10 Keys to a Better Sermon Series
My friend, David, sent me a note recently asking about my thoughts on series planning. I know a lot of churches are in the middle of planning their teaching calendar for the new year. With that in mind, here are some tips to help you have a bigger impact with your series in 2011.
10 Keys to Better Series Planning
1. Leverage the seasons when folks are most likely to attend church.
I like to launch new series that have a more outreach focus when people are more likely to attend services and invite their friends. Those seasons are cyclical. They depend on where you are located. Obviously, Christmas and Easter are two common times when people are likely to attend church.
2. Find the right balance between “reach people” series and “grow people” series.
There will always be tension here, but the objective is to try to balance out using services to attract a crowd and help people take their next steps in their spiritual journey. At West Ridge, we’ve actually color-coded our teaching calendar to make sure we maintain a healthy balance.
3. Use a variety of approaches to begin your series development.
Teach on a topic one series. Teach through a book of the Bible in another series. Teach a series of messages on a specific biblical character. Use a series to teach through a specific doctrine. Mix up your approach.
4. Address questions that people are asking.
Our tendency is to deliver only the information we want people to hear. People will not engage our teaching unless we are addressing the issues they are facing in their daily life. A friend of mine routinely reviews the headlines of women’s magazines to get a sense of the topics that people are discussing in today’s culture.
5. Deliver biblical truth and life application.
Your teaching will not produce life change unless you also provide life application. Without application, people may experience conviction or inspiration, but they won’t know what to do with that. Make it a goal in every message to clearly identify one next step for people to take to apply what they’ve learned.
6. Shoot for 8 to 10 series throughout the year.
Your average series should be 4 to 6 weeks long. If you’re teaching through a book and it needs to go longer than that, try to break it up into multiple series. Every time you start a series, it creates an opportunity for people to invite their friends. You want more opportunities for people to invite their friends.
7. Plan ahead.
You can wait until Saturday to finish your message, but try to at least outline your topics a couple of months in advance. When you do that, you free up creative people to plan series packaging, service elements, and creative communications to enhance your teaching. You also provide time for appropriate promotions to occur.
8. Plan with a team.
One team may drive the topics that are addressed throughout the year. Another team may drive the series packaging, including identifying titles and visual images. Another team may develop the services elements and execution. Whatever the case, the end result will always be better when you have the right people engaged in a team approach.
9. Remember that the people who already attend your church are your best promotions vehicle.
You can spend a lot of money on advertising or direct mail, but the number one way new people will attend your services is through an invitation from someone who already attends your church. Want more people to show up? Make it easier for people to invite their friends.
10. Pastors should teach, and artists should be creative.
The series I’ve experienced with the biggest impact both numerically and in life change have occurred when artists let the pastor drive the teaching and pastors let the artists drive the creative elements. The pastors control this. If they’re willing to empower artists, God can use this creativity to prepare people’s hearts for the message.
From your experience, what would you add to or delete from the list? And which of these strategies do you think most churches have the toughest time implementing?
Tony serves on the leadership team of West Ridge Church near Atlanta. He’s also a strategist, writer, speaker and consultant who helps churches get unstuck and have a bigger impact. More important, he has a passion for people. He’s all about helping people meet Jesus and take steps in their faith.
For more than 10 years, Tony served on the senior leadership teams at NewSpring Church (Anderson, SC) and Granger Community Church (Granger, IN). With Tim Stevens, Tony has co-authored Simply Strategic Stuff, Simply Strategic Volunteers and Simply Strategic Growth–each of which offers valuable, practical solutions for different aspects of church ministry. His newest book, Killing Cockroaches (B&H Publishing), was released in 2009.