Working Ahead: Building a Sermon Calendar


Staying on top of your work as a pastor can be difficult at times. You wear a lot of hats, and depending on your church size and culture, you may be working what feels like much more than a single job.

But your primary job as a pastor is to lead your congregation and “make disciples”. While preaching a sermon allows you to teach someone about a single concept or passage of scripture, “discipling” people requires trajectory.

Essentially, aside from what people gain from each individual sermon, the way you preach and the messages you give over time should be building your congregation into disciples. That requires planning and working ahead.

Working Ahead: Building a Sermon Calendar

Just imagine having a planned, balanced, and well-prepared preaching calendar for the next 6 months to a year. Imagine what the extra time could be spent on, where you could focus your attention, and all the sections of your ministry that could grow as a result of you working ahead.

If you are trying to find the best way to work ahead and plan future sermons, these are a few things you can start doing now:

1) Reflect on What Your Congregation Needs

Before you just jump in on deciding what books of the Bible or topics you want to cover, spend time reflecting and praying on what your specific congregation needs. As we stated before, pastoring isn’t just a responsibility to throw a bunch of Biblical advice at people – you are responsible for discipling and growing your congregation through strategic planning and trajectory.

Reflect on the past topics you’ve covered. To what detail and depth did you cover each topic? Were there additional related topics you didn’t explore for sake of time? What is particularly relevant in your community right now? Are there clear Biblical passages or books that cover that topic? These are all things to consider when reflecting on what your congregation needs to hear from you as a pastor.

2) Survey Your Congregation

Once again, before you start planning, make sure you understand what your congregation needs and wants to hear. A great way is to give your congregation a survey with multiple options on it for possible sermon topics and have them vote. Your list might include any of the following: money management, marriage and relationships, a study on a book of the Bible, end times, volunteering and serving, inviting people to church, evangelizing, Biblical parenting, etc.

Come up with your own list if you have other ideas. Have the congregation members vote on one to three of their favorite options and use that as guidance to know what your congregation wants to hear from you.

3) Invite People to a Planning Meeting

Nothing will happen if you don’t schedule specific time for sermon planning. Set aside 1 to 2 days where you can focus 100% on sermon planning for the following 6 months to a year.

Invite select people to the meeting – both staff and volunteers – who you respect, trust, and feel can offer wise, sound advice during the meeting. Make sure to not “overpopulate” the meeting, as that can lead to distractions and wasting time. Ensure you have a good mix of both men and women who can contribute to the discussion.

4) Build the Sermon Calendar

Have someone recording everything that’s solidified in the meeting in a detailed manner. Whether it’s through visuals – whiteboard notes, sticky notes, bulletin boards – or note taking on a laptop, have someone assigned to the task of recording everything as you go about the meeting.

Make sure that you keep all holidays and majors school breaks in mind before you start planning your sermon topics.

Begin by taking the topics from the list made previously (or the survey from your congregation), and plan the series out throughout the year. Consider the time of year – January is a great time to talk about finances, and August may be a good time to talk about Biblical parenting as kids go back to school.
Essentially, just be mindful of when your messages may be best received and applied throughout the year by your congregation.

It’s also a good idea to not make all your sermon series the same length. Spend more time on subject matters that have a lot more material worth talking about, and space the larger sermon series apart by sandwiching shorter series between. This can keep your congregation engaged and refreshed before tackling new, big sermon series.

Chris Fleming, Author

About the Author

Chris Fleming is a professional musician from Minneapolis, MN who has played with artists such as TAYA, Big Daddy Weave, and Jason Gray. He is actively involved with the worship music scene and has contributed as a drummer, music director, song writer, and producer for various worship artists and churches locally and nationally. Chris is the Motion Designer at Motion Worship, helping to create motion background collections and countdowns for our subscribers.

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