presenting

Is Your Preaching Calendar Helping or Hurting?

52 weeks of sermons. Does that seem daunting? Maybe, maybe not. We’ve got a lot of material we could cover. It shouldn’t be that hard to fill the time. You’ve been doing that for years.

52 weeks of life changing, vision casting, church growing, awe inspiring sermons. Okay, now my palms are starting to sweat.

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If you’re like most pastor’s you have a plan. You already have a system for thinking ahead and most likely already have an Annual Preaching Calendar.

But is that preaching calendar helping or hurting?

Is your preaching calendar helping or hurting?
— Steven J Barker

When it comes to building a preaching calendar, most standard advice focuses on balance.

Balancing content. Ensuring that you have some doctrinal series, some ethical series, and maybe some relational teaching as well. Not to mention balancing content between the New and Old Testament. Keeping your content fresh by balancing content types is important, but it’s not most important.

Balancing tone. It would not be very helpful if all we ever did was comfort our audience with the hope we find in Christ. At the same time it would be exhausting to spend a year only challenging people on their shortcomings. Sure, balancing the emotional tone from one series to the next is important, but it’s not most important.

Balancing style. There are many different approaches we can take to teaching.  One could address an entire book of the Bible and then in the next series into a character study of Moses or David. You could even follow those with a biblical look at parenting. Engaging a broad range of learning preferences is important, but it’s not most important.

Balance can't the primary objective for our preaching calendars, because if it is our primary objective it assumes teaching every seven days is an absolute. Do you think Paul felt that way? Did he write to the early church communities because he was on a set schedule? Not by a long shot. He wrote to help them. He wrote to address the issues they were dealing with. He wrote to cast vision. He wrote to inspire life change. He wrote to grow the church and increase those that were being saved.

So what then is our primary objective?

It’s to help people and to lead our community.

Do this right now: find your church's annual goals. Assuming that your goals are driven by a compelling, community driven, Christ centered vision, what does your church what to accomplish in your community in the next 12 months?

Print them off, set them on your desk.

Now, how can you help energize those goals?

  • What does your community need to understand about God’s character in order to move forward?
  • What’s distracting them? What are they dealing with? What is their life context?
  • If your goal is to launch more campuses, what does your church need to biblically understand in order to move forward?
  • What content, character studies, series tones and styles can help you lead your community?

When you think about your church’s annual goals, they represent your hopes, your dreams and your plans to impact your community. Goals outline our anticipated accomplishments each year, so should our preaching calendars.

Goals outline our anticipated accomplishments each year, so should our preaching calendars.
— Steven J Barker

Sure, your Annual Preaching Calendar needs to be balanced. It needs to stay fresh and engaging, but when it comes to the end of calendar will you be able to look back and say you and your church accomplished something?

What do you want to accomplish with your 52 messages this year? 

What Preachers Can Learn From Comedians

Remember, your audience doesn’t owe you anything.

When’s the last time you listened to a stand up comedian and laughed at their joke because you felt like you owed it to them? Probably never (minus the times your kids share their nonsensical knock-knock jokes). When you go to a comedy show, you expect to get your money’s worth. It was a good show if you laughed, better if you cried.

It’s the same when your audience walks into church on any given Sunday. They don’t owe you anything.

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Sure, you and I could say that Jesus never expected us to measure ourselves against a standup comedy routine, but he does expect us to hold the attention of our audience. We have to be more engaging then their phones, then their grumbling stomachs, even more engaging then their wandering minds.

So how in the world do we compete with that? Takes some cues from the comedians.

Become a better story teller.

A great comedian can keep you engaged just by telling you a story. It might be personal, pulling back the curtain on their own life or it may be telling someone else's story. Help your audience understand the characters. Engage them in a bigger story.

Study some of the greats. Shoot, when is the last time you read fiction? When you hear a great story, what makes it a great story? Is the the level of detail? Is the anticipation of what comes next? How much is too much? What can kill a good story? Become a student of storytelling.

Help you audience relate.

Think of your favorite stand up comedian. Are they just funny? Or are they funny because “they get you”?

This is why it’s imperative that you understand your audience. How are they dealing with the issue your message is addressing? You have to know where they’re coming from if you want to help them move beyond it. It’s all about teaching to the gap.  (See "The Most Under Recognized Ingredient in a Powerful Message")

Make it interactive.

Make your Sundays feel more like a workshop and less like a lecture.

Ask your audience self assessing questions. Help your audience internalize the problem. If you’re talking about money, ask them to identify with a feeling that comes to mind when they think about money. You could even provide some choices. This gives you the perfect opportunity to teach to those choices providing a far more relatable and interactive experience for your audience. Not to mention it validates your audience and honors where they are coming from.

Standing on stage and commanding attention means you’ve got to deliver. You owe your audience a relevant and engaging experience. 

Your audience owes you nothing, it’s you that owes them everything.

Question: Outside of preachers, who keeps you most engaged? 

3 Reasons Every Pastor Should Practice PechaKucha

Since PowerPoint made it’s way into churches and boardrooms it has been something we struggle to harness. How do we best use such a great tool to deliver even more powerful experience for our audience? I’m sure we’ve all experienced horrible presentations plagued by huge boring slide decks. 

Enter PechaKucha and the top three reasons you should practice it.