Tuesday, December 16, 2008

So if you are in a preaching ministry and haven't filed in your preaching calendar yet what are you waiting for? I know a lot of ministers like to wait till the night before to here from God, but I promise that god knows what is going on more than a year in advance. That is why it is actually possible to sit down with a calendar and pray about what you should speak on now so you can better organize your topics and plan series that will play well together. God is cool like that.

Actually, one of my pet peeves is when a pastor claims that God changed the sermon just before they walked up and so please forgive them if it seems thrown together. I'm not saying that God doesn't do this. I am saying that God doesn't do this every time. If this happens more than 5% of the time you are preaching then I think you need to work on our prayer life because God should be clueing you in a bit sooner. Also, my experience has been the few times that God changed completely what I was planning at the last minute, I don't have to apologize or even let people know beforehand that I'm under prepared. When God pulls the old switcheroo I have to rely completely on Him and not my preparedness. As such those times everything flows better than I could have planned. God will honor the work you put into the sermon He preempts.

So now you know so what are you waiting for Christmas? It's almost here and then you won't have any time so get that calendar out and start praying. OK, maybe you want some pointers because you were never forced to do this for a class. Let me share what I've learned

  • Start by looking at the holidays. You need to fill them in first or you will miss them or have to split a series across them.
  • Sermon series are your friend. Seriously if you are preaching 3 days a week and one day is traditionally a Bible Study knock out the year by covering an entire book. People need to understand that is the normal way to deal with the Bible, not jumping all over like we do with a sermon.
  • Go general, the details come when you start preparing. God might give you a title or subject or even a passage now. When you start preparing ask God for the details then. If you have more ideas now make sure you write them down. My calendar has a section for notes just like this. You will not remember them later if you don't write them now.
  • Don't be afraid to leave a few blanks. Sure the goal is to plan your entire year, but a few blanks are ok. The unexpected happens. You might be sick and miss a day then you have to adjust your schedule. God knows about these things too so if you don't have every sermon filled in don't force it.
  • If you have a support staff let them see your planned schedule. They will appreciate having more than a week to get graphics for your PowerPoint.

OK, so those are some simple guidelines, now let me share my experience with my latest calendar. First I learned that planning sermons is generally easier for Youth than for adults. I plan 10-15 minutes tops for my sermon. Basically most of my sermons are series, but in reality they are a single sermon that has been broken down by main points. This means I really only need 10-11 sermons for a given year. Also, I plan a game night once a month, so I just fill those dates in first and plan the rest around that. Generally this made it easier to plan my sermons. Now events, on the other hand, have been a bit harder. Youth do a lot more stuff than the rest of church. At least we try to. Sure I don't have much of a budget to think of, but I have plenty of stuff on hand so we can pull of all kinds of things for very little. By planning more events the kids are happier, but getting all that in place a year in advance is very hard since outdoor stuff relies on the weather and it is difficult to guess about the weather. In the end I'm content to have an event planned with backup in case it is raining or something.

So, does anyone else try to plan their year in advance? How does it work out for you?

2 comments:

rustypants said...

andy stanley's Seven Checkpoints for Youth Ministry takes the year idea and stretches it to SEVEN years - he figures that with youth pastors working with students from 6th or 7th grade thru 12th, you don't want to keep repeating yourself, etc. the book has a lot of good points and was a worthy read. the main focus was not a seven year plan, but seven main areas that need to be covered in the course of the seven years with those students.

now, having said that, in my 15 years of ministry, i worked anywhere from 3 to 6 months in advance. during leadership meetings, we would look at where we'd been, where we were heading, and the present needs of our students, and plan accordingly.

we also included student feedback. every six months or so i would hand out an anonymous survey asking for some ratings on how youth group was doing, serving, meeting their needs, plus areas they needed to hear about, as well as most profound message(s) from the previous 6 months.

playing Stump The Youth Pastor every six months provided a good source for material, too. email me and i'll tell you more about it. youthdude at gmail.com

Nick the Geek said...

Yet another book to read. :) Seriously, thanks for the recommend. I did last year at about 3 month stretches and everything seemed to surprise me at the beginning of the quarter. I feel much better having a year.

Speaking of polling your kids, have you checked out the site I recommended for text polling. I have done 2 surveys in the past year as well as unofficial polls, also known as sitting down and talking with students. Obviously you can't do everything the Youth ask for but they really like to see their ideas show up. The text polling was a result of an informal poll where several students said they wanted to feel more interaction with the sermon. Dealing with sex was part of a more formal poll where several students indicated they wanted to cover topics more relevant to issues they face.

I'll email you for sure.

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