Over the course of the past month, the Replant Blog has focused on the topic of scheduling and time management. Recently, I asked pastors in several different Facebook groups what their biggest struggles in ministry were. Time management was among the top two or three responses I received.
Pastors are busy. There’s always another meeting to schedule, event to attend, person to disciple, relationship to build and sermon to prepare. If we aren’t diligent, we can become overwhelmed, particularly when a sermon deadline looms large every week. As someone said, preaching is like giving birth every Sunday morning, only to discover that you’re pregnant again on Monday. Week in and week out, God’s people gather and expect to hear a sermon from their pastor.
We’ve written on the topic of preaching before, so it should come as no surprise to you that we are huge proponents of expository preaching. We will argue strongly that, as the normative practice, pastors should preach through entire books of the Bible, with topics interspersed as needed for special occasions, holidays, etc.
Expository preaching helps guard against a multitude of dangers, but in this post I want to focus specifically on three ways expository preaching can help with your time management.
1. Expository preaching takes (some of) the stress out of sermon prep
If you’ve ever had a week where crisis after crisis pops up, you’ll understand the terror that arises on Thursday or Friday when you realize you have no earthly idea what you’re preaching this Sunday. If your normal practice is to preach through entire books of the Bible, that is no longer a stress. You still have the hours of sermon preparation each week, but you at least know what the next Scripture passage will be. That lifts an enormous burden off your shoulders. No matter what emergencies arise that disrupt your weekly calendar, at least you know your text.
2. Expository preaching helps you plan for important events
When I was serving as a full-time pastor, I would typically take the month of December and plan out my entire preaching calendar for the next year. I would factor in Sundays for holidays, special emphases and vacations. Even if I didn’t have firm dates for everything, I knew that there would be six to eight “buffer” Sundays each year. That means I had 44 to 46 Sundays that I would plan out for series through books. Often, I found that even special Sundays like Easter, Mother’s Day and Father’s Day could work with the series I already was preaching through.
3. Expository preaching helps you preach (and plan) more effectively
In their book Preach, Mark Dever and Greg Gilbert give a wonderful rubric for systematically preaching through different genres of Scripture. For instance, if I was finishing a series in the gospels before the Advent season, I would pick a book from either the New Testament letters or the Old Testament to start the new year. This helped ensure that the members of our church were being fed a healthy diet of sermons from different genres of Scripture throughout the year. Think of it as a spiritual food pyramid, if you will.
A commitment to preaching expository messages won’t relieve all the stress of pastoring. Funerals and counseling sessions still will pop up at inconvenient times. There will be conflicts and crises to address. But planning out a preaching calendar with the books you’ll preach through in a given year will help create margin in your schedule to account for the unexpected.
Published August 26, 2022