Preaching at Grace Church pt.3 – planning the messages

Ok, let’s talk about what we talk about. (this is part 3 of 4 on the topic of our weekend services and particularly the communication of God’s Word).

In this post I want to examine how we plan what we’ll talk about and how we come up with the particular themes and books of the Bible we teach.

The big thing on the planning side is that we look at the church communication as 52 weeks as opposed to one week at a time. So we’re thinking in sections of weeks and we’re thinking about the whole year not just this season. So for example, we know that Easter and the weeks following Easter tend to be a great time to connect with newer people, non-Christians and family members. So we tend to plan a topical series that connects with some felt needs in our world. We also promote this series big time in hopes that’s lots of Grace people will invite friends and family for this series. The same is mostly true for the first series in September. We tend to use the fall (Oct-Nov) and winter (Jan-Mar) as times to go deeper for the Christ-follower, typically preaching through a book of the Bible or a section of Scripture. The summer is also a time where we like to take on a more “study-like” topic to connect with people. August often involves some kind of vision/ direction of the church type series and sometimes vision is shared on the weeks leading up to Easter. The point is we try to think in 52 week sections hoping to build a “balanced diet” spiritually speaking for the church. Every week, however, I would say our goal is to preach to believers in Jesus in a way that is always intelligible for unbelievers/ unchurched folks. The primary audience though is believers in Christ and calling us to life in the way of Christ.

Now, how do we determine, what topics/ themes/ books we cover? 

I typically go away on a 1-2 week study break in the summer. On this study break I spend time in prayer, fasting, and study. I pray for the church, I think through the needs and I listen to God for His leading and guiding. I then begin to frame a few key series based either on a theme or a book of the Bible. I always hold this somewhat loosely as I want to be sensitive through the year to address things that come up as the need arises but I find a rough plan is important for us to look at. Throughout the year I’m also involved listening to sermons by other pastors throughout the country, reading lots of books and talking with lots of people. I’ll take the insight I glean from this exercise to also shape my own thinking and direction. 

Typically I like to be pretty solid on what we’re planning to cover each week for about 2-3 months at a time. For example, it’s June now and I’m working hard on September and what we’ll be doing then. 

The other piece I need to mention on this issue is the role of community. I lean heavily on conversations with the other staff. They are pastors and leaders who are hands-on with lots of folks, listening to issues, praying over sin and struggles and walking with people as they take steps toward Jesus. The input of my team is incredible and I depend on it! I’m a very collaborative leader and I’ll even share my entire sermon with some staff on many weeks for their input and advice. I also am continually sharing with the rest of the elder board what I’m covering. They will often add insight, affirmation or even ask me to teach on something they see as important. To present this process as “me and God” would be incorrect — it’s a full church leadership issue. Although I’m the primary teaching elder, I often feel I’m speaking and sharing on behalf of the leadership of the church and some of the most “brilliant” things that come out of my mouth are things that others in the leadership have shared with me.

OK – one more part to this riveting series of blog posts (this is probably more information than you ever wanted to know on preaching, isn’t it?) Log back in for the final post where we’ll talk about the creative process.

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