Longtime pastor outlines sermons year in advance

Longtime pastor outlines sermons year in advance

By Grace Thornton

Correspondent, The Alabama Baptist

Sammie Reid, pastor of Mount Zion Baptist Church, Warrior, has all his sermons outlined a year — maybe more — in advance.

He said it may not be the kind of plan that works for everyone, but for him, it helps him be more thoughtful, prepared and able to give God’s Word the time and attention it deserves, no matter how busy any given week is.

“I set aside time to sit down and make a calendar of all the Sunday mornings, Sunday nights and Wednesdays for at least a year out,” he said.

He outlines each sermon a year in advance, then prepares detailed, typed-out messages for each one several months before he preaches it.

“I give priority to preaching because I believe that is the most important task of the pastor. Everybody has to find their niche and this works best for me,” Reid said. “I have plenty of time to gather materials to go with each one and am able to think about the messages over the months leading up to them.”

And it frees him up to do other ministry as everyday life happens.

“This way, if on any given week I have a funeral or a crisis in the church, as every pastor has, it doesn’t affect my preaching negatively because I’m not under pressure for next Sunday. I’ve got that ready; I don’t have to worry about that,” he said.

He’s been doing it that way for 30 years now.

‘All these years’

“In my doctoral program I had to make a sermon calendar for a year as one of my projects,” Reid said. “I saw how helpful it was and I decided I could do that on a regular basis. I’ve been doing it that way all these years.”

In an article for LifeWay Christian Resources, Rob Hurtgen, pastor of First Baptist Church, Chillicothe, Missouri, wrote that a good annual preaching calendar is developed “through prayer, thought and discipline” and “provides a clear destination with the flexibility to take necessary detours.”

He listed four benefits of an annual preaching calendar:

1. Leadership

Having clear direction for a sermon spills over into other areas of leadership — building trust in handling God’s Word well helps the congregation trust their pastor in other areas, Hurtgen wrote.

2. Confidence

A well-planned calendar can allow a church’s leadership team to work together confidently in planning songs and other parts of the worship service, he wrote.

3. Increased creativity

The best creativity flows not out of deadline pressure but out of the discipline of consistent work.

4. Reduced anxiety

“There are always two Sundays in a pastor’s week: the one you are getting over and the one you are getting ready for,” he wrote. “By planning ahead you will really be planning for both.”

The greatest resistance to the annual preaching calendar, Hurtgen wrote, is the question of the Holy Spirit — “How can the Holy Spirit lead if you plan everything ahead of time?”

This, he said, is answered by how you view the work of the Holy Spirit.

“If your theological conclusion is that the Holy Spirit only sees the future as you do — clouded, speculative and uncertain — [what you rely on] will be your work and your effort,” Hurtgen wrote. “But if you believe the Spirit leads, teaches and presses you into the future, you will see His leadership as assembling your entire preaching process. Countless times a sermon scheduled months in advance has spoken precisely to the issues men and women in the church were facing the day it was preached — even regarding newly emerging issues.”

Holiday planning

Reid said this is the perspective he takes as he prayerfully lays out his year.

He looks at special occasions first — days like Easter, Palm Sunday, Father’s Day, Mother’s Day and Christmas Day — and builds around those days before planning the rest of the year.

“For many years I have preached a series leading up to Christmas,” he said. “I already have the series for Christmas 2017 ready. I’m working now on what I would preach in 2018.”

He also will preach a series leading up to Easter 2017 on the “Week that Changed the World,” taking a sermon to cover each day of Passion Week.

“I have a folder that I keep ideas in, if I see something that triggers something in my mind,” he said. “It may be a year later that I go back and start working on it.”

For more information or to download a sample preaching calendar, visit www.lifeway.com/Article/pastors-preaching-benefits-annual-calendar-planning.