Pastors' Forum


Preaching Schedule

As a young pastor, I’ve just been preaching about whatever I feel inspired to preach. Sometimes I don’t know what I’m going to preach on Sunday morning until Saturday night. I don’t want to eliminate all spontaneity or being led by the Spirit, but should I have some kind of “preaching overview schedule” to make sure I cover certain topics each and every year? How do other pastors plan their preaching schedule and establish which topics they’re going to cover over the course of a year to ensure their people receive a well-rounded diet?


Pastor Dave Williams – Lansing, MI
This is every pastor’s struggle—the schedule! I’m going to attach our 2009 preaching schedule that may help you.

I try to get away for a few days every year between Christmas and New Years, just to seek the Lord and lay plans for the next year. I try to look at our values first, our doctrines second, our vision third, and finally special events.

After that, you can prayerfully plan your annual series, leaving a few Sunday’s for those single messages on your heart. I personally keep it fairly flexible. For example, I had one of our associate ministers scheduled to speak on Father’s Day this year, but on the day before, I felt I had a “word from the Lord” for our congregation, so I simply rescheduled him and preached on Father’s Day myself.

You may want to consider covering each of your major doctrines during the year. Perhaps you are sensing a family emphasis is needed. Plan a four-week series on family life. Keep flexible for current events that relate to biblical prophecy or biblical warnings. Oftentimes, when God puts something special on your heart, and you want to be “spontaneous,” the Holy Spirit will show you how to gracefully weave it into your series, even though at first you won’t see how.

God bless you, pastor!
[download tentative schedule]

Pastor Sam Smucker – Lancaster, PA
Over the last 5 years I have seen the importance of doing more prayerful planning ahead for ministering the Word to the congregation. The Holy Spirit is in the planning. I agree we need to always be open to the Holy Spirit leading us to do something spontaneous in our services. We plan ahead 4-6 months what to minister to the congregation. Usually we do 4-8 week series on subjects that we sense are needed to be taught. For example this summer we did a 10 week series called “Red Letters” in which we focused on some of the teachings of Jesus. In between the series we usually have several weeks of stand alone messages where we address topics we are sensing need to be taught. Then of course we have Mother’s & Father’s Day messages, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and other special messages. To purposefully plan what to teach our congregations brings forth increased spiritual growth in people’s lives.

Pastor Patrick Norris – Overland Park, KS
I think a leader has to be aware of their overall direction and then begin to prayerfully strategize the calendar from there. For us, we believe there are three special seasons of the year that God is already moving on people to take steps towards Him in salvation and church attendance…

  1. February
  2. Easter
  3. September/October

In these seasons it seems that church numerical growth opportunities are already in motion. Our heart is to see what God is ALREADY doing in people’s minds/hearts and sync up with that, rather than trying to get a big evangelism hit on other months of the calendar. Also, these three times of the year are easy to build into the memories/DNA of present members. They anticipate these seasons to make the big invitation to unchurched friends. We encourage folk to build relational trust and friendship all year long. Then during these seasons, be extra prayerful and expectant for the harvest of your seeds of love sown. From that premise the following is how we approach our annual calendar…

1. January

Strategy: Giving our members inspiration, preparation and tools for the New Year

Topics: Emphasize spiritual discipline/practices and have church wide 21-day fasts preparing for the year and for the February harvest time.

2. February

Strategy: People are settling down from the holidays and are looking

Topics: “Felt needs” series targeting our unchurched friends like Claims of Christ, Emotional Baggage, Wounds, Dealing with Gray Areas, 30 Days to Live, etc.

3. March

Strategy: After people first arrive at church they come with relationship issues so we use March to lead into relational connections

Topics: “Relationships” like marriage, parenting, small groups stuff, etc.

4. April

Strategy: This is where we do our financial stewardship emphasis each year, which might include a capital stewardship campaign

Topics: We focus on spending plans, Biblical models of giving, faith, grace of living…all in the context and emphasis of personal transformation into Christ-likeness (we never make the focus about the money or blessing, but on the heart and what this process does to change marriages, parenting, business, etc.)

5. May

Strategy: Due to the intense nature of the April stewardship series we like to make this a lighter topic

Topics: Q&A (people ask anything they want and we deal with it), Urban Legends, etc.

6. June

Strategy: Due to vacations of staff, this month is part video-teaching of some of the best speakers in the world and live with various staff members

Topics: (

7. July

Strategy: This is a time we spend with various doctrinal issues)

Topics: Characters of Scripture, faith, miracles, gifts of the Holy Spirit, etc.

