http://www.dreamstime.com/stock-photo-pulpit-view-2-image1432660I am a proponent of planning your preaching.

I plan out my preaching a year in advance.  And I urge other preachers to do the same. But any plan is better than no plan. It may be a plan for the coming quarter or month. Or maybe for the next two weeks. Anything beats the pressure of looking for something to preach each week.

There are multiple benefits to developing a preaching plan. It saves time. It relieves stress. It allows you to work ahead. It enables you to be intentional about the diet you feed your congregation. And it gives you the opportunity to collect resources for effective preparation.

But there is another reason for planning your preaching that may be most important: A preaching calendar helps you to plan when you are not going to preach.

In the first church I served, I had scheduled times when I was not to preach. For instance, I had the month of August off. I rarely sat it out for the month. But the freedom to pick several weeks when I was not in the pulpit was refreshing. I have not been as good about this in my present assignment. Both the congregation and I have suffered for it.

It is not preaching that so drains preachers. It is the sermon preparation process. Sermons don’t grow on trees. If you take your preaching seriously, it will cost you labor in the study. It is like preparing a term paper for every sermon and giving an oral presentation of it. That joyful burden grows if you preach multiples times each week. And it doesn’t include the other personal and ministerial responsibilities the pastor-teacher has each week.

The preacher’s health – both physically and spiritually – requires that he break the routine at intervals. A bow that is always bent will soon break. Muscles grow through a cycle of exercise and rest. If you burn the candle at both ends, you are not very bright.

In a recent conversation with several pastors, one mentioned that he has an agreement with his congregation to preach forty weeks a year. That’s a good plan. But not every pastor can get away with being out of the pulpit that much. Others may not want to. You must determine what is a reasonable amount of time for you to be out of the pulpit.

These planned breaks are not just for the preacher. Your congregation needs a break from you, too. If your church is nurturing young preachers, they need opportunities to preach. It is also beneficial for your congregation to occasionally hear invited guests. If your congregation cannot or will not listen to anyone but you, it is a cult of personality, not a church.

I hope you will seriously consider planning your preaching. As you do so, don’t forget to plan not to preach. Pastoral ministry is a marathon, not a sprint Pace yourself for the long haul. Stay in the race. And finish strong.

How do you schedule your preaching? Do you plan no to preach? What advice would you give on this subject?