The other day a church planter I coach asked me, “How many times a year should I preach?”
The answer to this question depends on the person, church, philosophy and what the person can handle. While most churches have one person who preaches the majority of the time (i.e., 40–48 times a year), some churches have a team where people preach an equal amount split in some fashion.
When we started Revolution Church, I preached 98 times in the first two years. This was partly because we didn’t have anyone else to preach and my desire to get better as a preacher, but also I felt the need to help set the tone of what our church would be like. This was tiring.
Now the elders have set a goal for me to preach at least 40 times a year. This allows me to preach the most (which is important for the church, which I’ll talk about in a minute) and still develop other communicators. As I get older, I could see this number going down so others can be preaching and developing their gift.
I think it is important for a church to know the person who communicates regularly. This creates a normalcy to church; people know what to expect and they feel connected to a communicator.
The other question a pastor has to ask is how he will break his weeks up.
I’ve learned that my limit for preaching in a row is 10 weeks. For other people it might be 8 or 13. Around week 10 I start to get incredibly run down mentally and spiritually and feel like my tank is low. I shoot to have a week off from preaching at least every 10 weeks. Sometimes I’m able to make that happen, and other times because of the season of our church, I can’t.
One question a lot of young planters wrestle with is when to take a break.
Each year, before I put together my preaching calendar of topics, I pull out the school calendar (the district in my area and the University of Arizona) and see when the breaks are. We run on a year-round school system here, so we get six weeks of summer instead of three months. This means we have random breaks in October and March when Tucson seems to shut down. These breaks are great times to have another person preach. The Sunday after Thanksgiving, the 4th of July, the Sunday of Memorial Day and Labor Day, the last Sunday of the year and the first Sunday of the year are great weeks to take off from preaching and have someone else do it (that’s six right there).
I also shoot for a three-week break from preaching at some point in the summer. The benefits to this are enormous for you personally and for your church. This is when I plan the next year of sermons, work ahead, work on my own soul and take a vacation with my family.
But what do you do on a week off?
For many pastors or people in their church, the idea of the pastor having a week off from preaching sounds like he is taking a week off from everything. This is an opportunity for you as a pastor to work ahead on sermons, think through a series coming up, meet with leaders to plan ahead or evaluate a ministry, go to a conference, take an extended spiritual retreat to be with Jesus.
If you aren’t proactive, you will waste these weeks off.
So, why do pastor’s preach too much and burn out?
For some, it is a pride issue. They don’t want to give up control of the pulpit. They think if they aren’t at church, it will cease to exist and fall apart. This gets to the heart of who is building your church, you or Jesus.
Some pastors truly don’t have anyone else who can handle it. This is a tough spot to be in. If you are one of these people, consider using a video sermon from a pastor of a large church like Craig Groeschel or Andy Stanley (we do that once a year simply to expose our church to some great speakers and authors I think would benefit them).
The bottom line is, you get to choose this as a pastor. The choice you make though has an enormous effect on your health and the health of your church.