8. August

Strategy: We have an emphasis each year on renewing our membership covenant and a 1-year commitment to various serving teams. This is an intense season of praying, fasting and preparing for the harvest of our seeds of love sown into our friendships with unchurched people.

Topics: Anything that has to do with the “doctrine of the church,” serving others, small groups, or other church core values.

9. September

Strategy: Another harvest season

Topics: “Felt needs” series that target the unchurched like, “At the Movies” (A series that uses the emotion of famous, modern movie clips to communicate ideas. Example: the movie “Remember the Titans” shows a conflict between two football programs that are made to play as one team. Race, prejudice and other factors created conflicts that seem to doom their success. Their wrong perceptions of others fueled the conflict. When they overcame their prejudice they had amazing victories. We will show a clip and then talk about the concept. In this series the application is how many people have contempt and anger toward God based on wrong perceptions. We talk about those wrong perceptions and remove them for the people so they can have victories with God)

10. October

Strategy: Same as March but with a greater assimilation emphasis to get them into small groups and relational transformation

11. November

Strategy: This is a time that doctrine is driven again much like July

12. December

Strategy: Christmas issues, where people struggle during the holidays, grace and peace

If there is some topic we sense God moving on our hearts to emphasize, often we can get it done by integrating/emphasizing that topic as we use the backdrop of each of these month’s foundational focus. For instance, if we are in the month of April and helping people move forward with the whole financial stewardship thing, and at the same time sense God dealing with our hearts about the need to press into miracles, we take both those and present the topic in a unified way.

Obviously every church is different but this is how we believe God leads us to roll.

Pastor Mark Garver – Madison, AL
I too am a “Saturday night” kind of guy. I begin to meditate after my Wednesday service and start formulating the message on Saturday afternoon and then finish up on Saturday night. I will say if you ever have any unexpected things happen it can really put you in a bad spot. I do recommend that you keep all the sermons you minister in a database and look through them regularly. It will help you as you are being led on what to minister. It will also help you in preparation of future messages. You also can be led earlier. Sometimes when I do series, I will have all the messages done and then just review them and get them fresh in my heart for Sunday or Wednesday.

I don’t think I have ever sat down at the beginning of the year and decided what subjects to teach on for that year. I know some do and it works well for them. I think like so many things in ministry you have to find out what works for you and do it.

Pastor Bill Anzevino – Industry, PA
To answer the question “But should I have some kind of preaching “overview schedule…”? I would say yes. Why? This would enable you to prepare in advance and not on Saturday night for your messages. Spontaneity is good and we should always be open to change, but the rule should be plan and prepare and then follow the leading of the Spirit. Also, planning in advance will keep you grounded in God’s Word and help you maintain a purposeful and more disciplined teaching trajectory.

Regarding planning a preaching schedule and establishing topics to cover over the course of a year, first, look to the Lord. He knows the people and what their needs are. Ask God to speak to you so you can speak to the people. Second, there are resources you can use to give you a strategy in developing a preaching schedule. Zondervan has a Pastors Annual that can serve as a guide in developing a yearly schedule.

Personally, I plan my preaching around what God is speaking to my heart now. There are certain topics I will address every year such as faith, prayer, the Holy Spirit, forgiveness, confession, being spirit led, healing, love and many more.

The key is to be confident that God called you and has given you a message to give His people. Keep it fresh, relevant to every day, living, and make certain your messages are challenging and uplifting.

Pastor Al Jennings – Fort Wayne, IN
Great question! I teach a lot in series, so therefore that’s a question that I have been challenged with. What I decided to do was to develop a series of manuals that are designed for the congregation’s spiritual growth. It covers the topics that I feel gives them a solid foundation for their Christian walk. On Sunday, that frees me up to teach a variety of different subjects that’s not a part of a systemized plan. The manuals contain information that people can go back to for reference. So I built the well-rounded diet into my manuals. My mindset is that I don’t look at the Sunday morning services as the place where I will provide a systematic plan for their spiritual growth. So on Sunday mornings, that’s the time that I minister to the congregation what the Holy Spirit places on my heart.

Having said all of that, my best advice would be to allow the Holy Spirit to give you a solution that works best for you. There’s not a “one-size-fits-all.” I hope this helps.

