One of the greatest benefits to my ministry over the past six years has been the use of an annual sermon calendar.  Since we launched BridgeWay in February of 2005 I've planned my sermons roughly 9-12 months in advance.  Over the past couple days I've been locked away praying, planning, and writing the skeleton of this year's upcoming sermon series.

While I've tweaked this process several times over the past couple of years.  Here's the basic process I go through to create my annual sermon calendar.

1.  Keep an ongoing list of sermon series ideas. 
* I use Evernote for this. 
* For example, this year some of the series I was considering included:
     - A vision series called "Whatever It Takes"
     - A series on Jesus called "Liar, Lunatic, or Lord"
     - A series on the character of God called "This is Our God"
     - A series on Luke 15 called "People of the 2nd Chance"

2.  Spend time in prayer and fasting.
* I can't overstate the importance of this discipline.
* This year my wife and I have been fasting together as a part of a 21 day Daniel Fast.

3.  Meet with your team.
* I will meet with several staff and leaders prior to my planning retreat and ask several of these questions:
     - What issues or concerns are on people's minds currently?
     - What will people be concerned with between in the next 6-9 months?
     - What theological truths do we need to teach?
     - What spiritual practices do we need to teach?
     - What virtues do we need to teach?
     - What could we harness from culture to communicate these truths?
     - What sermons from other churches have impacted you recently?

4.  Get away for a day or two of planning.
* Typically I'll take a day and a half to get away someplace like Starved Rock State Park.
* Here are a few things that help me in my planning:
     - Spend dedicated time in prayer and meditation to start the day.
     - Block 2 hours blocks of time to work followed by 1/2 hour of rest.
     - Know significant dates (both Christian holy days and secular holidays).
     - Determine how many series blocks you have available.  For example I had 12 series
       & 3 stand alone message blocks available to me.
     - Try to balance series between: outreach, deepening, and balanced teaching.
     - Schedule your outreach series at key growth times (ie...Jan - Easter, and Sept - Oct).

5.  Evaluate and adapt throughout the year.
* I usually feel really good about the plan for the next 4-6 months, but the series that are further out may change as they get closer.  For that reason I do this retreat 2x per year, evaluating and adapting the upcoming 6 months and planning/dreaming about what to preach 6-12 months out.

Here's a look at what this next year looks like at BridgeWay:

February - Mentor Me...investing in what matters most.
March - Lie to Me...religious lies we believe.
April - One Month to Live...a lenten series on how to live with passion and purpose, based on Jesus.
May - The Me I Want to Be...a series on spiritual growth.
June - Surviving the End of the World...a balanced and biblical series on Revelation.
July - God at the Movies...annual pop culture summer outreach series.
August - Liar, Lunatic, or apologetics series on Jesus.
September - People of the Second Chance...a BridgeWay culture series on Luke 15.
October - Whatever it Takes...a vision series for 2012.
November - Overcoming...a series on the theme of overcoming.
December - This is Our God...a series on the character of God.

So that's my process...what's yours?
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