Pastor Mark Driscoll of Mars Hill Church in Seattle gives some very good advice for preachers as they think about planning their messages. I've reproduced the article below. I am working towards annual preparation, but still have a bit of a way to go. I hope this is encouraging to you. If you want to view the article in its original form, you can do so by clicking here.
In light of the New Year I wanted to share some advice with fellow preachers. One of the best things a preacher can do to improve their preaching ministry is to plan out what they are going to preach at least a year in advance. This allows the preacher to begin their research and study well in advance so that when the week of a sermon arrives, they will be well on their way to speaking as God intends.
In the early years of my preaching I was not prepared far enough in advance. As a result, many weeks I was scrambling for study time amongst emergencies and disruptions of various sorts and kinds. Additionally, without knowing when I would be out of the pulpit, I ended up trying to squeeze vacations in, did not get enough time off (which started to take a toll), and did not have alternate preachers lined up far enough in advance to have adequate time to prepare well.
At present, I am blessed to actually have my preaching schedule lined up through both 2008 and 2009 so that I can preach well, get my vacations in with my family, take the study breaks to prepare and write as I need, and also give the other preachers in our church sufficient time to prepare for the weeks I am out. One of the most helpful insights I have received on preparing a preaching schedule came backstage at Ed Young Jr.'s church in Dallas. Being the son of a great preacher, he had learned which Sundays were the best for a preacher to take a break from the pulpit without hurting momentum. According to Ed, the following Sundays tend to have a lower attendance and are good times for a preacher to consider taking a break for vacation, study, or whatever else they need to do:
- The first Sunday of the year
- Daylight Savings weekend in the spring
- Memorial Day weekend
- Fourth of July weekend
- Labor Day weekend
- Daylight Savings weekend in the fall
- Thanksgiving week
- The weekend after Christmas
For most churches the likely time to get an influx of visitors is generally from the start of school in September through November, as well as January through Easter. So, it is often wise to start a new book of the Bible or series in September and January for momentum.