Just recently I’ve taken to making my own beef jerky. My kids are jerky fanatics and making our own is much cheaper than buying. Jerky, it turns out, is all about marination time. The longer you marinate the meat, the better the taste. And so we segue into the 12 month preaching calendar. Its about extending the marination time of ideas. Its also about paying attention to the rhythms of the year.
Ron, particularly, pays attention to overall church rhythm and his team plan accordingly. His “big events” all revolve around the sermon calendar, so he’ll plan a day of service to the community in conjunction with a series on action, or a summer series on the Bible while people are in soul care mode. This past Easter, his church was really creative with the whole “come to church we’ll give you a gift” thing. If you brought a friend to Easter, or if you were a first time guest, Restoration would donate money toward an organization that freed people out of slavery. Modern skeptics would prefer that over another coffee cup any day.
Preaching calendars are a result of a planning retreat. If I didn’t get away for a night or two, I’d never get a calendar built. You can’t build one on the fly, or in an afternoon. You have to build it, pray over it, move things around, pray over it. Not unlike an actual sermon, the calendar comes together over time, with marination. Before I go on retreat, I ask our elders, key staff and some volunteers for input into sermon ideas. What do they think should be covered over the coming year? After the retreat, I run the calendar by our elders and also hand it out to planning staff.
As for series ideas, I keep a running document of ideas that I can pull from. My current document is 7 pages long with 36 different ideas for sermon series. I’ve also attached a sample pdf of sermon series ideas. Some of the ideas are really bad, some are stale, because they’ve been sitting there so long. When I came up with the title, “Grudge Report” for a series on Forgiveness, the “Drudge Report” was known in pop culture. I’m not sure it is still as known now. MC Hammer, on the other hand…..he’ll always preach!
A quick note for my “exegesis only” friends: don’t let the series titles put you off, many of these ideas are exegetical book studies. (I refer you, yet again, to MC Hammer.) Just because you’re exegetical, doesn’t mean you cannot have some fun. Your people will appreciate the extra effort.
So long term sermon planning is a combination of planning retreat, 12 month calendar and ongoing sermon idea document. These three tools work really well to keep a preacher’s head well above the coming Sunday and give months of lead time to collect stories, marinate ideas etc.
Here are the 3 documents: (warning: long content!)