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preaching article Pastor: You Don't Have to Preach EVERY Week

Pastor: You Don't Have to Preach EVERY Week

based on 6 ratings
Aug 5, 2014

I love talking “shop” with other pastors, and lately I’ve had the pleasure of interacting with many. Preaching seems to always surface as a topic of conversation. Every pastor feels the pressure to preach great messages—not just true, but engaging and helpful content presented in an engaging way.

The most common question I’ve received in the past month or so revolves around the number of times in a calendar year a typical Senior Pastor should preach. The questions do not always start there, but that question tends to be the core issue. The last time this issue was presented to me by another pastor, it sounded something like this: “I know you preach without notes. How can I do that when I’m preaching 51 weeks a year?”

My answer was simple—“STOP PREACHING 51 WEEKS A YEAR!” I said it a little nicer than that… . Actually, I didn’t. I said it just like that.

Trying to preach every week at a high level is not sustainable. If you are preaching every week intentionally, you are not serving your church or the next generation of leaders intentionally. I should address all the issues I see with this approach later. For now, here are a few things you can do today to create some preaching margin:

1. Set a target.

First things first—you must decide that you cannot nor should not preach every Sunday. If you can’t make that decision, you and the church will suffer. Here’s the question you need to ask first—How many weeks can you preach, effectively? I know you CAN preach every week, because that’s what you have been doing every week. But how many weeks can you really do it with excellence? How many messages can you write and deliver from a place of rest and revelation? Can you internalize 51 burdens?

Right now as a Campus Pastor, I communicate roughly 15 times a year at my church. Add a handful of other opportunities in other churches and I’m around 20 a year. I am growing as a communicator, but I promise you I am WAY better 15–20 times a year than I would be 51 times a year. I bet you would be, as well.

2. Ask me to preach.

I’m not kidding. You should ask me. Or you should ask someone else if you don’t like me. Just ask another pastor to step in for a week or two (or four). I know you are worried they will not be as good, will not know your audience, blah, blah, blah… . Maybe you’re worried they will be BETTER! That’s another problem for another post. You need to acknowledge YOU will be better 35 times a year than 51 times. So ask another pastor to step in your place.

Before you push back (as if you aren’t already), this is much easier than you might imagine. If you are a large church, see the next option below. If you are a small church, I bet you can think of several churches with larger staffs in your community or network. Every large church has up-and-coming communicators who are looking for reps—all they need is to be ASKED.

3. Allow a younger leader to preach.

If you are not providing opportunities for the next generation of preachers, you are doing the next generation a disservice. Yes, initially they will not be as good as you. Yes, they will make some mistakes. Yes, some of your people will not attend when they preach. If your church only attends to hear from you, there’s a bigger problem happening inside your house, anyway.

I think every preacher forgets they were once young and learning, too. Every great preacher began as a young, growing, aspiring preacher. As a Senior Pastor, you have the opportunity to shape the future of the church by allowing the younger guys opportunities to preach.

4. Show a video message.

Now I’ve lost you, right? Seriously, it works. If you’re not sure, just come to my church where we have over 2,500 adults listening to video preaching 35ish times a year. (That’s how many times Andy Stanley preaches each year—and that should teach us something.) My goal as a Lead Pastor is not to preach but to ensure our church gets the best content—engaging and helpful—every week. I’m the Lead Pastor, not the Lead Preacher. There’s a difference. If that is me, great. If it’s Andy, even better. If it’s something or someone else, I’m fine with that. All I want is for our church to hear something helpful and applicable each week. And with that as the goal, the person or the medium is secondary to the content.

So for all us pastors, how are you going to preach less for more?

Gavin Adams is the Lead Pastor of Watermarke Church, a campus location of North Point Ministries, and a student of leadership, communication, church, and faith. 

Talk about it...

