Ironically, how we plan our preaching calendar at Revolution is one of the most common questions I get from other pastors. In fact, in the last 2 weeks I’ve been asked about it almost a dozen times that I thought I would share how we decide what we preach on and how far out we plan and why we do it this way.
First off, plan ahead. I am stunned by how little planning goes into some churches. You would think that pastors don’t care what is happening in their churches. Naturally, I am a planner, so this is easier for me and actually more comforting when it is done. For example, the other day I talked to a pastor that said, “It’s Thursday and all I have is a title.” That’s like saying, “All I need is a chip and a chair.” We need better odds than that when it comes to preaching. Now, before you get on my case, God does speak at the end of the week, God does change what we are to see while we are walking up to the stage. It has happened to me and it is exciting and scary all at the same time, but this cannot be our normal practice.
At Revolution, we have decided that the best way for us to reach our mission and target is to preach through books of the Bible. This does not mean we are against topical (that’s a bad discussion in my opinion), we just like doing it this way.
We split series up into two categories: attractional and missional. Attractional will feel more topical, felt needs, but are based on a book of the Bible. Some examples: Pure Sex (Song of Solomon), 30 Days to Live (which was topical, see we aren’t against it), The Sermon on the Mount, Ultimate Fighter (2 Timothy), The Blessed Life (Philippians), The Perfect Kid, Give me Faith (James), The Vow, . The other category is missional which tends to be more formation, doctrine, theology. Some examples: Becoming, Jonah, Reveal (Hebrews), The Story of God (overview of the Old Testament), Uprising (a vision series), Manifest (Titus), Light & Shadows (Jude), Fearless (Joshua) and Weird (1 & 2 Peter).
We also try to alternate between Old and New Testament books of the Bible. What we are trying to do is to make sure we are giving our church a healthy balance not only of books of the Bible, but also styles and feel.
What about length?
We haven’t bought into doing a 3 – 6 week series only. Hebrews took 18 weeks, Nehemiah took 22 weeks, and Peter took 23 weeks. The length of the series is not that big of a deal as long as the speaker is up for it. Long series are draining. We try to stay away from doing long series back to back as that is draining on me, our team and our church. Also, if you do a very serious book that is heavy on the theology like Hebrews or Jude, do something lighter right after it.
How far out do we plan?
We look about 12 months ahead when it comes to thinking through topics. This is where so many pastors do themselves a disservice. By knowing this far in advance what I’m going to be preaching, I can be on the lookout for articles, quotes, current events, etc. I’ll often be reading a book and a quote will jump out to me that will work in a sermon 10 months from now. It also helps any creative ideas we have for musicians to think through songs or to write songs, to be able to make videos, build things on stage or props. None of that can happen if a pastor has a great idea on Wednesday or Thursday that they want to implement on Sunday.
Are we flexible?
Yes. Just because we are planning something does not mean it is written in stone and unchangeable. In 2012, we planned to preach through the whole book of Romans. Last summer on vacation, I felt like I needed to dive into 1 & 2 Peter during my quiet times. Because of that, we shelved our Romans series for another time. This turned out to be a great idea as we are moving in 2012 and being in the middle of a long book series while moving would have been difficult and taken away some flexibility for us.
For our creative process, we look 6 – 8 weeks out as we think through atmosphere, visuals, video clips, dramas, cover songs. As we get closer, Paul takes us through a process of honing in on what we will use and how it will flow.
How long would this take? Not very long. In fact, if you sat down right now and made a list of topics you would like to teach on in the next 6 – 12 months you would be well on your way.
When I started preaching through books of the Bible, I picked James to start out with because it was my favorite book of the Bible. Not very spiritual, I know, but it worked and I started to get used to it.
The point is, plan ahead. Way too much is at stake to go week to week.
Now I’ve told you how we do it, how do you plan your series? How do you decide what to preach on?