I took some time a couple of weeks ago to begin planning the coming year’s preaching at Richview.
The wise minister preaches according to a program. He makes it himself and is free to change it at will. He thinks of himself as a gardener who is appointed by the King to feed several hundred people throughout the year. The gardener keeps a succession of plants growing in the various beds. He can water them all in the time that a novice would devote to a single corner. What is more pleasing than a garden that is carefully planned as well as nurtured? (Andrew W. Blackwood, Planning a Year’s Pulpit Work circa 1942)
This quote is right. Planning ahead allows some ideas and themes to develop over time, and it sure beats the weekly panic of deciding what comes next.
I usually come at the process from two directions. From the congregational side, I try to discern the needs of the congregation. My fellow elders are a huge help here. From the Scriptural side, I try to think through genres and themes that I haven’t addressed. We all tend to focus on areas of Scripture and themes we like most, which is a danger if we are to preach the whole counsel of God.
The idea is to give people a balanced diet of preaching. Some preachers aim for doing this over a three-year period; others as long as ten. It really depends on the mobility of the congregation.
A helpful book on the topic is Stephen Nelson Rummage’s Planning Your Preaching: A Step-by-Step Guide for Developing a One-Year Preaching Calendar. Mark Dever also has some downloads on sermon planning at 9Marks. If you have any tips on sermon planning, I’d love to hear them.