Keith  B avatar
Keith B
0 days ago
Pastors are called to feed their sheep. Why would I want to give up the 1 hour a week I have to speak to my entire congregation together in order to let them watch a preacher on the screen?
T.j. Conwell avatar
T.j. Conwell
0 days ago
Now that is an excellent question Keith ... now let me ask, who's feeding you? If anything, it is worth examining the prospect of taking a break before we burn out. Love you in Christ, brother.
Keith  B avatar
Keith B
0 days ago
Good point, TJ. I am a part of some local fellowships of pastors that meet regularly. And yes--I do take a vacation a few Sundays a year. In those times the pulpit is often filled by a young man from a local Seminary or by an older retired pastor.
T.j. Conwell avatar
T.j. Conwell
0 days ago
Gotcha. I hope I didn't come off "raw" or anything it was just a thought I had having struggled with this (taking a break) for so many years. Blessings.
Gerald Casselman avatar
Gerald Casselman
0 days ago
T.j. .... The Holy Spirit is a real and present Person of God living in the preacher/Christian.... We must pray that the Spirit of Jesus gives us Himself (thus power) to witness, preach and testify every chance we get. The pastor has time to weekly refresh in the Spirit; thus preventing burn out.
Leonard Davis avatar
Leonard Davis
0 days ago
There are many other opportunities to "feed" (pastor) the sheep other than one hour in the pulpit on Sunday morning. Many pastors see themselves as "preachers" and the pastoral ministry of "grooming, mending, visiting, correcting, etc." can't be addressed because of "sermon preparation" which is seen as the "main" thing and takes so much time. I constantly hear this "compliment" being made about church leaders, "He's a good preacher, but not much into being a pastor."
Keith  B avatar
Keith B
0 days ago
Sunday morning is the time when everyone comes together. That is the dedicated time to address EVERYONE. Can we see people during the week? Certainly. I do spend 15-20 hours or more per week in visitation. But I still believe Sunday morning is the time when I can speak to everyone.
Grant Bennington avatar
Grant Bennington
0 days ago
Hi Keith, with all due respect, we sometimes have to look at why we feel we need to be in the pulpit every Sunday. Is it vanity, or ego, or because of a control thing. I think we do a disservice to our congregation when we feed them from the same menu every week. Personally I think we all need a break. In doing so we are all blessed with renewal and perhaps even enlightenment. (pastor and congregation included). God bless you in your ministry.
Gavin Adams avatar
Gavin Adams
0 days ago
Well said, Grant.
Gavin Adams avatar
Gavin Adams
0 days ago
Keith, I completely agree. We are called to shepherd. But I wonder how much better would would be as a preacher if we focused on 40 messages a year, not 52 (or 52 x 3 in some cases). I don't believe it is abdicating our position to preach less. In fact, it might make us a better shepherd. Just something to consider...
Keith  B avatar
Keith B
0 days ago
If you've got qualified people in your congregation to preach for you--great. What I have issue with is the use of video instead of a human preacher. I know my congregation. Andy Stanley doesn't. I know the hurts they feel and their strengths and weaknesses. Stanley....or even a pastor 10 miles away in a parent church wouldn't.
Bill Williams avatar
Bill Williams
0 days ago
I agree with you about video preaching, but that was only a minor point in the article. The major point is that there are others who can preach to your congregation other than just you. By the way, if you have elders in your congregation (and every church in the NT had a plurality of elders, not just one), then you should have qualified people in your congregation to preach for you; since one of the qualifications for an elder is that they be able to teach. There is no reason for one person to do all, or even the majority, of preaching in any church.
Gerald Casselman avatar
Gerald Casselman
0 days ago
Keith: I whole-heartedly agree with you. I did not read this author's complete article, but I did feel that his suggestions was calling preaching out-dated and old fashioned. In the last days, there will be a famine for the Word of God. The author was probably not saying to do away with the administering of the Word of God; however, he may have been saying that congregations grow tired of the same pastor week after week. I guess, we pastors, who know we are to preach the gospel every chance we get, must sharpen our tools, shorten our sermons from 40 to 30 minutes and keep loving our people.
Jim Ressegieu avatar
Jim Ressegieu
0 days ago
Some good thoughts Gavin. About 6 months ago I urged the church and they called a co-pastor (co, not associate) giving me my first step at 70 years of age toward retirement in a few years. We alternate months preaching, the co-pastor is ordained as I am in our denomination but didn't want a full time pastorate--it has worked very well. I halved my salary as this is a very small church and couldn't stand the financial strain of two full paychecks plus benefits. I noticed almost immediately how my sermon preps went smoother, my delivery was more powerful and my congregation blessed me with many good comments about how I was preaching the Word with greater conviction. Not everyone can do this, I am the fortunate one!
T.j. Conwell avatar
T.j. Conwell
0 days ago
