Preachers called to Kindle the Fire at Lectionary Reading Week
By GLENN HANNIGAN
It is a question every pastor has heard at one time or another: How far in advance do you plan your sermons?
In previous years, Zack Martin, pastor of Lanier UMC in Cumming, answered in a manner similar to many preachers. “I don’t plan ahead,” Martin would say. “I preach the lectionary.”
As Martin recalls, “I worked week to week. But I think you could spell week with an ‘a’. It was not the most effective use of my time.”
Though Martin still follows the lectionary, his sermon planning is weak no more. He credits the Lectionary Reading Week retreat he attended last winter with inspiring a dramatic turnaround in his sermon preparation and worship planning.
“It was quite powerful,” Martin said. “It not only helped me improve my preaching, and climb out of theological ruts, but it has made my life easier as well.”
Martin now plans months in advance. One of the high-priority items on his calendar for 2013: attending the Kindling the Fire Lectionary Reading Week, Feb. 25-28, at the Glisson Retreat Center in Dahlonega.
“I plan on going to this event every year,” Martin said. “It is a great time to share ideas, borrow ideas and learn from more seasoned preachers. It allows me to get out of the office and away from the day-to-day chaos and work on preaching.
“The church office might be the worst place to work on sermons.”
Phil Schroeder, associate director of Connectional Ministries, is a true believer in the benefits of Lectionary Reading Week.
“One of the things you’ll see many of the faster-growing churches doing is planning far ahead,” Schroeder said. “I believe it is critical. Planning well in advance gives churches the opportunity to invite people based on upcoming events. It helps build interest in the Sunday worship experience.”
At the retreat, sponsored by the Office of Connectional Ministries, district superintendents and other leaders from the North Georgia Annual Conference take turns reading lectionary texts. Bishop Mike Watson will be leading one of the discussions. Participants, sitting in table groups, have an opportunity to reflect on what they have heard and share their insights and observations.
“This is hands-down the most effective session I have ever attended,” said John Merk, pastor of Dawnville UMC in Dalton. “Some of the most creative people in the conference will be there. Getting different perspectives and sharing ideas has been invaluable to me.
“Like many pastors, I have read through the Bible a number of times but when I hear it read aloud this way, I end up discovering verses I did not know existed before.”
Those who register by Dec. 31 pay a discounted fee of $225. Then the cost increases to $250, which covers program materials, lodging for three nights and nine meals. Also included is the United Methodist Music & Worship Planner for 2013-2014, a $22 value. Scholarships are available.
Lectionary Reading Week begins at 2 p.m. on Feb. 25. The retreat ends at noon on Feb. 28.
“It used to be very unusual for me to plan a sermon series,” Martin said. “Now it has become a regular part of my preaching schedule. This retreat has given me tools I never had before.”
Registration and full payment needs to be received by Feb. 15. To register online or to download a PDF brochure, go to: www.ngumc.org/KindlingTheFire