A preaching calendar[1] is an intentional sermon forecasting exercise where the pastor, with his preaching team [2], creates a preaching program for the year.

This preaching plan follows on the heels of the annual ministry audit of the previous year and the strategic objectives for the upcoming year. The team[s] who conducts the exercises above are Scripture-centered and Spirit dependent. As they look forward to the preaching plan, they are once sensitive to the leading and guidance of the Holy Spirit. This should also take into consideration any other long-term goals the church may have.

Recently, I revisited our preaching plan to ascertain if it contains the core elements of what ought to be considered for an effective strategy. But before I believe the core elements of what ought to be included in a preaching plan, let me say, over the years, the churches where I have served as the lead preaching-teaching pastor have significantly benefitted from a preaching plan over self-standing or miscellaneous sermons. Let me briefly share with you the benefits and perceived disadvantages of a preaching plan.

Benefits of a Preaching Plan

First, aligning the preaching plan with the strategic spiritual objectives of the church will help in speaking directly to the aims, goals, and purposes of the local congregation.  Second, you create time and space to pray over and ask the Holy Spirit’s leading over the books, themes, and topics you have discerned to preach on. Third, you also create space and time to design and develop the preaching series and the team who will share the preaching load. Fourth, it allows the preaching and media team to be creative in sourcing illustrations, object lessons, and videos to supplement the sermons, the preached word. Lastly, it provides opportunities for members to invite family, friends, and others to our services around a specific series.

Disadvantages of a Preaching Plan

Over the years, I have also heard of the disadvantages of a preaching plan. The number one reason often given is that a preaching plan limits the Holy Spirit. In scripture, we see various examples of the Holy Spirit being involved in long-term planning (Acts 2:23; 4:27-28), as well as moments of where he sovereignly prevents and provides an alternative direction (Acts 16:6-10). Another objection I hear often is a preaching calendar does not allow you to speak to local, national, or regional immediate needs or crises as they arise. When it comes to a preaching plan, the disposition one should have when it comes to a sense of openness allows the Holy Spirit to redirect sovereignly “as he wills.” Suppose the preacher for the Sunday coming up senses the Holy Spirit shifting the sermon. In that case, the individual should discuss it with the rest of the preaching team and reach a consensus. We thus plan in pencil to a large extend. This reminds me of the Yiddish saying: “man plan God laughs.”

Core Elements to Consider in Your Preaching Plan

Context, each local church has a particular context. When you and your team plan your preaching program (curriculum or syllabus), keep in mind the congregation, community, culture, and classes that form part of the audience. There is a need for contextual intelligence when planning your preaching plan. The Bible shows that both Old and New Testament authors took their audience seriously. In preaching, they explored their hearers’ thoughts and living experiences and preached and taught in vital relation to their context.

Christian Calendar, there are specific Christian days you and your team should honor as a bare minimum. I would argue, namely, Advent (Christmas Day or Season), Good Friday, Resurrection Sunday, Pentecost, and Ascension Day. The events of the days highlighted inform our theology and doctrine. The congregations we serve should annually be invited to celebrate and explore the implications of these historic Christian episodes.

Civil or Cultural Calendar, there are days which we regard highly as a country given our historical and current realities. For example, the 16 days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence (25 November – 10 December). By preaching relevant sermons and leading our churches to participate as citizens of our country in eradicating practices that harm us, we project and communicate the belief that we are interested in the common good of our communities and nation as a local church.

Content, in considering the range, which will comprise the preaching plan, as previously mentioned, it should align with the strategic spiritual objectives of the annual church year plan. In my view, the purposes should be based on and ought to be driven by the Scriptures. Further to this, in planning the various series which will constitute the preaching plan, a) preach from both the Old and New Testaments b) preach through books of the Bible, c) preach on aspects at least some of them which I refer to as Ships of Ministry: Worship, Lordship, Discipleship, Leadership, Stewardship, Fellowship and Friendship, d) preach on significant themes of systematic theology, once again at least some of them, namely, God, the Bible, Humankind, Sin, Salvation, the Holy Spirit, and the Church. Perhaps in a future blog, I will unpack some of these suggestions.

Creativity, here I am referring to a preaching plan which will take into consideration engaging unbelievers, establishing believers, equipping, and empowering leaders. As I call them, these ministry objectives are also worth considering not only in the annual preaching plan but for each sermon weekly. Also, consider how other ministry forms could help create biblical literacy, as alluded to in point four under the benefits of a preaching plan.

When my team and I sit down each year to plan our preaching for the upcoming year, we take cognizance of all the aspects mentioned above to produce a preaching curriculum, which will evangelize, disciple, counsel, lead, equip, empower, and enrich those who sit under our preaching every week. To my fellow preachers in the words of the apostle Paul, preach the word (κήρυξον τὸν λόγον) (2 Tim 4:2).

Pelham Lessing is a full-time lecturer and thesis supervisor at the South African Theological Seminary (SATS, 2006-present) and serve as lead pastor of Every Nation Port Elizabeth (ENPE, 2020-present).

[1] Different terms are being used for a preaching plan. Some refer to it as a preaching curriculum or schedule. In this blog, I use the words preaching plan, calendar, program, and curriculum interchangeably.

[2] For some churches, this will be the elders and deacons, and for others, it might be departmental leaders.