Pastor Monte Knudsen – Mt. Pleasant, IA

Inspiration is always needed in our preaching. But inspiration is not necessarily last minute. You may be inspired to get married, but running to Las Vegas – motivated because of inspiration – probably won’t be wise. Planning will make it much more meaningful. Some of the most inspiring moments of scripture were well thought out and planned in advance. The first coming of Jesus was planned before the world began, but it sure was inspiring when it took place. I doubt the marriage supper of the Lamb will lack for inspiration, yet it has been planned for some 6000 years. Planning our preaching schedule gives us time to develop well thought-out messages that communicate powerful truths in very meaningful ways. Hundreds of topics abound in our culture that needs to be addressed. Yet each issue can be thoughtfully addressed in time by keeping four key principles at the basis of those issues:

#1 Evangelism

#2 Discipleship

#3 Stewardship

#4 Vision

Evangelism is about reaching others. It is focusing on lost people. This is personal evangelism, group evangelism and world evangelism. Without this as a priority you become a country club with a cross on it. Discipleship is developing who we are in Christ; who we are, what we have, what we can do as well as the transforming work of the Holy Spirit. Stewardship is who is in control. Who owns it; this deals with my time, my talent, my treasure. This focus always determines Lordship, commitment, faithfulness and giving. Vision is seeing what could be versus what is. Vision solves a problem, creates resources and keeps people from perishing. It changes a person, a church, a city, even a nation

With these four principles, we can then address the continual issues that people struggle with: family relationships, the trials of life and the vicious satanic attacks of hell.

By setting forth key principles, we can then build line-upon-line, precept-upon-precept and not get caught up in preaching our favorite pet doctrines or be “inspired” to preach on what latest issue people are dealing with. It also helps us to measure what we have done and what we need yet to do.

Pastor Mark Cowart – Colorado Springs, CO
Probably one of the greatest challenges as a Pastor can be in the area of providing our congregations with well balanced ministry that needs to be covered for a strong spiritual life. Generally speaking, we all have areas that we specialize in so we definitely need to monitor what our year looks like. A rule of thumb that I follow is to study, prepare, and plan my messages, yet at the same time realize it is the Spirit that gives life. I develop outlines that always include scripture and I use any combination of the following to help convey the message- high impact quotes, stories and anecdotes, testimonies, moving real life stories etc. In my prayer time I ask the Lord to quicken me when there are any areas that I need to speak to or address. This is where the spontaneity can come in. Remember that the outline is to serve you. You are not required to serve the outline. There are times I take the most seemingly unrelated “rabbit trail” and when it is the Lord leading, it bears fruit.

I also keep in mind that the Apostle Paul reminded us in 1 Cor 2:3-5 that it is not our persuasive speech – i.e. creative sermons, stage props or innovative ideas (these can all be great in some applications) that really gets the job done – it is the anointing of God that we need and must rely on. I also remind myself that IN SPITE of my weakness or lack of expertise, God ministers to the people and blesses them as I am faithful to love Him, seek Him and live for Him.

Some other things to consider in keeping your congregation healthy, challenged and growing:

1. Occasionally take a look at your message titles over the last 6 -12 months and see exactly what you have ministered on. You can easily spot any trends that may be healthy, unhealthy or needing improvement and plan accordingly. Be proactive and not always reactive in messages.

2. Utilize the 5-Fold ministry gifts at various times throughout the year. One of the greatest blessings to our Congregation is the guest speakers we have in. I have other pastors, missionaries, those with a proven apostolic and prophetic ministry (be careful here), and I have also had anointed businessmen speak. As with anything, you can have too much or too little. When I plan a year to 18 months out I think of my sermons, guest speaker and services the same way as preparing a meal. When you serve spiritual food, it needs to have variety, balance and seasoned in such a way that all can enjoy. I watch as the Lord uses special guest speakers to take us to consistently higher levels. When you allow the Lord to add people into the ministry life of your congregation, you don’t have to work so hard to promote or advertise and you as a pastor can relax and be blessed as well, instead of being stressed (Wow! Imagine that!). As a rule of thumb, “big name speakers” are not always the greatest blessing. Often they are the most stressful to have in, the most expensive to host (they are used to a high level of expectation that may not be feasible for your ministry) and they have the least impact at the end of the day. The most important thing to me as a pastor in considering having a guest speaker is the relationship that I have with them. Questions I have run through my mind are, 1) do they come with a servant’s heart and the Spirit of Christ? 2) would they be there with me if I was going through a difficult time? 3) do they operate with integrity? Sometimes if you just simply check your spirit, that can save you so much grief. Well known speakers can have their place, but we often miss the supernatural looking for the spectacular.

