relate to my sermon. I keep an Evernote folder on my computer called “Stories/Illustrations, ” and when I find anything that could be helpful I save it to that folder with tags. Also, while I’m reading a book, I underline anything that could potentially be helpful, and after I finish the book, a volunteer in my church types the notes into Evernote for me. As I get closer to the sermon and begin to construct it, I have a lot of valuable resources to help me build a solid sermon with some extra elements.

Download a preaching calendar and sit down with your team, or just yourself, and think through all 52 weekends of 2019. Figure out the best way to communicate for the most impact throughout the year.

I have provided a one-page preaching calendar template I use so you can see the way we layout our year, but this is merely an example. Use your preaching calendar, however, meets the needs of your church best. You will find all the major holidays and events that affect Sundays. We’ve also broken up the year into a few different segments where the year has natural breaks. These are great times to start a new series. I encourage you to use this document and create more “breaks” of your own each time you start or stop a new series. Plan 2 or 3 big outreach series, plan a vision series, plan a money series, plan 2 spiritual disciplines series. The Holy Spirit can still inspire and guide your sermons; planning has never offended Him. Get ahead and enjoy your Saturdays.

Be sure to read, “5 Ways To Get The Most Out Of A Yearly Preaching Calendar” to get the maximum impact for your church.

Categories
Preaching

5 Reasons To Use A Manuscript When You Preach

I’ve been preaching or communicating from a stage for almost 20 years, and over the years I have tried all kinds of different styles, methods, and strategies. I’ve sat on a stool. I’ve worn suit coats. I’ve worn flip flops. I’ve used an outline, no notes, and word for word manuscripts.

I’m always trying to improve my craft and honor God’s calling on my life, so If there is a “tweak” or tip that can make me better, I want to try it.

After almost 20 years I’m beginning to feel comfortable with my delivery style, preparation routine, and I’ve decided to use a word for word manuscript. I’m not saying I will use a manuscript forever, but for the last few years I have used a word for word manuscript, and it has helped be more confident in my preaching. Let me give you 5 reasons why:

1. I’m confident I’m prepared

When I step to the pulpit with 5-8 pages of notes that I have processed, typed, and read through during the week I have confidence that I’ve done everything I can do to prepare. It doesn’t mean I will deliver it perfectly of course, but at least I’m not wondering how I’m going to start, transition, and end. I have become so accustom to a manuscript that in those rare instances when I walk on stage with a few notes or small outline, I’m a nervous wreck. I’m not suggesting that someone who uses outlines or a few notes scribbled down isn’t prepared, I’m just speaking for me, and the confidence of knowing I’ve been diligent in my preparation helps be confident in my delivery. Very rarely do I walk off the stage thinking, “I wish I would have said…”

2. It helps me stay within my time frame

It took a few months to learn my cadence and timing, but eventually, I figured out that (for me) every page will take around 3-4 minutes to communicate. I also know that I will stop probably once per page and say something unscripted. Knowing that, I assemble a 7-8 page manuscript so my sermon will be 30-35 minutes in length. Like clockwork, if I don’t use a manuscript I go over my timeframe, mainly because I don’t know how to end my sermon. Which leads to my next reason…

3. It keeps me from rambling

Preachers love to hear ourselves talk. When I’m not prepared to the best of my ability, I waste valuable time rambling or going down rabbit trails that don’t serve the greatest purpose for my sermon. I’m usually too dependent on the reaction or feedback from the congregation so I ramble until I feel like I made sense or connected, which usually takes way too long. This is especially true at the conclusion of the message. My dad always calls it “landing the plane” and if I don’t prepare how I’m going to land the plan during the week I just keep circling the runway repeating myself.

4. It keeps the content fresh

When I don’t thoroughly prepare my sermons, I end up winging it, and when I wing it, I end up preaching the same sermon over and over again. It may have a different title or scripture reference, but after 10 minutes of winging it, I end up making the same points I always make when I wing it. Every preacher has certain issues or soap boxes they are passionate about, and a lack of preparation lends itself to be ending up on the same soapbox I always end up on. A manuscript keeps me from retelling the same stories over and over again off the cuff. It forces me to find fresh research and stories because I’m structuring the message days in advance.

5. It allows me to reformat messages for different mediums

This is probably my favorite reason. When I have a 7-8 page manuscript, I have the ability to reuse the content in a variety of different ways with very little effort. I can create 2-3 blogs, or send out a recap email, or write a book in the future, simply by copying and pasting from my manuscript. I may need to make a few edits, but by taking the time to type out my sermon, I’m creating reusable content and killing three birds with one stone. Consistently, even when I have the best of intentions, if I don’t manuscript my sermon I never go back and type blogs or emails after the fact. Also, as a bonus, I can search past sermons and reuse them in new sermons if I feel the content is helpful. After years of using manuscripts, I have a digital catalog of hundreds of thousands of words available with a simple search.

These are just a few of the reasons I prefer using a manuscript, but I will admit that I’m still learning how not to be so glued to my notes. That’s the biggest feedback I get from other preachers who don’t use a manuscript. They say, “I don’t’ want to have to be glued to my notes.” That is a valid concern. Eventually, I want to get far enough ahead in my prep that I have time to memorize certain parts of the sermon, but for now I just do my best not to look down as much as possible.

Whether you use no notes, a few notes, or a lot of notes I encourage you always to be tweaking your preparation and delivery. Don’t be afraid to try something new or learn from someone else. The best communicators are always improving.