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robyn mellar-smith – how then shall we plan?

Around this time of year I start to give serious thought to a preaching plan for next year. I am the sole pastor of a medium sized Baptist church who is responsible for the preaching slot on Sunday morning. This means that I either preach myself (around 3 weeks out of 5 this year) or I find someone else to speak.

When I studied at Carey Baptist College a few years ago, I picked up the idea from a course by Paul Windsor that it is good to preach a series from an Old Testament book, a Gospel and an Epistle each year. He also suggested doing a topical series and taking time to focus on special days in the church calendar, such as Pentecost Sunday.

This year I have taught a fairly long series in the Gospel of Luke (in two parts), a few weeks on the Self-Denial mission material from Tranzsend, a series in the book of Isaiah, and next month I am planning a short series on the Holy Spirit in the book of Ephesians. When we have guest speakers, I don’t require them to fit in with any series I’m doing, and enjoy it when they choose to address a topic I would be reluctant to, such as a guest speaker next month who is hopefully going to speak on “Christians and Sport.”

My question to others is…how do you choose what books/topics to focus on?

Obviously this is a matter for prayer and discussion with leadership, but do you have goals you try to reach as far as variety? What are the factors that feed into your planning?

Part of me believes that it is important what books we teach when, but a bigger part believes that God will get his message across regardless of what book it’s from, if we do the study and seek him.

I would be especially interested to hear from those who have responsibility for the weekly preaching portion of the Sunday service. Blessings.

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Robyn Mellar-Smith is a daughter, wife, mother, grandmother, and the pastor of Epuni Baptist Church in Lower Hutt.


  1. Hamish Baxter says:

    Thank you Robyn, I am asking the very same questions this week as I begin to plan for next year. In fact I was about to ask on this forum if people would be willing to post sermon series that had worked well (noting that context makes a difference).

    When I began almost three years ago in the Baptist church I was in I made an approach to the leadership of the time with two options of what I might preach following my first series. They laughed and mentioned that no pastor had ever asked that here, so I could go ahead and do what ever I thought best!

    I am now aiming for a bit more of a team approach to planning but this next month will be my first attempt at that so it is to early for me to say how that will go 🙂

  2. Brett Jones says:

    Hi Robyn – I think what you say makes very good sense on the “how” of planning. I’d also go with Hamish’s approach – the “who” as well as the “how”.

    We’ve used 2 primary groups to help us think about the preaching rhythm for the year. We have a teaching team made up of preachers and people who love to study who work together to generate ideas for series and outlines for the series themselves. We also use our eldership as a source of discernment for what the community needs to engage and as an accountability function for the teaching team on the annual plan.

    We have created filters that we use to assess our annual plan and to stimulate us to create a balanced diet. In addition to what you’ve named we also follow the rhythm of some of the church seasons including Lent and Advent – these generally serve as discipleship series. We concentrate on our JPM’s – Jesus per minute! Is there a Jesus or gospel series? To help us with this we journey with one of the gospels every year. We also pick a theological theme for a series as well – Atonement, Incarnation etc and a Missions series with a distinct focus – aid, refugees, missionary service etc.

    It makes for a full year but a stimulating, balanced journey through the scriptures.

  3. Allen Hince says:

    Hi there Robyn – I’m in a similar position to you, sole pastor, medium size church, do the bulk of the preaching. Early on, when I started here at Feilding, I tried to incorporate others (the Elders) in the planning. All I received was blank stares, not because they had no idea how but they perceived as being ‘that’s-what-you-do’. So I inform them as to what I’m doing and what I’m planning and leave at that. I think, too, that as the pastor/preacher we should be the one who have a handle on the spiritual temperature (if such a thing can be measured) and have an idea as to where to preach from. I use the ‘gospel-OT-Epistle approach but not within one year. I have found that I have rush to many series to fit that many in. A series for me is usually about 10 weeks in length. I have visiting speakers within that to break things up or we do special days that come up. Good books to preach – Revelation, Proverbs, and any gospel…

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