Preaching Articles

How we plan our preaching calendar at Revolution is one of the most common questions I get from other pastors.

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. 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 who 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 say 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 preaching; 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 are the Song of Solomon and the Sermon on the World. The other category is missional, which tends to be more formation, doctrine, theology. Some examples are 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. One other thing that we preach on every year is marriage, dating, and relationships. For our target and culture, we feel this makes sense.

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 four 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 themselves 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: plan ahead in some way. By planning ahead, we are able to do a lot more creatively as opposed to going week to week.

Are we flexible?

Yes. Just because we are planning something does not mean it is written in stone and unchangeable. Over the summer, we were actually planning to preach through Habakkuk but decided about four 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?

Josh Reich is the lead pastor of Revolution Church in Tucson, AZ, which is trying to live out the rhythms of Jesus. The church's dream is to "help people find their way back to God."

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Talk about it...

Chris Carter

commented on Jun 20, 2011

The best year I have ever had preaching is when I took a weekend off and rented a cabin, just me, God and many books. There God prepared me for a years worth of preaching. It is pretty good know what you are preaching on next Sunday.

Nithin Thompson

commented on Jun 20, 2011

My only question is after you have your books picked out (James for instance), do you also have your main preaching point already picked in advance? It takes me time to get my big idea, so do you already have that picked out in advance as well, or do you come up with that during your peparation time? If it changes, how does that affect your programming team? Not sure if all this made sense, but that is what come to mind. Great article.

Clark Crebar

commented on Jun 20, 2011

Good insight. We must plan ahead but that planning must be done by being bathed in prayer and hearing from the Lord what He desires to share with His people. Too often we go with the flow of what others are doing, what's the latest and greatest versus abiding with Christ and having Him share His heart for His people. Chris Carter's plan of stealing time away just to be with the Lord is vital.

Stephen Sheane

commented on Jun 21, 2011

I agree. The earlier you can plan ahead the better. We also like to plan a year ahead. It is helpful to the drama team/video team/decoration team to know a long time ahead what the topic will be so that can prepare as well.

Joseph Ward

commented on Jun 21, 2011

I am NOT a great planner, but I found that if I discipline myself to set aside time for it prayerfully, and with some resources to help, it makes all the difference and then I can 'get it done'. The one who mentioned taking a week off to get away for planning hit the nail on the head for me. I take time when I am going to be off the schedule for a few days or week to do the planning process. It does make things better for the church and myself knowing which direction to go for 6 months. However, I am not as good at long term series as some are, so that makes it harder to go a full year out, but even 6 months is very helpful, and then in the midst of that time, another plan for the following 6 months usually comes to me.

Gordon Douglas

commented on Jun 21, 2011

WOW! Planning ahead is something I have always wanted to do and have actually set out to do it many times but somehow it does not happen for me. I seem to not be able to stay with it until I am right under the hammer. My messages still seem to get the job done but I am sure it would even be more so if I could plan ahead... better for me and for those that have to listen to me! But... well?

Prescott Jay Erwin

commented on Jun 22, 2011

The title of the article is "How to plan a Preaching Calendar." In this article, you tell us WHAT you do, but not HOW you do it. The clues you DO give still make it seem pretty random.

Saul Dela Cruz

commented on Jun 23, 2011

Good idea on how to plan your preaching, but the most important to remember it should be exegetical and biblical preaching. And if you plan ahead you are more prepared and you can memorize your preaching outline, with excellent deliberation. Thank you Josh, we have the same favourite book in the Bible, I remembered the book of James when I'm doing my papers in Hermeneutics, very interesting.

Colin Bain

commented on Jun 25, 2011

We do the plan. Being essentially lazy and therefore extremely efficient, I figured out that 2 days (12-16 hours) for the plan saved me at least 90 hours, plus the constant pain and pressure of the question "What am I preaching on?" Thats like 2 regular working weeks for an average worker. As we go through the year, we gather ideas for next years plan. We never fill all the spots, but God fills them and makes changes along the way. It also allows you to be able to see the horizon of the congregation and notice the little but big things.

E L Zacharias

commented on May 3, 2018

Don't forget the pericopal system, where the work of the texts for the week is already chosen. There are many different pericope systems, which work through a series of books in a year; some series are three-year, where the Gospel is either (A) Matthew (B) Mark or (C) Luke; John is used to supplement (especially the Gospel of Mark). The other readings will include Old Testament and Epistle readings. The nice thing about a pericopal system is that other churches use it, so the whole community of churches will be studying and working on similar Scriptural theme. The pericope system saves a lot of time for everyone.

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