Very good thoughts indeed, Gavin. Have to say, even as the pastor of a small church, #4 is a unique idea that perhaps I might want to explore further. It would also be a chance for me to be "fed" that week as well and not have the burden of, as you say, trying to preach 104 times (I preach twice a week) every year. Very interesting indeed!! Thanks for sharing your heart.
Gavin Adams avatar
Gavin Adams
0 days ago
T.J., You should certainly experiment with #4. I am a HUGE fan of the video venue for multiple reasons. In your case, it would give you a much needed break.
Donald E avatar
Donald E
0 days ago
Thank you for your words of encouragement. I am a pastor, whether lead or senior it doesn't matter as I am called Brother Don anyway, of a congregation of 25. God has given the church deacons and a young song leader that have the God given ability to teach and preach the word of God. This has given me rest from preaching or teaching 156 times a year. At the beginning I was a bit afraid, but after hearing them a few times I am now relaxed knowing that God's hand was in this. Until recently I was a bi-vocational pastor. I am now retired from my secular job and plan on using this God given talent that this men have. Keep looking up He will return one day.
Wayne Kerr avatar
Wayne Kerr
0 days ago
Very good points. As one who has been in ministry applying a number of these I still smile a little as when I started out in ministry a few decades ago we had two sermons a week plus mid-week. There were great preachers then as there are now. Repeating the same message in multiple services is far easier than having multiple messages per week.
Harold Andrew avatar
Harold Andrew
0 days ago
Idid not read all the thoughts shared but my thought is ' in 1/2 timothy and titus there is a lot of discussion about elders or your top dog leaders of your church. Aren't they supposed to be so involved in the church that you could call one on Saturday night because you are ill and they would fill in with a great message from a new voice. PS I don't see this happening and may be a good topic for this venue. I think pastors are expected too much other stuff, Let's hear about elder etc use in the whole pic.
John Pearrell avatar
John Pearrell
0 days ago
Gavin, that was my question to you at the Inside NP event. Can't believe I'm seeing this in a blog/article--cool! Thanks! We do however need to talk--I'm not sure how, but this isn't the forum. We are a small church and there is nothing in the budget for guest speakers. I do have an associate but unfortunately members have requested that I let them know when he is going to speak so they don't have to come (ouch). I'm stuck, so, while I understand your "don't preach every week" the ideal at this point is not very real in our circumstances.
Richard Kuhn avatar
Richard Kuhn
0 days ago
Lead pastors always need to keep the vision of the church focused and they do that through the power of the pulpit. But, it is good for pastors and the church to also have others preach - it reminds the senior pastor that they are not indispensable and it is why they need periodic sabbaticals for their spiritual health and the health of the church. And it keeps the church from being addicted to "their" pastor. I am amazed to hear people disparage "screen" preaching, but any large church even without a secondary campus is a truly a video church, since everyone is watching them on the side screens other than the first 5 rows anyway. Did we lose something when we saw Billy Graham in the old days watching him on the jumbotrons in a large venue? It is the word that matters, not whether they are there in person.
Ken Mckinley avatar
Ken Mckinley
0 days ago
As a pastor of a smaller congregation, these ideas/suggestions are helpful but I've found in the 15 years I've been in ministry that implementing them is greatly dependent upon ones congregation. Often, a congregation is of the mind set that their pastors salary is based on the fact that he preaches 50 sermons per year (at least) (giving him two weeks vacation). Secondly, I think we as pastors have re realize that we're not called to be Andy Stanley - we're not called to preach ground shaking sermons each and every week, we're simply called to expound on God's Word, to preach it faithfully and truthfully to the best of our ability and rely upon the Holy Spirit and our God given gifts. Remember; Jesus told Peter, "You don't worry about John, you follow Me!" And thirdly, we as pastors are renewed in our strength through our service. "They that wait (serve) upon the Lord, shall renew their strength..."
Donnie Browning avatar
Donnie Browning
0 days ago
Amen brother! God called us to be us. He called us to preach and take care of our sheep, not put it off on someone else in the church and get paid for it. That's not right. After 33 years of continues ministry I find God's grace is sufficient and that His word is always fresh and that preaching 52 weeks each year and also each Wednesday night doesn't kill us or burn us out, it makes us stronger. I'm afraid for the new generation of people who leave GOD out of the church, the preaching and everything else. HE DID NOT CALL US TO BE ENTERTAINERS!!!!!! but PREACHERS and SHEPHERDS of our flock. He would have called someone else to your church, but you applied as a PREACHER-not video shower, or pass the buck CEO.
Bill Williams avatar
Bill Williams
0 days ago
I want to be sure I understood you correctly. Are you saying that sharing the preaching ministry with others in your congregation is "passing the buck"?
