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Mark Driscoll’s Preaching Secrets: Series, Length and Strategic Planning

Big harvest.

From January through Easter, we see our highest attendance of the year. Football can mess up some of the Sundays (especially Super Bowl Sunday, which has become something of a religious holiday in the States), but we plan on moving full steam ahead during this time.

We black out a couple key chunks of this time, no vacations or extra breaks for staff members.

During the big harvest is when we have our largest campaign of the year, and we push the hardest. Last year, our major campaign was Real Marriage. This year, it’s Ephesians: Who Do You Think You Are? Next year, I’m working on what I think will be the biggest thing I’ve ever done. It is such a massive project it will take a full year to pull it all together.

The big harvest culminates on Easter.

We love, love, love Easter at Mars Hill. We go all out. A few years ago, we had almost 20,000 people show up in the rain to the Seahawks stadium. This year, we are live-streaming from a historic church in downtown Seattle to all of our other 13 locations, for a total of 42 services spread across four states. We go big for Easter, and it’s all about evangelism, conversions and baptisms. The sermon is short and focused on evangelism.

We do not offer kids ministry, but invite all of the kids to join us in service, which makes it fun and allows us to stack up more services closer together, as the turnover is faster. We sing a lot, everyone on stage dresses up, and we dunk people and cheer all day. It’s nuts in a glorious way. Even when we were a church of 100, we have always sought to outpunch our weight class on Easter and go big.

Pruning and planting.

After Easter, we continue to roll along. Attendance flattens out through the spring, and summer is a time to prune and plant.

We do all of our staff and elder performance reviews at this time. We finish our fiscal year and reset all of our budgets. We change up programming. This is the best time of year for new leaders to be put in place, so that they can ramp up in time for the fall push. We plan for the fall push and line out the entire next year.

Most staff takes their vacation sometime during the summer, and I tend to take a break from the pulpit. For 16 years, I’ve preached a lot. The first decade I preached, on average, about 50 weeks each year, or close to that. In more recent years, I am down to 45 or so. I’ve never taken an extended break of more than a few weeks since 1995 when we were in core phase.

Summer is the best time to put new leaders in place.

When I am out, other Mars Hill pastors generally cover our services by preaching live.

This summer, however, I’m getting six weeks off, which is a really long time for me. I want our other pastors to get a summer break as well, however, as we work hard at Mars Hill, so I’m bringing in some friends to preach a series called My Best Sermon Ever. I’m asking each one to choose what they think is their best sermon and preach it for us. We have Wayne Grudem, Paul Tripp, Larry Osborne, Eric Mason and Bruce Ware confirmed for this summer. They will make an amazing deposit in the people of Mars Hill. I should have done something like this, inviting other pastors to invest in our people, years ago.

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markdriscoll@churchleaders.com'
Pastor Mark Driscoll is the Preaching and Speaking pastor of Mars Hill Church in Seattle. He is one of the world’s most downloaded and quoted pastors. His audience—fans and critics alike—spans the theological and cultural left and right. Follow his updates at twitter.com/pastorMark.