Do you take time every year for sermon series planning or do you only plan a few weeks ahead? It’s been our experience that many pastors plan only two weeks to a month at a time. While that can work to meet the weekly sermon requirements, it may not work to really grow discipleship in your church or allow the pastor to do their job to the best of their ability.
The Benefit of Sermon Series Planning
By planning your sermon series in advance, you are building more balance into your schedule. Look at your sermons for the past year and answer the following questions.
- Were your sermons mostly pastoral or were they evangelical?
- Were your messages based mainly on the epistles or were you balanced in your scriptural use?
- Did you spend time on discipleship or were your messages mostly geared towards the newcomer?
- How often did you touch on evangelism?
If after looking at your past year of sermons you find there wasn’t enough balance, you will benefit from trying sermon series planning.
Why You Should Plan Your Sermon Series Yearly
Let’s look at a yearly calendar for a moment. Each month represents an opportunity to address current trends and holidays, weaving them into your sermons to keep your church members attention. When planning only a week or two ahead you don’t have the opportunity to dig deep and find modern examples to support your message.
If you have planned your sermon series in advance, you can have your team researching and collecting real-world examples for all of your upcoming sermons. When your team is handling this task for you, it allows you the freedom to spend more time in prayer, seeking God’s heart for each message and being more strategic with your messaging.
When you look at the year-long calendar, you can actually foresee when you may have more new guests and strategically plan an evangelical sermon, whereas summer months or in the middle of the school year when people aren’t typically church-shopping, could be a time when you choose to focus on a doctrinal message.
Planning ahead also allows your team not only be more strategic but think more creatively about how you will present your message and how you decide to promote it to your community as an outreach tool.
Whether you prefer a topical calendar or preach book-by-book or passage-by-passage through the year, we have a solution for you. We release new Sermon Calendars every year for pastors to adapt to their needs.
By planning ahead with a sermon calendar, you can work towards a balance in the types of messages you deliver to your church and the scriptures used to build a framework for your sermons.
Leverage Your Calendar Without Putting God in a Box
After you see the reasons why you should start sermon series planning, the next question that you might ask is, “aren’t we putting God in a box by planning so far in advance?” I am sure we can all agree that as pastors and leaders in the church, we stay open to the promptings of the Holy Spirit. God has the right to change our direction at a moment’s notice.
By planning a sermon series calendar in advance, you are giving yourself more time to pray over God’s direction for each sermon.
You are taking some of the pressure off the long-term vision so you can hear God’s still small voice helping you work out the details of each week’s message. Only you won’t be rushing to work those details out anymore. You will be taking notes and praying over each message that God puts on your heart to deliver.
We suggest you start with a day or weekend retreat to seek God’s will for your church. That may look like asking God in prayer, “Lord, what would a balanced discipleship plan look like for Your church this year? What do Your people need to hear?”
Then listen for God’s leading. Make notes and discuss those notes with your team of elders and your sermon preparation team. God will speak to each of your team members to bring the exact message your church needs to hear.
By opening your calendar to the Lord’s prompting before the year starts, you will be much more prepared to disciple your members and appeal to newcomers.
The Four Types of Sermons
When you start working on your sermon planning, there are four types of sermons that you will likely be working from during the year. They are the doctrinal, consecrational, pastoral, and evangelical sermons.
These sermons look at a set of beliefs held by your church and dig deep into those beliefs. They will help your church members understand the foundations of your denomination. At a basic level, doctrinal sermons provide a roadmap for proper Christian conduct on a day-to-day basis.
DNA: The Core of The Local Church is an example of a Doctrinal Sermon series that teaches who you are as a church. It focuses on the mission, values, vision, and strategy for ministry.
The consecrational sermon helps prepare members of the church to enter into ministry. That ministry, for some, may be a life-calling to full time missionary work or it could be meeting a local outreach need within one’s own community. Regardless, every member of the church has a calling to ministry on a local level and Consecrational Sermons help prepare your church to be ready to answer that call.
Serpents and Doves is one of the Consecrational Sermon series available at Ministry Pass now. This sermon series teaches how to stand firm in one’s conviction and how to engage other people in and out of the church who may be missing the mark in their response to their own life experiences.
Pastoral sermons are the crux of every ministry and the most widely used type of sermon. These sermons teach discipleship, talking about ethics as a Christian in today’s world. These sermons touch on how to live a life that exemplifies Christ in all our encounters.
The Content Life is a Pastoral Sermon series that touches on how gratitude protects us from falling into the trap of selfishness, gluttony, and pride, bringing us to a place of true contentment.
The evangelistic sermons are aimed at the non-believer. These sermons are used to draw new people into a relationship with Christ. This transformation from non-believer to believer is accomplished through demonstrating God’s love for His people through Christ’s ultimate sacrifice.
The Old You: Leaving The Past Behind is a great evangelistic sermon series aimed at exploring the new life we have in Christ in comparison to the old life we’ve left behind. While an amazing sermon series for non-believers, it is a great tool to remind the church of Christ’s gift to us all.
Additional Benefits of Sermon Series Planning
Along with creating balance in your messages, planning allows you to promote your upcoming series, creating a buzz in your community. Your team members can work on the promotion of the next sermon series as you preach the current series.
When you are ready to introduce the next series you can connect with the message more personally since you’ve had time to be thoughtful and prayerful over it. Utilize that time and create a personal element that allows your congregation to relate by drawing from your own experiences to help get them excited to come back.
Perhaps your next sermon series tackles Trust in God. When you’ve been meditating on the message in advance, you might introduce the sermon series by asking pointed questions, such as “Have you ever felt alone? Or felt like God abandoned you? You don’t want to miss our next series in a couple of weeks when we will be answering these questions and learning how to fully trust in God.”
