How to Plan and Package a Year of Sermon Series
The series "brand" can unify what a church says and does.
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PreachingToday.com: A sermon series demands more from the preacher in the way of "packaging" than a stand-alone sermon. You need to choose a series topic and title, and perhaps a series metaphor, subtitle, and text. You need to divide the topic into individual sermons and Scriptures that cover a certain amount of terrain each week. You title and perhaps subtitle each message in a unified way. You may write a marketing paragraph for the church website to stir interest in the series, and so you're thinking about how to connect with culture. What process do you follow?
David Daniels: I start planning for the next year around September. Typically I begin my thinking with what I perceive are the needs of the church and where I feel that God is leading us and me, whether it's a greater focus on mission, community, personal sanctification, or another topic.
Something we started this year and plan to do again next year is to give the whole year a theme. 2011 was the "Year of Mission," and so every sermon series related to what it means to be missional. Some of the series have been overtly about mission, like our March series "Pandemic: The Global Outbreak of the Gospel of God." Before "Pandemic," we had a two-week series on orphan care. For the summer, I taught a 12-week series on James; the central theme was, If we're going to be a church on a mission, then our best missional testimony is how we live. I also preached a series about practical evangelism called " Kingdom Starter Kit," followed by a six-week series on the Holy Spirit's role in our mission.
So the year is a series of series.
Daniels: Exactly. Before we get specific in planning the series for the year, though, we look at the calendar and block out the weeks where each series will fit. We build our preaching calendar around the non-negotiables on the church calendar. In January I always preach a vision series. Easter and Mother's Day are set. We have to take into account the rhythm of people's church attendance when it comes to times like Spring Break at school.
We also factor in when new people enter the church versus when they are settled in the church. Naturally our series during the seeking times will be slightly different than the settling times. There have been times when I've scheduled a series that seemed great because it fit a five-week block in September, but then realized it was a settling series when it should have been more of a seeking series. We should have scheduled it for November.
Once we know the blocks of time we have to work with, I schedule each sermon series and then begin to plan individual sermons in order in a series. I tend to move from week one being more theological to the final weeks leaning more practical, from the why to the what. By the time we get to the end of a series, we are leading people toward personal and corporate application of the spiritual truths they have learned.