3. Take some time with your staff and/or key influencers and talk about the particular needs of your congregation. My most productive meetings are with my Lead Team. Together we pray, discuss and talk about the congregation, where we are in relation to the vision, etc. Then you as the Leader can plan accordingly.

Pastor Brad Allen – San Mateo, CA
I’ve found that my people are more attentive, more responsive, and get more out of a series than individual, topical Sunday teachings. I start with the same main text each Sunday in the series and find that people are more hooked up and take more home with them. It’s easy that way to build line-upon-line and take people with you. If you try to teach everything you learned in Bible School about a topic in one message, it means that you didn’t learn much in Bible School!

Mark Hankins said, “Brother Hagin has set me free from the fear of repetition.” Visiting the same topics year after year is not boring. It’s helpful. Pastors have the job of reminding people of what they already know the Bible says.

I stay with the main things we were taught at Rhema and add my personal illustrations and testimonies from church members.

Pastor Doug Foutty – Parkersburg, WV
That is a very normal question for all pastors. We all want to be led by the Spirit and we all know that there are certain subjects that need taught on each and every year. In your prayer and study time you might be gathering information on more than one subject at a time. One of the subjects will seem to have more ‘life’ to it. You will sense a leading to minister it sooner. The Word of God itself is anointed. It doesn’t return void. The Lord will often times lay a subject on your heart that you know will take weeks to cover properly, but during your prayer time you seem to be getting bits and pieces of revelation on other subjects. This is normal, too. The major subject needs taught, but individuals in the congregation will have specific needs each week that these ‘extra’ bits of revelation will address. So you see, the Lord gives you short range and long range leading on what to teach at the same time. The steady and well rounded diet is always available; it’s just getting the Body of Christ to eat that seems to be a bigger problem.

I have taught a series over a few weeks and then a month later be led to teach one message on the same subject. Someone will invariably come up and say—“Wow! I have never heard that before—that is a great revelation.” All the time you know that they were there for the whole series a month before. It’s just human nature. Don’t try to reason your way out of what God is leading you to teach. Just be obedient to the call. Study to show yourself approved unto God and release each message when God says it’s time to release it. Don’t over-think your subject and don’t preach out of your own issues. Don’t think about a church member that you think is doing wrong and prepare a message to ‘ZAP’ them. Let the Holy Spirit do His job and you do yours. You can trust the Lord and when you yield to Him, he will keep your messages fresh.

Pastor Gary Hoffman – Rocky Mount, VA
First, stay true to who God has made you. Your greatest anointing is staying within yourself and how God uses you. The Holy Spirit will see to it that you teach a good diet to the people. Also you can bring in guest speakers to cover areas that you are weak in. Keep a sermon log that you can go back to and review once in awhile. Trust the Holy Spirit.

Pastor Michael Steward – Powell, OH
Great question! I have found that determining what to preach can be one of the most stressful things about pastoring. I heard someone once say something to the effect that, ‘Pastors have a vision to change the world but often don’t know what they are going to speak about on the upcoming weekend service.’ I know when I first started this was a frustration for me. Then I made some adjustments that really helped me.

1. I realized that everything Jesus did was for a purpose. We preach for a purpose as well. Many times ministers will have service then afterwards will say inwardly, “whew, made it through another one.” That doesn’t speak of much purpose.

2. With this in mind, I pulled back to look at the universal vision God placed in my heart as a church. Then each year I seek the face of the Lord for specific vision for the upcoming year and how that vision supports our overall vision.

3. Once I have the specific vision for that year I then make a conscious choice that everything we do as a church must support that vision. This includes my preaching schedule. During this time of prayer I will typically get a series of subjects that the Lord wants me to cover, usually just 2-3 series. I will lay out a plan to cover those topics and seek out specific speaking direction as the series unfold. Then, without hesitation, as I approach the end of these topics, I will have some more direction from God as to what to cover next.

4. We have some staple subjects that the Lord instructed me to cover on an annual basis when we first started the church. The three areas we hit without fail: Health and Wholeness, Financial Freedom, and Dealing with Strife. These have been the most effective topics we have covered that have directly impacted the health of our church. These areas include sub-topics that deal with marriage and family as well. We make it a point to give the people something that will help them now, and in their practical lives.

