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: Song of Solomon, 30 Days to Live (which was topical, see we aren’t against it), The Sermon on the Mount. The other category is missional which tends to be more formation, doctrine, theology. Some examples: Becoming, Jonah, and Hebrews.
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.
After the sermon on the mount, we are planning to kick 2010 off by preaching through Nehemiah which is a very mission/leadership focused book.
One thing that we preach on every year is marriage, dating and relationships. For our target and culture, this makes sense. You can check out the series we are starting in 2 weeks here: www.iwantanewmarriage.org.
What about length?
We haven’t bought into doing a 3 – 6 week series only. Hebrews took 18 weeks and Nehemiah will take 22 weeks. For the sermon on the mount, we decided to break it up into 4 smaller series to create more on ramps for our church and guests this fall. 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. After the serious feel of Hebrews, we did a video teaching series with Dave Ramsey which felt completely different.
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 themseles a disservice. The other day I was reading a leadership book and the author was quoting and pointing to the book of Nehemiah all over the place. Without knowing that I wanted to preach through this book, I would have missed a ton of great information. Could I have remembered it and gone back to it? Sure, but that is risky.
My point is, plan ahead in some way. By planning ahead we are able to do a lot more creatively as opposed to go week to week.
Are we flexible?
Yes. Just because we are planning something does not mean it is written in stone and unchangable. Over the summer we were actually planning to preach through Habakkuk but decided about 4 weeks out to do the life of Elijah instead, which proved to be the right move. Before making the change though, our creative team let me know we had not gone far enough into the creative process for that series. It is important to not waste your team’s time.
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?