Editors Note: This is the first blog in a series written by local church leaders for local church leaders. Today’s post comes from Chad Graham. Chad serves as Lead Pastor at University Assembly in Colorado Springs, CO. Chad is also Senior Fellow at The Gordon Lewis Center for Christian Thought and Culture.
As American church attendance declines, most believers have begun to rely on Sunday sermons as the “main course” of their Christian discipleship. As pastors, we have to keep this in mind when deciding what to talk about during our weekend worship services. Sadly, it might be the only time many in our pews pray, interact with Scripture, or have fellowship with other Christians. It is our job as ministers to consider the state of our listeners, and craft sermons that help them mature in their love for God and for others. A preaching calendar can be an indispensable tool for this important pastoral task.
We never think twice about buying curriculum for discipleship ministries, such as Sunday school, small groups, or one-on-one mentorship. Most curriculum material comes standard with clear teaching objectives, a plan for distributing information, and resources to help disciples grow in their walk with Christ. Why not take this same approach to planning your sermons? Why not look at 2019 and say, “This year, we are going to take our people here and this is what, when, and how we need to preach in order to accomplish that task.” The best preaching calendars serve as a guide for making disciples in your church.
Here are four ways preaching calendars help you disciple your people:
1. Preparation provides structured freedom.
When trying to win over pastors to an annual sermon prep model, I often hear the complaint, “Planning a year out feels too restrictive and limits my freedom in sermon choices.” I have found the opposite to be true. Putting some loose constraints on my sermon topics focuses my creativity and saves me from endless topic hunting. Use the time saved to be with your disciples. Instead of scouring the Internet to find topics your people will find interesting, pick topics your people need to hear about, and find ways to make those topics interesting. When you know what you will be preaching six months out, you can read, write, and collaborate more effectively to produce refined sermons that connect with your congregation.
2. Calendars provide a road map for your church.
Think of your preaching calendar as a syllabus for the church. It provides a road map to show them where you are heading and where they will follow. The preaching calendar will orient the congregation to your teaching plan and guide them along your vision for successful disciple-making. Leaders with a visible plan are simply easier to follow. Consider planning the year on a theme, like the topic of grace, and craft several series for the year that will illuminate the theology, practice, and reception of grace for your people. Whatever content you choose to fill the year with, your people will benefit from seeing your plan and hearing the motives behind your approach.
3. Planning the year reduces topical redundancy.
I favor preaching through books of the Bible. One reason is that I find relief in not having to generate weekly topics from scratch. I tend to get redundant over the scope of a year when my preferences and hobbyhorses drive the content of my sermons. This can stunt the growth of disciples who need the full counsel of God to mature spiritually. Whether you preach through books or focus on topical series, planning out your sermon calendar will give you the birds-eye view needed to avoid preaching the same message, week in and week out.
4. Use sermon planning to disciple your preaching team.
A preaching team is an indispensable asset for your ministry. Your team might consist of staff pastors or faithful members with a gift for teaching. Walk with your team through the calendar (if they are competent, let them help you plan the year!) and have meetings where you study through tough texts, discuss the best presentation of a concept, and find ways to infuse the sermon material throughout the life of the church. This is an effective way to continue discipling and grooming leaders for the teaching ministry of the church. Your team will look at the sermon subjects differently than you do, and the dialogue will help you connect with your people in the pulpit.
Make some time this year to plan next year’s preaching calendar with your leaders. Take surveys, talk with elders and deacons, and look at what you preached this year to guide your preaching next year. By diligently seeking what your people need, you show the Lord—and your congregation—that their growth is really important to you. Make next year’s preaching calendar the road map for growing disciples in your church!
For more information on how Ministry Pass helps pastors plan out healthy, balanced sermon calendars, see our resources page. Our new 2019 sermon calendars release the first week of October.
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