“Should” is a tricky question to answer. When I hear a question begin with that word, I evaluate whether something is right or wrong. Should the preacher plan his preaching? That is an emphatic yes. Should the preacher use a retreat to plan his preaching? That has a less clear answer. Understanding the word “retreat” might be helpful before answering the question.
Webster’s 1828 Dictionary defines retreat as, “the act of retiring; a withdrawing of one’s self from any place; retirement; state of privacy or seclusion from noise, bustle or company.” With that definition in mind, I think it must be argued that it is wise that the preacher schedule time to withdraw to privacy and seclusion from the normal distractions in order to adequately plan sermons.
Often when you and I hear the word retreat we think about leaving town, being gone multiple days, and cutting off contact with the regular parts of our lives for that period of time. Should the preacher do this for sermon planning? For some, it is not possible to do sermon planning this way. For others, getting out of town and away from the routine of ministry might be the only way for long-range sermon planning to take place. What seems most wise is that the preacher would seriously consider how to find time to withdraw to a place of quiet and seclusion for sermon planning. And, whether it is done in one day, a few consecutive days, or on several days spread out over a few weeks, planning for preaching ought to be a priority.
Preaching deserves a plan. God has chosen to reveal Himself and bring people to redemption through the preached word. Preaching is not a past-time and should not be treated as an afterthought. The preacher should be as thoughtful and intentional about what is going to be preached throughout the year as he is about the programs and ministries that will be on the church calendar.
The preacher’s primary call is to preach. So, here are some suggestions to taking a day, or several days to plan out preaching for the year? Maybe this list will help you think of other things that might be helpful in trying to plan for the coming years preaching calendar.
- Pick the day or days you will set aside for sermon planning. We all know that if you fail to plan, you plan to fail. We can like the idea of planning our sermons for the next 12 months, but if we never set aside the time, the planning will never occur.
- Pick the place you can best do your planning. Maybe your family is going to be gone for a weekend and you could be at home. Perhaps you think best around your books and your familiar chair in your office. Set a day and tell the staff to not disturb you. You might do better getting away and doing that for several days. You know yourself and your distractions the best. Eliminate the possibilities of being drawn away from your planning.
- Determine to make your planning time prayer time. At the end of your planning what you want to walk away with is a sense that God has given you a glimpse of where you are to lead your church through His Word for the next 52 Sundays.
- Consider all the special holidays and events in the life of your church as you plan your sermons.
- Gather the resources you will need. If you preach through books of the Bible, then take resources that will help you outline that particular book or books. If you preach in topical series, then be sure you have resources that will help you find words and themes in the Scriptures, so you can find the major texts that address topics.
- Do not forget the congregation. Preaching is a divine act of communicating God’s Word from the preacher to the hearer. Keep in mind those who will be hearing the messages preached. What will be happening in your church, the community, our nation, or the world in the next 12 months? Obviously, there are things we cannot know will occur, but there are things we do know or can anticipate. Will there be a major election, is there a significant anniversary in church history, will the church be entering a capital campaign, or will a long-time staff member be retiring? As you look over the calendar note significant dates and moments and plan that into your preaching.
This in no way is an exhaustive list of what will make for a good time of sermon planning. But hopefully you will be encouraged to consider setting aside a day or more to pray and plan for how God will use you and His Word to speak to His people over the next 12 months.
Mark D. DeMoss is the Senior Pastor at Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.