To a Pulpit Near You

Last week I spent three days holed up in a hotel room with four fellow pastors. We had not been exiled from the churches and towns we serve, rather we were spending time doing sermon planning, which we do every six months. The process basically goes like this:

  • First, we all take five to ten minutes sharing an idea or two for a sermon series. Sometimes the idea is hatched after reading a particularly good book, others from parishioner request, sometimes we focus on a particular bible character, story or book, and no we are not above “borrowing” ideas from other preachers.
  • Second, we agree on the top four ideas and spend the rest of our time sketching out those series. We don’t get into actual writing, but rather focus on number of weeks, specific scriptures, any insight we might have, and any questions we think need to be addressed to faithfully engage the text. Sometimes we even talk about practical, life application issues, but not always.
  • Third, we carve out a little time to each go to our separate corners to start calendaring. During our August/September retreat we schedule January to June, and during our January/February retreat we schedule July to December.

In addition to the actual “work” accomplished during business hours, meal times and evenings are set aside to “decompress,” which is always needed. The life of a pastor is full of ups and downs. I cannot explain this intellectually, but many pastors I know (including myself) are introverts, and so we struggle at being extroverted so much of the time, and need gatherings where we are not “pastor.” We also deal with the ups and downs of our people’s lives, including lots of suffering and death, and sometimes just need to get away. Meals and evenings provide this time, and while the planning is the most productive part of the retreat, meals and evenings are my favorite times.

In case you are interested, here are the series we planned as a group this time:

  • Asking for a Friend – in this series we borrow the hashtag found regularly on social media #askingforafriend. In this series we explore some difficult questions of the faith that most people wonder about, but do not want to ask…unless it’s for a friend!
  • King David: The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly – We had great argument and debate over this one. Because the people of Israel were looking for a messiah that was “like” King David, and because Jesus lineage goes back to him, David is beloved. BUT have you read the things he did?!? It’s a good bet that someone without a Christian context would read the stories of David and conclude he was an egomaniacal tyrant. We’re gonna look honestly at the stories and see where it takes us.
  • Finding and Offering Forgiveness – Archbishop Desmond Tutu wrote a book about the 4-fold path to forgiveness. I still have lots of work to do on this series as I have not read the book yet…but I will and I have high hopes for this series as forgiveness is a topic all people need to hear.
  • How do I Read the Bible? – According to Google analytics, this is one of the most often asked questions about religion, and so we developed a short series to answer the question.

Thanks for reading…I will get more posts “in the works” so I can post more regularly!