Tony Bland avatar
Tony Bland
0 days ago
wow I am surprise, I though every pastor knew this? I have a group of about 5 pastors that will preach for me at any time. Of course I am on call to preach for them at any time as well. We are also a small church so if they come to me no pay if I go to them no pay, but it is easier to preach a sermon that was written last week for them that it is to write a new one for us? joint the club. "The thing that you are doing is not good. "You will surely wear out, both yourself and these people who are with you, for the task is too heavy for you; you cannot do it alone.?Ex 18
Larry Easton avatar
Larry Easton
0 days ago
Not all pastors are CEOs or lead pastors or senior pastors. Some pastors are "pastors" and their churches are not mega but mini. This is not necessarily the fault of the pastor, but because the congregation is comprised of the people God has sent there. I am primarily concerned with grounding the people in scripture, bringing people to the Lord who have been coming for years but never felt a "need," and ministering to the faithful few who are in attendance each Sunday.
Elaine R avatar
Elaine R
0 days ago
Gavin - great article! I'm in a very blessed situation and have the opportunity to do everything in your post. We are a newer church plant and part of our vision is to equip Believer's for their calling. I use potential speakers/leaders from within our congregation to speak every 6 weeks or so and also bring in a guest speaker about every 6 weeks as well. I generally try to get them scheduled back to back so I have two weeks *rest* (although I still do weekly Bible study, home visitations, hospital visits, etc.) Anyone "in-house" does not get an honorarium. Guest speakers from outside our congregation generally receive lunch plus honorarium. Our congregation LOVES the variety and so do I! I did try the video thing once...that was a no-go for us.
Pastor John Reeder avatar
Pastor John Reeder
0 days ago
JOHN REEDER AUGUST 6 2014 MELBOURNE AUSTRALIA . Thank you Gavin - your thoughts confirm my 8 years as Pastor when we would invite different speakers of various gifting and strength to preach the Word. Having retired we are now attending a growing evangelical church where three pastors share preaching duties. With respect to Keith B, I cannot agree with his premises whereby you HAVE TO preach to EVERYONE.......please share the privilege of bringing the Word of God from different perspectives . I used the video talks of speakers from all over the world who came to the annual Christmas and Easter conventions held in Melbourne.
L. T. Stinson avatar
L. T. Stinson
0 days ago
As a Pastor, I knew it was my responsibility to feed the flock. However, I soon learned that that did not mean that I had to always cook. It is important to develop our young preachers and also bless our flock with interesting, inspiring, and encouraging variety. This helps the Pastor avoid boring the flock and helps the Pastor effectively communicate whe he does stand to speak. Jus sayin...
Steven Farless avatar
Steven Farless
0 days ago
Gavin, I have to say 'amen.' and even tough your video sermon creeps me out, I would even take it one step further: does our congregation really need to hear a sermon every week? I mean, how many life changing sermons can someone swallow in a year? Pastors are not the only ones limited; our people are too! sometimes what a congregation needs is simply more worship, or testimonies...still freaked about the video sermon lol :-) congregations cam become so accustomed to preaching that it's just routine.
Bill Williams avatar
Bill Williams
0 days ago
While preaching is an important part of the life of the church, you are right. There's nothing in the NT that specifically dictates that a sermon be preached every week. At our church we've begun to experiment with occasional worship services where testimonies from the congregation (both planned and spontaneous) take the time we usually give to the sermon. These have been blessed experiences, and seem to me to come much closer to the spirit of worship as described by Paul in 1 Corinthians 14.
Bill Williams avatar
Bill Williams
0 days ago
I enjoyed the article, and am encouraged by the largely positive response to it in the comments. Our pastor typically preaches about 22 weeks a year, and he is an incredible communicator for it, I believe. I would just like to add, don't be afraid to look for preachers among the lay people. I've been teaching high school for 25 years now, but until a few years ago, I never thought of myself as a preacher, until our pastor pointed out to me that the basic principles of teaching are essentially the same as those of preaching. Over the last six years, he has trained four of us lay people to share in the preaching ministry. And one thing I've begun to notice over the last year or so: there is no longer a dip in attendance when the lay people preach compared to when the pastor preachers. In fact, sometimes the attendance is higher when the lay people preach!
B Felker avatar
B Felker
0 days ago
As preachers, we must reach all of our congregants, listeners and hearers. In this new world of technology, some of our genX and gen y young adults hae a natural inclination to social media and technology. A video sermon may appeal to this generational group. I think this demonstrates an effort to reach everyone...it doesn't hurt to introduce different techniques, even if they aren't always successful.

So, what did you think?


Thank you.