Preaching Articles

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.

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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William Milam

commented on May 7, 2015

Interesting article. I disagree with the precepts. I preach over 140 times a year. I am invigorated by the study. I am energized with the passion for God's Word. It is NOT laborious. It is my life. My exhaustion in Church ministry doesn't come "preaching". My exhaustion comes from day to day games that Church members play with each other. I can't understand a Pastor, called of God to impart His Word, who regularly spends that time alone with Jesus feeling "run down mentally and spiritually". I don't preach this much because of Pride...or mistrust...I preach this much because it is God's Call upon my life.

James Hancock

commented on May 7, 2015

Brother, I completely agree! God bless you.

M. Keith Williams

commented on May 7, 2015

Josh, I began my ministry during a time where I preached Sunday morning and Sunday night and then did a Bible study on Wednesday night with no breaks except for my personal summer vacation. We would usually have a fall and spring "Revival" with a special speaker either for a full week or at least a weekend. So your story seems so foreign to me in terms of taking a break. Although I do think it is consistent with the culture of our day where people are only willing to invest so much time to the church and to the work of the kingdom. It will be interesting to see the result long term. I am not saying that being busy is the same as being productive. However, there is a principle of sowing and reaping and how to maximize our teaching and its transforming impact needs to be evaluated. Thanks for the opportunity to think about this subject some more.

M. Keith Williams

commented on May 7, 2015

William, I want to say that I understand your comment, because that was my schedule and I too find sermon preparation an invigorating time of my life. The church I pastor now, I have been here less than two years, does not have Sunday night services. I guess they stopped almost 10 years ago. My question has become, "How transforming to my congregation are my sermons?" I know for most of our members they have become a 30 minute information session. We have started "sermon based small groups" and now, during the week our congregation discusses the message and focuses on application. So I now preach less, but there is a greater impact of my preparation than when I preached more often.

Alexander Shaw

commented on May 7, 2015

You must have had six months off! Don't preach sermons - teach the Word - yes, teach the Word of God. Many preach twice on Sundays with a Bible Study/Prayer Meeting Midweek - plus perhaps School chaplaincy and some outside speaking engagements when spiritually hungry people want the Word of God.

Ronald Johnson

commented on May 7, 2015

Sermon preparation and Bible study was never a drudgery for me my 40 yrs in active ministry. In fact I loved it! Not only did I preach twice on Sundays but also I had a Sunday school class and a mid week Bible study. I loved to study God's word and still do at 80 yrs old. My wife and I are very active in an army chapel with many avenues for serving. I never once felt burned out or needing a month break. My vacation was usually week.

Richard Scotland

commented on May 7, 2015

I am slightly surprised by this article, but I have to assume that the pastor is very busy elsewhere in the church to be feeling that burnt out so quickly. 98 in a year seems more normal to me, though I am aware some local churches here the preacher will be around the 45 mark for a year. Anyway, we all have our limits and it is good to know where those limits are! Also good to encourage others in their preaching gifts.

Harold Goff

commented on May 7, 2015

If the Holy Spirit is speaking Preach it when He stops sit down. I find it hard to be silent when He speaks to me, and I am not sure I could say I will preach this much and no more.

Jeremy Seaton

commented on May 7, 2015

My my how evident were in the Laodicean age. Around here some men average upwards of 140 nights a year in revivals. Just as an evangelist in the past two years I was blessed to have preached i believe around 115 messages in different churches. In my opinion a God called man has a God given desire to preach every chance he gets,

James Hancock

commented on May 7, 2015

I have been a pastor at a small church for nearly 7 years. The first 5 years, I preached Sunday mornings and nights with only two weeks off each year. Since then, I still preach every Sunday, but also conduct Bible Study on Sunday nights (which does tend to become "preachy"!). I actually wouldn't have changed a thing - and would preach revivals as much as possible if given the opportunity. Every chance behind a pulpit is a chance to reach lost and/or hungry...

Wendy Pawsey

commented on May 8, 2015

Completely agree, although I sometimes wonder if I am more successful at reaching the lost and/or hungry when I am not behind a pulpit (preaching) and just in an ordinary conversation?

Norm Howell

commented on May 21, 2015

I fully agree with you. We need more preachers that will preach the word!

Wendy Pawsey

commented on May 8, 2015

Interesting viewpoints that reflect just how different we are as people and probably how differently we work as Pastors outside of a Sunday. As a mum of three and full time Pastor I would find it impossible to give my all to the schedules that some of you manage. I think its great that we know, manage and respect our limits. Great article!

William Douglas Johnson, Sr

commented on May 9, 2015

I have read your article and I find it right on with the load of ministry and being a pastor of the people. Some of us are good preachers, but not so good at the other parts of the responsibility. We have a lot of folks in the hospital from time to time and I spend much of my time visiting the sick. I love being there for them, and I love them. God has blessed me to have that love. It's a gift. The people of our church are a gift. I love our senior pastor, but I wouldn't want his job. I do one sermon weekly, on Sunday nights. I benefit greatly from that. Thank you for this insight on your part. Bless you.

Ricky Dean Mauldin

commented on Sep 18, 2015

Just received this from Sermon Central, so I'll comment as if it were new. Interesting article and feedback, but I think it does a drive-by on an even more important question: Who are you encouraging to preach in your stead. Right - it's hard to sit it out while a layman brings a message, but it's nonsense to suppose that the Holy Spirit cannot bring truth through any Christ-follower, and it's silly to go to retirement having driven past many you could have encouraged to step up to finish the work God started through you. Again, not critical, but maybe a missed chance to teach leadership.

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