If you’re planning to plant a church you know that there are 1,001 things to plan.
In no order, here are some of the things that I remember being pressing matters as I prepared to plant:
- Place to meet
- Setup and tear down (chairs, podium, pipe & drape etc.)
- Visuals and screen
- Childrens ministry (volunteers, policies and procedures, check-in, curriculum)
- Music (volunteers, songs, style)
- Social media campaigns
- Bulletins (or “worship guides” for the uber-hip)
This list could easily go on, but my point here is to get you – the planter and would-be planter – to plan for your preaching. Many of us who desire to plant yearn to see people who do not yet know Christ encounter the living Savior through His Word. That means preaching.
You don’t want to wait until the last minute decide what you will preach. Consider this article an exhortation to create a preaching calendar.
What is a preaching calendar? It could be as diverse as the planters who read this article but, at a minimum, it is a schedule of the sermon texts and perhaps titles attached to a specific date on the calendar. They can be as detailed or as minimalist as you like. You can include Scripture readings for the service, a theme surrounding the sermon text, or you can include nothing but the biblical text you are going to be preaching. Whether great or small, having a fixed template and plan for the coming weeks, months or year will serve to help you with stress in the long run and keep you from coming up with “Saturday night specials” for the gathering of God’s people.
Church planter, the people you will preach to deserve better than the offal of your busy calendar.
Let me offer another suggestion as well: Preach books of the Bible, verse by verse, section by section, text by text. Like cookie dough at Cold Stone Creamery, topical series can be a nice add-in to a preaching calendar, but it shouldn’t replace the star of the show. Let’s commit like Paul did in Ephesus to “not shrink from declaring to you the whole counsel of God.” (Acts 20:27) One way to ensure we do this is by making the main diet of the church preaching through books of the Bible.
If you are planting a church, start with a Gospel. There isn’t a better start for a church then spending the first gatherings of her maiden voyage fixed on the Lord Jesus, who declared, “I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” (Matt. 16:18) Pick one of the four portraits of our Savior and declare his majesty week-by-week as your church is starting out. I chose Mark; his gospel is fast-paced and punchy and proved a good starting place for our people.
Additionally, I would encourage you to embrace “expositional” or “expository” preaching, which as Bryan Chapell states, “presents and applies the truths of a biblical passage.” You can employ this type of preaching whether you are preaching a topical sermon series or a book of the Bible.
So, allow me to sell you on planning a preaching calendar with a few benefits:
1. God sets the agenda
If you plan a preaching calendar by dividing up a book of the Bible, you will be preaching the Bible as God has given it to us. It will keep you from puddle-jumping through the Word of God. You will preach texts as we have them from God and thus He sets the menu for your people.
Trust me, He’s better at this than you are. You do not have the ability to know everything that people who attend your church are dealing with and going through, but our God knows all things. It has been delightful to see God work in this way as I have preached through books of the Bible. Through the Holy Spirit, God has given the Word that a weary saint needed at just the right moment simply because it was the next text to preach.
2. You will be able to shepherd people in unexpected ways
I remember a conversation with a church member who had gone through divorce in her past and saw the upcoming text was Jesus’ teaching on divorce (from Mark’s gospel) and she and her second husband asked me to come over to help explain the text. That was such a gift to talk about the restoration the gospel brings to broken people. I did not know she had been divorced, nor the terrible circumstances, but God did and He gave me the opportunity to shepherd this family.
In truth, I likely would have avoided the text if it wasn’t on the calendar and missed this privilege to help someone draw closer to Jesus.
3. You’ll know where you are going in advance
By having a schedule in place, one less decision and responsibility is taken off your plate for the week. You already know the text from the Scripture you are preaching and you can make the best use of your time in preparation. Time is the one resource you cannot multiply and create more of in the week, so it is to your advantage to use this resource as wisely as you possibly can.
Bypassing the search for a relevant topic or text – or guessing what your people most need to hear in a given week – will reclaim time that otherwise would be spent in a weekly planning cycle. Time is at a premium; save it and spend it wisely.
4. You will grow as a preacher
A preaching calendar is a tool for your growth as a preacher. And to be sure you hear someone say it: You need to get better. You need to grow.
I know your grandma thinks you’re God’s gift to the preaching world, but you aren’t. You are God’s gift to a church plant that needs your humility and dedication to grow your preaching gift. Having a calendar in place will keep you to the task of studying the Scripture and declaring the unsearchable riches of Christ in an orderly fashion and will marry your heart to God’s Word as you prepare sermons.
The discipline of planning a preaching calendar actually serves to strengthen your preaching muscles, as you force yourself to understand how a book flows and fits together with the overarching story of the Bible before you ever stand in front of people to declare the wonders and glory of God.
5. Your people have an opportunity to prepare
Having a preaching calendar is another gift you can give the people who will join your plant, and it is a tool for their discipleship as well.
So don’t stop at preparing a preaching calendar; share it with your people. You can do this in a ton of ways: a weekly update video on social media, tweeting out the next month’s texts, creating sermon cards containing the dates, texts, and titles of sermons that they can stick in their Bibles or on the refrigerator at home.
Then encourage your people to read the text before the worship gathering so God has already begun to work in their hearts from His Word before you say a word.
6. You can plan for breaks
You should plan for breaks in your preaching calendar. Lord willing, you will be planting with at least one other faithful brother who can share some of the preaching reps with you and give you the breaks you need.
I know you may not think you need breaks, but the relentless onslaught of new experiences and challenges you will face in the church planting journey will sap your spiritual, mental, emotional and physical reserves much faster than you realize. So having the breaks on the calendar will ensure that you take them.
Additionally, this is a gift to your family. They could use a week with you fully present with them, not mentally working on the next task or sermon.
7. You deepen confidence in God’s Word
A preaching calendar is an act of self-discipline and humility. It is hard and requires carving valuable time out of your year, but this discipline forces you to renew your confidence in God’s Word trusting that, “The word of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart. And no creature is hidden from his sight, but all are naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must give account.” (Heb. 4:12–13)
As you lay out a preaching calendar, you are relinquishing your control and trusting that the Lord really does know what His people most need. As you watch the living God mature His people, raise the dead to life by the gospel and watch as believers grow in their understanding of God through His word, your confidence in the power of God’s Word will deepen.
So church planter, whether it’s a spreadsheet, calendar app or a big desk calendar from Staples, clear your desk of everything but your Bible and your calendar and plan what you will preach.
P.S. Here are two short and seriously helpful resources that will help you do this well:
8 Hours or Less: Writing Faithful Sermons Faster by Ryan Huguley
Preach: Theology Meets Practice by Greg Gilbert and Mark Dever
To see a sample planning calendar from Mike, click here.
 Bryan Chapell, “Christ-Centered Preaching: Redeeming the Expository Sermon” 3rd. Edition, (Baker: 2018) pg. 8.
Published April 26, 2022