I recently wrote about the why of advanced sermon planning, and a question that inevitably emerges is, “How do you decide what to teach?” Or, “When you are planning a teaching calendar, how do you think about different approaches to teaching?” Three big thoughts guide how I think about a teaching/preaching calendar:
Preaching and teaching the Word is essential.
The Scripture is breathed by God to bless us (2 Timothy 3:16-17), and the Word is central in our teaching and in our ministry as a church. “The Word must be central” is our first stated value as a church. The Word must be central because God uses His Word to bring salvation and sanctification to His people (James 1:18; Hebrews 4:12).
There are different approaches to preaching and teaching the Word.
There are faithful teachers who approach teaching, exhorting, and declaring God’s Word differently from other faithful teachers. Here are three common approaches, all of which are utilized by godly shepherds of God’s people:
- Life: An approach that begins with questions, challenges, hopes, or struggles in life and brings the Scripture’s teaching to bear on them. Examples include Jesus’ teaching on marriage in response to questions, and Jesus teaching the woman at the well in the midst of her shame (Matthew 19, John 4).
- Text: An approach that begins with the text and walks people through it, including central themes and purposes of the biblical book, believing God’s Spirit will apply God’s Word to God’s people. For example, the Apostle Paul encouraged Timothy to “preach the Word” (2 Timothy 4:2).
- Theology: An approach that engages people with doctrines of the Christian faith in light of the grand story of God—the gospel. For example, Jesus explained to two disciples on the road to Emmaus how all of Scripture points to Him (Luke 24).
I think about and plan our teaching through the lens of a “balanced diet.”
Each message should be practical (life), bring people to God’s Word (text), and remind people of God’s great plan in the gospel (theology), but a teaching series tends to emphasize one of the aforementioned approaches. Because I think of a “balanced diet,” when I plan our teaching calendar, we utilize all three of these approaches each year. Some of our teaching series are framed around life issues, some walk through books of the Bible (three books a year for the last several years), and some are designed to engage people with theology.
When it comes to the teaching calendar, we have developed a “thinking framework” to help our teams think about how we plan. Here it is.