I am currently on my annual prayer and prep week. Each August I travel to a remote location and spend the week alone praying through the upcoming church season, from September to September. I seek God for direction as to where He would like to take our church in the next year and as I get a sense of direction and focus, I begin to chart a preaching plan. I start by breaking down the year into 12-15 series of 2-6 weeks each. I theme each series and then begin to pray into each theme, looking for direction as to what to teach.
I have done this each year for the last 4 years and here is why:
I have discovered that one of our biggest problems as the Church is that we generally communicate hundreds of messages on any given weekend. This hinders our ability to connect with our audience and be relevant in our communities. One of the reasons we fail to connect is we fail to prepare. I have found that the more prepared I am the more focused I can become.
Focus is important because:
- The more you focus each environment, the greater the relevance. Pastor Reggie Joiner of Northpoint Church said, “The truth is that church by its nature is a very general concept. And most people are not looking for a church; otherwise, churches would be full of visitors every week. What people are looking for is something that is relevant to their marriage, their family, their personal lives. What they are looking for is something that works for them as individuals. And that is something specific, not general.” Reggie Joiner
- The more you focus each environment, the better the connection. You can’t be creative with a few days notice. Creativity helps people remember and helps people connect with you and your message. When I used to plan my messages a week in advance I found some of the best illustrations and creative ideas after I delivered the message. By then, it was too late and I missed a golden opportunity to make it stick in the hearts and minds of the people.
- The more you focus each environment, the higher the quality. Gilbert Amelio, president and CEO of National Semiconductor Corporation said, "Developing excellent communication skills is absolutely essential to effective leadership. The leader must be able to share knowledge and ideas to transmit a sense of urgency and enthusiasm to others. If a leader can't get a message across clearly and motivate others to act on it, then having a message doesn't even matter."
- The more you focus each environment, the stronger the impact. When I plan a year in advance, it allows my team to prepare along with me on the specific topic. This enables us to create impactful environments around the theme. Our children's ministry can teach the same theme. Our youth ministry can teach the same theme. Our worship team can prepare songs based on the theme. Our media and creative arts teams have time to create, write and produce high quality creative elements to add to the message. This allows us to create wholesale environments around the message we are trying to communicate. Pastor Reggie Joiner said, “When your priority is creating environments instead of marketing your church, you will make a greater impact on what your community thinks about your church.”
Question: How much more creativity could you add to your communication if you had more time to prepare? I'd appreciate your comments and ideas :)