23 of the Best Sources for Sermon Illustrations

Four Steps to a Great Sermon Series

Editors Note: This is the second blog in a series written by local church leaders for local church leaders. Today’s post comes from Andy McMillan. Andy is a passionate leader, pastor, speaker and coach. He has been in ministry over six years. He has a B.A. in Christian Leadership and a M.A. in Ministerial Leadership. Currently, Andy serves as the Student Ministries Pastor and Assimilation Director at Generations United Church, in Niceville, FL. 

Planning a great sermon series can be stressful. As preachers, we want to be creative—helping our people learn and absorb God’s Word—and we want to be precise—going deep into scripture versus just wiggling around on the surface.

But planning a sermon series isn’t easy. Often, they are too broad. Or the first week is outstanding, only to see the rest of the series stumble.

In this blog, I want to show you how I’ve made my series planning process more organized, much more effective, and less likely to cause me to pull out my hair.

  1. The Content and Prayer Phase

The first step to planning a healthy sermon series is deciding what you’re going to talk about. What do I feel like God is trying to say to my people through His Word? Often, sermon series can become too wide. Rather than digging deep into a particular subject or book, they are scattered and disorganized. In other words, they aim for everything, and end up hitting nothing.

Near the beginning of my planning process, I do my best to dig into what I feel like I need to talk about. If it’s marriage, I ask myself, “What do I need to say about marriage?” Should I preach through a book or a specific narrative in the Bible? Or take a more topical approach?

Next, I also ask how that specific topic relates to the average person in my congregation. There are instances when I’ll call individuals from my church, and ask them about it. Other times, I’ll research the topic online. I might even recall past conversations I have had with people in church about this particular issue.

By the time I get through with all of this, I should have the series planned out from a bird’s eye view. I know what I’m going to talk about, how I’m going to talk about it, and how it answers a question my people are asking.

  1. The Research Phase

This next step is where I get the meat for my messages. Having time to research a topic is one of the best reasons why you should plan your series in advance.

Here, I read books, articles, and insights about the topic. What does the Bible say about this issue? How have other Christians looked at this subject throughout church history? How does pop culture treat this topic? This phase is extremely important. Don’t rush it.

As I am researching, I make sure to copy URLs, bibliography information, quotes, and any other data that I might need to go back to when I’m writing each individual sermon.

Tip: Create a small sermon planning team to help you with this process. Involve individuals who are both younger and older than you. How have they approached the topic in the past? Do they have any ideas about how to best communicate it?

  1. Branding and Marketing Phase

Usually, when I begin this phase, I’ll do two things. First, I go to websites like Ministry Pass, where I have access to a TON of great series already developed for me. I try to use something already made. I appreciate that Ministry Pass doesn’t provide sermon manuscripts, but guides to boost creativity, sermon organization, and series promotion. Their products offer me everything I need to brand and marketing my series.

Once I have this material in place, I put together a plan with my team. Should we produce mail outs? What type of images/videos should we post on social media? Essentially, how can we get the word out on this new series? We believe God wants to work in our church and community. How can we use this teaching series to help accomplish that goal?

Depending on your local church and community, your marketing process might look different than mine. The biggest point to remember, however, is that you need to have a plan—even if it’s simple. Create a schedule with your team on how you are going to promote and help you people apply what you’ll be talking about over the next few weeks. Ask yourself these questions: What should I do to promote the series four weeks out? Three weeks out? Etc.

  1. Creativity Phase

The “Creativity Phase” is really happening throughout the entire process.  What creative elements could you add to this series before, during, and after? Have a meeting with your planning team, and throw out ideas. It’s important, though, that you actually DECIDE on something. Good ideas without clear decisions usually means things won’t get done. Without making clear decisions, your team doesn’t know how to take the next step.

These phases look different to different churches, but I hope that you’ll remember an important part of this blog. That is, you need to plan ahead. The Holy Spirit can, and often does, work through us in the moment, but let’s not limit Him to the week or day before. Let’s allow Him to work in our lives, leading us forward in His Word, months (even years) in advance.

Ministry Pass has created a Series Planning Guide that will walk you through, step-by-step, this entire planning process. Download it for FREE, here.

Want to check out the materials Ministry Pass has to offer? Sign up for a FREE Ministry Pass trial membership HERE.

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