In short, it comes down to Vision: Global vision, Annual Vision, Weekly Vision. Weekly vision supports the annual vision; the annual vision supports the Global vision from God. This does 2 things for me: Helps eliminate PMS (Post Ministry Syndrome) and I believe this is the path that leads to the words, “Well Done!!” After-all, it is HIS church and I am just the under-shepherd. I hope this helps!!

Pastor Gary Hoffman – Rocky Mount, VA
First, stay true to who God has made you. Your greatest anointing is staying within yourself and how God uses you. The Holy Spirit will see to it that you teach a good diet to the people. Also you can bring in guest speakers to cover areas that you are weak in. Keep a sermon log that you can go back to and review once in awhile. Trust the Holy Spirit.

Pastor Matt Beemer – Manchester, England
Someone said, ‘Repetition is the motor of learning.’ Series are one way to build a truth into people and are very useful, but always be sensitive to lay a ‘well prepared message’ to the side and follow the Holy Spirit.

We are very prayerful about our annual vision, and through the year, we prayerfully come at it from many different angles with 3-4 week series that feed into our vision. Normally 3-4 week series are as long as you can go without being interrupted by a guest speaker or holiday of some kind.

I think as a pastor you can ‘sense’ when your people need, for example, less vision & more practical ‘how-to messages,’ or need to be strengthened in a foundational truth, etc. It’s important to follow that leading. Also, some of the best advice I have ever heard about what you should preach is what John Osteen said—“Preach what you take for granted.” Try to remember you have new people in church every week who don’t know anything!

Dr. Dan Beller – Tulsa, OK
It is good to look through the calendar year and plan for special messages (message sounds less threatening than “sermon”) for the various seasons, such as Easter, Christmas, beginning and ending of the school year, and other holidays. You can always change the message if so led of the Holy Spirit. Example: One year I planned a special message on Labor Day weekend entitled, “Take This Job and Love It.” However, the Holy Spirit was leading in a special series and I did not interrupt the flow but saved the message until the following year.

One special key is to plan for series of messages and to consult various books and materials to study in advance. There are also excellent materials available to do expository preaching and thus have a plan which may last for several weeks at a time. Two excellent resources are as follows: (1) The Preacher’s Outline & Sermon Bible (Volumes on Books of the Bible), from Leadership Ministries Worldwide,

P. O. Box 21310, Chattanooga, Tenn. 37424-0310, phone (423) 855 – 2181; (2) The Bible Exposition Commentary (2 Vol.), by Warren W. Wiersbe, published by Victor Books and available at your local book store.

Pastor Ray Almaguer – Glendora, CA
I agree that we want to have spontaneity in our preaching. We want to be led by the Holy Spirit. We need to allow Him to change our prepared message on a moment’s notice if He so desires. In addition to this, a pastor needs to be aware of the overall health of the church body. Preaching (along with prayer) is the remedy to whatever weakness may be present in the church. A physical body needs certain foods to maintain balance and health. You may not necessarily like all those foods, but your body needs them, and they are vital. If a Pastor is blind to this fact in regards to the church body, he will probably end up preaching on the subjects he likes, without thinking about the overall health or needs of the church body.

Also, sometimes a Pastor feels he is ill-equipped to preach on certain topics that would benefit the church body, so he doesn’t preach them. This is where good guest speakers are an invaluable resource for the pastor.

Pastor Mark Boer – Boise, ID
I approach what I will speak on out of the foundation that certain Bible subjects are central to producing grounded, growing, well-rounded believers. For example, I believe that these topics are some of the main truths needed in the Christian life: grace, faith, love, healing, authority, prosperity, stewardship, serving, being led by the Holy Spirit, and fulfilling the Great Commission.

With these things in mind, I don’t do a dedicated series on each subject each year, but will intermingle some of these truths throughout many series. It may be a few years between a specific in-depth sermon series on many of these subjects, but I am confident that we give enough to keep people growing. Also, we provide basic teaching on “in-Christ” realities through supplemental classes offered as a part of a systematic discipleship program.

As far as speaking spontaneously, I have found that most of the time I have a specific direction on my heart in advance of the beginning date and then teach a series anywhere from 5-10 weeks. We often have “believer’s meetings” on Wednesday nights, which provide the opportunity to speak completely out of the inspiration of the moment and deal with any subject the Spirit leads at that time.