By introducing a series in this way your church will connect with you. They will be curious to hear your story and know they are not alone; that even their pastor has felt the way they do. This makes you relatable with your church and adds excitement for your next message.
Along with this excitement, you can create momentum as you preach through the year. Each sermon series can build upon the last to create a dialogue in your church; this helps to build anticipation. Your members will be curious about what you will share next because you are relatable and transparent. They will be compelled to show up and participate when they see they are not alone, that even their pastor can relate to these feelings and events in life.
What a Sermon Series Should Not Look Like
Reaching the point where your church can relate to you regardless of your title is a goal many pastors have. But sometimes a sermon series can cause discord if not done right. So, let’s look at what a sermon series should not look like.
1. A sermon series does not have to be expensive to capture the church’s attention.
While every sermon will require resources, some may require a bit more than others, especially around the holidays. But that doesn’t mean you have to invest a large amount of dollars into each sermon.
Often with a bit of time and energy, you can create a fun or serious sermon without spending a lot of money. Typically, a handful of good graphics, videos, or even a website is enough to create a buzz in the church.
Even if you are a small church with a small staff and limited budget, we encourage you to tap into talented volunteers, hire an outside contractor for help or look for ways to trade services. You can produce a quality sermon series without needing to go over the top in spending resources to make every sermon shine.
2. A sermon series should not be based on one creative hook, leaving the rest of the sermons falling flat.
There is a trend in churches to bring in creativity to sermons. That’s great! But sometimes a creative act becomes the focus of a sermon series and the message becomes flat.
If you are going to use a creative act, such as an artist painting during the message, make sure the message or the rest of the series can hold the church’s attention once the creative act is done. Sometimes it best to keep it simple and focus on the content.
- What is the message?
- What are you wanting people to walk away with?
- What do you want them to know about God and themselves?
Spend more time investing in that message and less time and energy focusing on the fluff.
3. A sermon series should not look like it was put together at the last minute.
This one is the hardest, especially for pastors without a team to help them prepare sermons. After surveying thousands of pastors, we found that most pastors only plan two weeks ahead.
This does not give you enough time to develop an in-depth message, especially when you have your congregation to attend to on a daily basis. Along with the message being potentially surface level, it is difficult to incorporate props, pop culture references, or imagery when you are finishing the message the night before preaching.
So how do you get around these pitfalls? We recommend using our Sermon Planning Calendars and getting a team in place to help with sermon preparation.
The Team You Need to Put Together Effective Sermon Series
Often pastors of small churches become the overall church planner. Every detail falls on your lap; that includes every aspect of sermon planning. Yet to create a compelling message that will touch the hearts of your church, you need help from others who bring different gifts and talents.
The first step to getting that help is to identify some basic necessities to get you to where you need to be. We have put together a basic list of personality types you should always have represented on your team to help create compelling sermon series.
This person helps you find new pieces of information you may not be aware of that fit your sermon and your church. This may include historical facts, story illustrations, or cultural references.
A theology expert will check your sermon for its overall message. Do you convey what you want to convey or is the message obscure? This person will help you keep the message on point and within the realm of solid theology.
Wisdom and Perspective Expert
Often the most overlooked, the wisdom and perspective expert can provide personal testimony and experiences to help guide your message. If you are a young pastor, an older expert will help you see the bigger picture of life. If you are an older pastor, a younger expert will help keep you in touch with issues of today that affect the younger generation in your church. Don’t be afraid to solicit another unique and differing perspectives from your own to bounce off ideas and push back at times.
Your graphic designer will provide the creative backdrop to help your message come alive. Consider the graphic designer as the digital stained-glass artist who captures the essence of your message in one compelling image, meant to draw your members into a deeper relationship with the scriptures.
The organizer has the difficult task of organizing all the talent to create a cohesive message on time.
These five people work together to take your sermons to the next level. When done right, they can help build excitement and intensity to your sermon series.
But what can you do if you don’t have the budget for these team members and volunteers are not available? We are here to help!
How Ministry Pass Can Be Your Sermon Series Planning Team
First, Ministry Pass has a team of researchers who curate and craft new sermon illustrations. They are reading news articles, watching cultural events, and reading endless amounts of books to give you fresh and exciting illustrations for your sermons.
Second, we have a team of theology experts writing sermon outlines for every book of the Bible. These are theologians from many denominations working together to highlight the main ideas and approaches to each sermon outline we offer. They put together sermon outlines, offer fresh illustrations from our researchers, and provide additional points to research on each topic.
Third, we have the wisdom and perspective expert, or the “wise sage” perspective already built into each sermon. Our series library has over 500 complete sermon series on most topics. So, all you have to do is review your spin on the sermon with your elders or team members.
Fourth, we have your graphic designer, or more accurately, your team of graphic designers. Every sermon series in our collection comes with graphics and bumper videos. So, there’s no more struggling to put something together at the last moment. We have graphics for your projector screen, website, social media, and emails already complete. We also have event graphics for every type of church event you can possibly imagine.
Fifth, and finally, we have everything already organized for you, and we continue to add new sermon series every month. We have the framework in place so you can preach compelling sermons that look professional and do not require a ton of resources from your church.
By joining Ministry Pass, you can retire a few of those hats you have been wearing and begin to soak up more sunshine, cultivating a deeper relationship with the Lord so you can plant more seeds of salvation in this world. Get started with your free 14 day trial of Ministry Pass by clicking here.
Do you need more help in preparing your preaching calendar? We create a free preaching calendar template in Microsoft Excel every year. You can download this template and customize it for your needs. Whether you are a Ministry Pass member or not, this tool is absolutely free.
Free Preaching Calendar
Get ahead in your preaching using this free Excel preaching calendar template for 2019.