Strategic planning is an invaluable part of ministry. And, in my opinion, the strategic planning of a basic annual preaching schedule is a crucial task for every pastor who wants to maximize the impact of his preaching ministry.
Now, before anyone freaks out, as a Calvary guy, I know that when I say, “strategic planning,” what many of you actually hear in your mind is the voice of a tiny conspiracy-theory blogger screaming, “Strategic planning? That sounds like something from a seeker-sensitive, purpose-driven, easy-believism, apostate-ministry play-book!” If you’re hearing anything like that, please ask Voldemort to be quiet, and hear me out. Not only will you retain your salvation if you intentionally practice strategic planning, you will actually be doing ministry in the image of God! Sounds cool, eh? But is it true? Let me explain.
The Trinity is about Strategic Planning
God the Father is a planner:
“But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law…” Galatians 4:4
Jesus is a planner:
“But He answered and said, “I was not sent except to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” Mark 15:24
The Holy Spirit is a planner:
“As they ministered to the Lord and fasted, the Holy Spirit said, “Now separate to Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” Acts 13:2
The Father plans the arrival of the Son at a specific moment in history, in a specific place, through a specific woman. The Son faithfully fulfills the strategic plan of the Father to preach a specific message, to specific people, for a specific season. The Holy Spirit calls specific men to fulfill a specific set of ministry plans. The obvious point is that our God is a planning God. He is a strategic God. And when we prayerfully plan to do ministry well, we do ministry in the image of God.
Planning & the Leading of the Holy Spirit
Now, on the subject of planning, as soon as we shut down the voice of Voldemort, the conspiracy-theory blogger, his hyper-spiritual brother almost always chimes into the discussion with his own rebuttal: “You don’t need to plan if you’re led by the Holy Spirit!” he says. I have personally spent time trying to operate effectively in ministry while creating a false dichotomy between strategic planning and being led by the Holy Spirit. I still know many other pastors who do this, and it is detrimental.
Brothers, we need to be liberated from the tyranny of this false dichotomy. Planning is not antithetical to being led by the Holy Spirit. Consider Proverbs 16:9: “A man’s heart plans his way, But the Lord directs his steps.” The two statements in this verse aren’t two separate ways of approaching life. Instead, they present two parallel principles God intends to help us live a life centered in His will.
Principle 1: “A man’s heart plans his way.” It is good to make plans. God doesn’t want you to merely let life happen to you. He wants you to prayerfully seek His will, know the guidelines of scripture, and respond with practical planning. But He wants more than that.
Principle 2: “But the Lord directs his steps.” Having prayed, studied, and planned, God wants you to entrust your plans to Him with a spirit of flexibility. After planning to the best of your ability, try not to freak out when God sovereignly allows practical obstacles to impede your path. Realize that even though it is your job to plan, it is His job to ultimately direct your steps. The unique experiences of life that you cannot anticipate are often the road signs He will use to help you make the correct turns and best decisions. Back to the preaching schedule idea…
The Benefits of Planning a Preaching Schedule
The guiding principles of Proverbs 16:9 are true in every area of life and ministry, including strategically planning a preaching schedule. So what are some benefits of planning a preaching schedule?
1. More time to prepare yourself
The further out you plan, the more time you will have to study for your topic and let your gleanings marinate in prayer. Spending more time on these things will mean better quality and clarity of preaching for your audience.
2. More time to prepare your team
If you are one of the blessed few that leads a church with a creative production team, your planning can help your artistic co-laborers do their job better. If they have more time to brainstorm ways of creatively framing or promoting an upcoming sermon series, they will produce work with greater quality. They will be able to better enhance the way each message impacts Christians and connects with the lost in your gatherings. And since using their creative talents is part of their worship to God, planning this way is a great way for you to value your creative team’s expression of worship too.
Helpful Planning Questions
Here are a few helpful questions to consider as you think forward about strategically planning your preaching schedule for the year:
1. What special days will your church and culture annually observe?
- Will you plan special sermon series’ that coincide with holy days like Good Friday, Easter or Christmas?
- Will you springboard from Martin Luther King Jr. Day or Civil Rights Day and preach a message on Civic Responsibility and the Church?
- Will you preach on the Christian and Creation Stewardship on Earth Day?
2. In what areas of Christian living could your church use biblical guidance?
- Maybe you’ve noticed a general lack of understanding on the role of Holy Spirit in your church. Will you preach a message on The Baptism and Gifts of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost?
- Maybe you have sensed confusion in your church on what it looks like to live a missionary Christian lifestyle. Should you spend a few weeks in a sermon series clarifying missional living for the people you lead?
3. What gospel themes are broadly distorted in the mentality of the average person in your cultural context?
- Do you serve in a community that is largely influenced by a law-driven understanding of God, such as Utah or the Middle East? Perhaps working through a book like Galatians or Romans that clarifies the right use of the law in relating to God would be helpful.
- Are you serving in a culture where a large portion of the population commonly promotes celebrating openly sinful lifestyles like Las Vegas or Amsterdam? Maybe working through a book that clarifies the transforming work of grace in the believer’s life, such as 1 Peter, 1 Corinthians, or 1 John, would be the best use of your church-wide teaching times.
Do you want to do ministry in a way that enables you and your team to get your best work done? Do you want to do all you can to have the highest potential spiritual impact on those you serve? Do you want to do ministry in the image of God? Then how will YOU implement the invaluable practice of strategic planning as you fulfill your calling to preach the Bible this year? This article is by no means an exhaustive look at preaching and strategic planning. But I do hope it gives you some meaningful food for thought about how you can plan to succeed this year in the area of communicating God’s truth.