4 Considerations for Long-Term Sermon Planning

Every September, I attempt to have a fairly organized preaching plan for at least the coming year. Through a time of prayer and study, I try to arrive at a description that articulates every series and every sermon. That plan includes:

  1. Date
  2. Sermon Title
  3. Sermon Passage
  4. 2-Sentence Description

Once I can communicate a plan like this, I am able to focus week to week with clarity because I have a plan of where we will study for the coming year. These are some of the most enriching times I spend, and I have experienced unbelievable direction that sometimes I don’t understand fully until months later.

The Holy Spirit is not limited to working in solely the pulpit; He can set loose in the study as well.

When you do the hard work of charting the course for a span of time longer than next week, you are able to ensure you are covering all the diverse needs of your congregation. The Holy Spirit can lead you what to preach on for a period of time. Through this work, you can count the cost (Luke 14:28) of the coming work and prepare adequately.

For anyone who has desired to come up with a long-term preaching plan but seems overwhelmed by the process, let me ask you to consider these 4 simple steps.

#1. Consider Your Church’s Health

I think the best place to start is by identifying the state of the church. What are the dangerous deficiencies that must be addressed? You don’t want to just pick sermon series based on your interest. If there are some glaring issues that need to be confronted with the truths of God’s Word, start there. Write those down and then head to the second consideration.

#2. Consider the Essential Texts

Once you know what must be addressed, decide what are the most essential texts to combat the issues. While topical sermon series can have their place, I believe the most helpful preaching pattern will rely heavily on preaching through books. If you sense a lack of compassion for the missional needs around you, go to Jonah. If you sense confusion regarding our identity in Christ, walkthrough Ephesians. If you want to help people through suffering, go to 1 Peter. Start with the need, and then see how God has put his Word together to address those specific needs. God’s composition of books will always surpass my personal ability to organize thoughts.

#3. Consider the Coming Calendar

You don’t need to be dictated by the calendar, but you should use the calendar wisely. As you begin to plan, you should have a yearly calendar in front of you with marks of major holidays, school schedules, and major events. Your best times of the year to cast vision are start of school Sunday once everyone comes back from vacation and the first of the year. Your worst time to start a series that has topics build on each other week to week is at the beginning of summer where attendance is a revolving door.

I attempt to make series work with Easter and Christmas and not have to stop the momentum of something to get there. I planned to preach through the Gospel of Mark to arrive at the resurrection passage on Easter Sunday while we studied children and possessions on the weeks leading up to Christmas. Write out how you would diagram the book on a spreadsheet and move dates up and down as you consider when to start and when you want to complete it.

#4. Consider the Balanced Diet

Paul told the church at Ephesus that he had taught the “whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27). His teaching reminds us that the Bible is a big book with varied types of literature. Don’t get stuck in a certain type of book or series. Your congregation needs more than just a certain type of book. Are you in the Old Testament and the New Testament? Do you alter what type of book you study? As you look at a multiyear span of preaching, you should be utilizing a varied and balanced approach.

While there are plenty of considerations, hopefully these four will get you going in the right direction as you plan to preach God’s Word.