Whatever you do, don't give preaching your scraps. It deserves more than that. Teaching God's Word is an honor worthy of our best energies and efforts. I know, it's easier said than done. That's why I and many other preachers I know have to take some serious action to keep preaching consistently with intentionality. Whatever your method, preaching consistently and with intentionally are among the preacher's great challenges.
Each year, I take a study break in order to map out the next year's worth of sermons. I come back from that study time with the series subject, the major text for each day, and the "big idea" of that day for each Sunday of the year. I then revisit the choices 1 quarter out to make sure I still like them and still feel led that direction. It's also here that I pull together a creative team to help choose series themes and titles to go with the Then, I nail them down firmly about a month out. Wednesday is my primary message preparation day week-to-week.
That's how I go about it.
In general, all my sermons are expository–even sermons that are on specific topics (such as prayer) are preached from a primary text. This helps me avoid preaching my biases, and keeps the Word in it's rightful place as the primary teacher of the church. In general, 2/3 of my series are book studies, and 1/3 is expository preaching on practical theology or Christian living. Jesus is given preeminence in subject matter, and there is almost always a "gospel tie-in" to every message. We always make an attempt to package them creatively. Most series last 6-8 weeks. I've preached series as long as 4 months, and as short as 3 weeks.Timing matters a lot–both the length of the series and the time-of-year in which the series is preached.
Some preachers in Churches of Christ have made a shift to the lectionary as a way of keeping balance in their preaching. I believe that while helpful in some important ways, that approach has it's weaknesses as well: lack of flexibility, failure to cover the entire Bible, etc. So, I've formed a mini-lectionary of my own. In a calendar year, I'll preach something on each of the following subjects while maintaining the balance listed above.
- Old Testament book study
- New Testament book study
- Gospels book study
- Practical Theology/Spiritual Disciplines (baptism, prayer, Bible study, etc.)
- Family Life
I would love to hear some of your thoughts on preaching, even if you don't preach. What has been helpful? What could preachers do better? Are there topics preachers avoid they should preach more?