I begin planning the next year’s preaching calendar for our church around September or October every year. I informally gather ideas throughout the year and pray about what the following year’s preaching calendar should include.
There are many benefits to using a preaching calendar, but perhaps the best is that you don’t have to use any creative energy each week to figure out what to preach next. A few hours in the Fall will save many hours over the next year. But a preaching calendar is a guide, not a law. Call the audible and change course if circumstances prove that another sermon is necessary for the congregation.
How do I decide what should be scheduled for the next year of preaching?
Prayer. This should go without saying, but I will say it anyway – we need to pray and ask God what He wants each local congregation to be taught each year.
Observation and knowing the flock. Every church is different and does not necessarily need the same food each week. As a pastor, it is our job to understand our flocks and herds (Proverbs 27:23; Ezekiel 34) – part of that includes knowing what they need to feast on each year. For example, when I came to where I currently serve, I noticed that the church’s exposure to Systematic Theology was decent but was somewhat lacking in Biblical Theology. I don’t think that is because of any deficiencies of the previous pastor – one can only preach and teach so many things. The things he did teach were instrumental in helping the church grow. However, I saw my turn in holding the baton in the race as an opportunity to fortify Biblical Theology. So instead of long series through books of the Bible, I mainly did shorter studies of multiple books so the congregation could see the metanarrative or arc of Scripture. As the church grew stronger in BT, I felt more extended sermon series on a Biblical book would help the congregation. For 2024, I sense a diminishing value of the church in people’s minds. I wish that deficiency was limited to non-Christians, but it is not. Therefore, I planned a short series on elevating the church in January. Four sermons will be preached from Ephesians 4:11-16. After that initial series, we will embark on a longer study of 1 Corinthians to show that church, while necessary, can be messy. It's messy, but worth it.
Conversation with other pastors. Ideally, there are other Elder/Pastors in your church to pray together and talk about what the preaching calendar should look like. However, that is often not the case. In those situations, wise pastors will connect with other pastors to discuss preaching ideas and plans.
Once I know what should be studied and how long, I leverage a few tools to make the preaching calendar.
Some of the tools I use:
1.The Table of Contents of a commentary can be a helpful outline. For example, the Christ-Centered Exposition commentaries give good exegetical outlines. Keep in mind that an exegetical outline is different than a homiletical outline. Generally, exegetical outlines are for study, while homiletical outlines are for preaching.
2. ChatGPT. Wait. What? I’m advocating using AI for preaching. Yes and no.
AI tools are great for helping break down sermon series passages and generate discussion questions. For example, I put in ChatGPT, “Divide 1 Corinthians into 35 passages for a preaching series.”
It did a pretty good job. I had to make a few adjustments, but it was much easier and quicker to take what was generated and produce a final guide than to create it from scratch.
To be clear, I only used AI to divide the book into sermon passages to be preached. I did not use ChatGPT to write the sermons!
3. Excel. I know – old school. But it works and is easy to share! I uploaded our preaching calendar from 2023 and 2024 in the Shareables sections if you want to see what I use at MBC (it's in the Preaching/Sermon Ideas folder).
In closing, I share what I do not because I think it is the best way but only to help someone if they don’t have a plan for a preaching calendar. I would love to hear how you approach the preaching schedule at your church and what tools you use!
May God bless our preaching in 2024 for His glory and our good.