As we wrap up our series on sermon planning, I want to emphasize that this is a work in progress. I closed with that last time but it bears repeating. When I started planning my sermons in advance, it was awkward at first. My only tools were a notebook, ruler, and a pencil. I made columns in the book, wrote the Sundays down, and then started working through the year. I still have those old notebooks and refer to them to look at how I started and how I do things now. I suspect my calendar will look different in five years but will contain much of the essential elements I’ve already shared with you. Another thing, once you get used to this method of planning, you may wonder how you survived before. It’s refreshing for me to kick off my week on Monday knowing ahead of time what I will preach on Sunday. I can print out my text, line it out, and focus on the spirit of the sermon rather than fumbling around for any and everything to give me an idea.
Here’s a few random tips as you begin and then I’ll close with some resources..
1) Give yourself time. You CANNOT do this in an hour. When you first get started, try lining out six months in advance or even three if you feel stressed. You’ll soon grow into a year and then, it’s just a matter of maintenance on your part to keep the calendar current. Find a quiet spot with a good cup of coffee or tea, plug in some calming music on your MP3 player, and set down for a few hours the first time out to get this started. Remember, you’ve investing your time now and will be grateful for it later in the year. In the end, you’ll save time doing this.
2) Leave some Sundays open. You never know when you might get sick or a preacher friend of yours plans to visit. You might wish to extend your pulpit to him to preach so it’s best to leave a few Sundays open for these types of things. I usually plan betwen 40-45 Sundays of the year on my calendar.
3) Be aware of your planned series as you read the news and/or see video clips that address the topics on your calendar. One of the great benefits of planning in advance is that you can take advantage of the media to give you all the illustrative material you need for your sermons. If I see something on the internet that will help me, I’ll print it out and save it. I have a business “tickler” file that I use for all of my paper and I simply drop these illustrations in their appropriate slots and when the time comes they are right where I need them. Again, planning ahead saves you time in many different ways.
As I mentioned at the outset, there are very few tools out there with advice in this area. A couple of my favorites include the book “Planning your Preaching” by Steven Rummage, “Preparing a One Year Preaching Calendar” (audio download) by Nelson Searcy, and the section on sermon planning the book “Can We Do That” by Andy Stanley and Ed Young Junior. Much of what I have shared with you and adapted over the years came from these resources. If you know of others, please share and let me know!
I hope you’ll take the time to plan your preaching in 2010. Your congregation will benefit and you’ll have much less stress as you go from Sunday to Sunday each week. If I can be of service to you in any way, please contact me through this site and I’ll be sure to get back in touch with you.
God bless and happy planning!