Disclaimer: This is a post primarily for preachers. Of course, anyone may read it, but it will be of particular interest to men who preach. If you are not a preacher, but would like to share this with a preacher, please feel free to do so (and send us his email address so that he can be included in future mailings).
My first introduction to planned preaching was my junior year at Freed-Hardeman sitting in an advanced preaching class taught by my dear friend, Billy Smith. Brother Billy has taught thousands of young men through the years about preaching. He has been, and is, a confidant to many of the young men who have sat in his classes. I count him as one of my very dearest friends to this day.
One segment of his class dealt with planning your preaching. He encouraged us to plan our sermons a year in advance. During the class, I dutifully took notes, primarily so that I could complete the assigned notebook. Little did I know at the time that I would refer back to those notes numerous times through the years.
My first attempt at planning my preaching was not a very successful venture. If I remember correctly, it was third year of full-time preaching. I had struggled through a couple of years which included a fifteen-minute daily radio program, a weekly ladies Bible class, two Bible classes in a Christian School, a weekly Wednesday night class, a weekly Sunday morning class, and the two weekly sermons. I was 23 years of age and felt like I was drowning. So I pulled out the old notes from brother Billy’s class and decided to give it a try. I ended up ditching my list early in the year because it just didn’t seem to be working.
The next year, I asked my brother Dale if he would be interested in renting a place and working together on sermon planning (of course, he had been in brother Billy’s class also). We met and kicked around ideas over a couple of days, and it seemed to work much better that year. We started inviting a few other friends to join us, and our little group grew. We even had a golf tournament for a few years, including trophies and other prizes. For several years we brought in resource people to help us with ideas, study habits, tools, etc.
Dale and I enjoyed this association for about twelve years. My life has been, and is blessed by my younger brother more than I can describe. I love him with all of my heart. Those who know him well understand this completely. He is one of the great leaders of God’s people in our day. I often tell people that he is the better preacher in our family. I am honored to have him as my brother and my dearest male friend on the earth. One of the difficult aspects of leaving Alabama for Oklahoma was the knowledge that I would lose what had become one of my favorite two/three days of the year.
My first few years in Oklahoma I went back to planning my sermons alone. After a few years, I started getting together with my new friends Tommy Haynes and Russ Dyer in our offices to work on sermon planning. After my move to Texas, we decided to meet and get away for a couple of nights.
This year is our sixth year to meet, and we have added new friends every year. Why do I tell you all of this? First, to encourage you to consider planning your preaching if you’ve never done so. Also to share some thoughts and ideas that have been most meaningful to me through the years. Naturally, what works for us will not necessarily work for every preacher. You can take these ideas and change them, tweak them, or use them in any way that will be helpful. You, and the congregation where you work, will be blessed if you plan your preaching. If you have questions or would like to further discuss any of this, please feel free to drop me a note or give me a call.
Ask for help/input from your congregation and elders. On a number of occasions, I have made available a form that asks our members for sermon suggestions (texts, topics, series, etc.) We have asked for favorite passages. We once asked, “If you knew you were listening to your last sermon, what would you want the topic to be?”
Allow yourself the freedom to make changes if needed. Special needs will arise and you will need to preach sermons for special situations. Maybe the church is going through an especially difficult time and special lessons are needed. Perhaps the elders recognize a special area that needs to be addressed. Don’t be so tied to your plans that you are unwilling to change if it is needed.
Include other preachers in the planning process. The times I have done this by myself, it has not worked as well as when I have had others with me. We bounce ideas, concepts, and thoughts off each other. We talk about programs/ministries that have proven successful. The fellowship with the men who are a part of our group is a rich blessing. We stay in touch through the year and I am already looking forward to this time with these men in December 2011.
Bring books, computers, printers, calendars, etc. with you to use. Use the church calendar as you plan your preaching. Be aware of special events through the year (Gospel meetings, seminars, VBS, retreats, etc.).
Include sermons that are doctrinal, topical, and textual. Consider preaching series. Keep up with topics that you have used in previous years. By doing this, it helps you to effectively “preach the whole counsel of God.” It has been my experience that planning your preaching helps balance the type of sermons presented.
This has reduced my stress level from week to week in the planning of preaching. Each of the men who are a part of our group agree that knowing in advance what you will be preaching reduces stress and saves a lot of time.
Set a specific time and place to plan. We get together the first week of December. It has proven to be the best time for our group of preachers. My goal is to have every sermon topic and series planned for the next year by the end of the retreat. Completing it early in December allows me the opportunity to fine-tune everything during the Holidays.
Above all things, approach the Throne of God on a regular basis. Ask Him to bless your study, your preaching, and those who hear you preach. Thank Him for the blessing of being a part of the greatest work on the face of the earth!
Dear God in Heaven, we are thankful for Your Church. We are thankful for the blessing of being a part of Your Family. Father, help those of us who proclaim Your Word to take our work seriously. Help us to love preaching the Gospel. Help us to let those around us know that we are serious about preaching. Thank You for the blessing of planning, studying, and living with the Sacred Text. In the Name of our Savior we pray, Amen.