Feel the Need

I know there are a ton of different ways to plan your preaching calendar. Some love to take a book of the Bible and go verse-by-verse. Others like to make a list of doctrines and cross them off as they go through the year, making sure they cover each topic at least once.

One approach that I’ve found to be very effective is “Felt Needs Sermon Planning.” It’s preaching to specific felt needs in your audience. It’s about highlighting things that challenge people on a day-in day-out basis and helping them through those challenges.

Felt needs are just that – needs that people can feel. There are, of course, needs people can’t feel. Most people can’t feel the need for tithing, finding a place of service, or personal evangelism – all of which should be covered on your calendar. But felt needs are immediately recognizable by your audience. So when you talk about them, they attract attention.

Here are some felt needs that you can preach on.

  • Family Relationships
  • Finances
  • Addictions
  • Raising Kids
  • Being a Better Employee
  • Sex
  • Emotions

How does felt needs sermon planning work? First, identify the needs in your congregation and community. Take a survey of your church people – What are they going through? What challenges are they facing? What season of life are they in? Take a look around your community – What do people need? What are they struggling with? What was the last tragedy your community faced?

Once you know what needs are prevalent in your audience, start to string those needs together into a series format. Maybe you can talk about parenting, marriage, and friendships in a relationship series. Or perhaps you can bundle different addictions together into a month-long set of sermons.

Now that you have those series sketched out, take a look at your calendar and start placing them in. You want to make sure you schedule them at the most opportune time. If you’ve got a topic that will appeal to many in the community, preach it during a time when you know you’ll have the highest attendance. Or if the need really only affects those inside the walls of your church, pick a month when you know most of your attendance is your committed core.

Finally, don’t be afraid to preach from the standpoint of need. Jesus did. His Sermon on the Mount was a laundry list of felt needs preaching. He covered struggling with finances, sexual addiction, hate and anger – all of those were felt needs of his audience. And he did it the same way you’ll do it, by appealing to scripture and the heart of God.

There’s a lot more to felt needs sermon planning, but this will give you a start. And of course not every series will be a felt needs series. But when you pay attention to the needs in your audience, you’ll be more effective in meeting those needs.

How do you decide what and when to preach? Have you done any work in surveying your congregation or community?