How to preach like a leader

If you’re like a lot of pastors, then you need to use the pulpit to strategically support your ministry leadership. However, if you are simply trying to get a sermon done each week, then it may seem overwhelming to get your head above water enough to plan your preaching ahead to support your ministry goals. I’ve been there, I know.

But when I started planning preaching ahead, my life got exponentially easier, both as a preacher and a leader. I had a way of thinking about my approach to preaching: it wasn’t just about coming up with an idea each week, but supporting where I was heading. An added bonus: much less thinking on Monday, “What am I going to preach about on Sunday?” Most weeks I already had at least a general idea.

That’s why I’ve developed this little guide for planning strategically for preaching to support your leadership.

Step 1: Clarify your own vision for your ministry.

If you’ve done this before, then you know there are several possible
ways to approach it. However, I’ve discovered that a great way to complete
this step is by simply asking yourself the question, “What do I want?” You don’t need to worry that it’s a selfish question. Simply ask it prayerfully, and trust that God will speak as you reflect.

Ask yourself, “What do I want?” What do you want for yourself in your role? What do you want in worship? What do you want in outreach and mission? What do you want in discipleship? Make your own list of questions that fit your contest.

I like using 3×5 cards, one idea per card. Then you can sort them by priority. Sort prayerfully, asking God for discernment.

But in a pinch, you can simply ask, “What would I love to do now?” Come up with a few highest-priority items that you would love to invite people to join you in. Consider this your working vision.

Step 2: Create a preaching plan, using the vision.

But before I get into the steps for creating a plan, let me add two words of warning.

First, take note that a preaching plan needs to be flexible. Events in your own community may call for a shift in your plan. Or the Holy Spirit may guide you to scrap the plan and head in a new direction. Be clear about your plan, but open to adapt it.

Second, assess where you are in your relationship with the church. Generally, the longer you’ve been there, the more leverage you have in articulating a vision. You may want to share your plan with staff and board to keep them in the loop and get some feedback.

Try this:

1. Start now gathering material. Since you know what you’ll be doing, you can do some exegesis and look for supporting material.
2. Prepare and deliver your strategic sermons. You’ll find it much easier since you have a head start.Map out three months of Sundays.

3. Pick one Sunday to give an “I have a dream” sermon.

4.Choose three or four more Sundays to highlight specific aspects of your short term vision. You can do them in a row, or spread out over the quarter.
5. Choose texts for those Sundays. If you use the lectionary, decide now which text you will focus on primarily. (In the best of all possible worlds, you’ll select texts for all the Sundays in the quarter.

6. Prepare and deliver your strategic sermons. You’ll find it much easier since you have a head start

Once you’ve put the vision out from the pulpit, then move on to Step 3, the most important step of all.

Step 3: Don’t get reactive to criticism of your vision.

This step does require some patience and self-regulation. Edwin Friedman called this “The keys to the kingdom” in leadership.

Your main task is to remember that a visionary leader upsets the balance, and people automatically react. It’s not personal. Don’t get defensive.

Don’t try to convince people that you are right.

Stay connected to the people who disagree with you. Seek them out at coffee hour, not to talk about the issues but simply to keep in relationship with them.

Congratulations – you now know how to create a plan for preaching like a leader. So take action and make your own plan. The time you invest will be well worth it. Because the sooner you do, the sooner you can avoid the Monday morning panic AND see (at least some) eyes light up as people catch the vision.

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