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How to Plan Your Sermons One Year in Advance

I’ve extolled the virtues of advanced message series planning for years on this blog, but I realized I’ve never really described the process in detail.

So, here it is. This is only my process, but I’m sure there are better ones out there. However, it’s worked for me for years.

Please keep in mind this post emphasizes only the technical side of the process. Here we go:

1. Make the time.

The primary reason preachers don’t do this is because they don’t create the space to do it. For me, I have the annual time for preparing the sermon calendar for the following year scheduled in for either the week after Thanksgiving or the first week of December. It takes close to a full week to do all of this properly.

2. Create the calendar shell.

Open up a basic word processing document, grab a calendar and create a space for the full date (including the day of the week), the text you’ll be preaching from, the prospective title of the sermon and the big idea (TBI) of that sermon. Do it for every Sunday of the year, with the correct date for each week.

3. Now, in parentheses, type in all special Sundays.

This would include Easter, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Thanksgiving weekend, the Sunday before Christmas, Christmas Eve (if you have a Christmas Eve series). If your church is celebrating its 50th anniversary or something, note that Sunday. I even include significant days that aren’t religious at all—like Super Bowl Sunday, Spring Break, etc. What this does is help begin to draw the lines for how long sermon series are.

4. Notate your own absences throughout the year.

If you know your family plans to be gone on a particular weekend, note that on the sermon calendar. If you have a speaking engagement, put it on there. If you’ve already put down the special Sundays for the church, you’ll already be able to look and see when it might make sense for you to take a Sunday off.

5. Create a balanced diet sheet.

This is your self-made lectionary based on where the church has been, where it’s going and where the Spirit’s leading you. All of that flows through a balanced diet filter. In a given year, I want the church to study Old and New Testament textual books, study the life and teachings of Jesus, grow in the spiritual disciplines (prayer, worship, etc.), practical living tools (marriage, sex, money, etc.) and learn how to share the Gospel with others.

Lastly, I like to have a series during which we do practical theology of some kind—a “why we believe what we believe” series for the average person. You aren’t yet picking out the specific series at this step. Please note also that some of these subjects get touched as we go through a book of the Bible, and thus most of my sermon series are books of the Bible, preached expository, “marketed” topically. I know I need to flesh that one out a bit more, but that’s for another post.