I always loved this time in the summer as parish priest. There was enough of a slowdown to take some time to pray and think through plans for the Fall and even into the New Year. Where was God leading us as a church this next season? What did He want us to focus on? It was the time I would map out the Fall sermon series in order to develop them well and promote them. But why sermon series? Don’t we have the Lectionary? Why not just preach from that? Well, I often would but when I did, I would create series using the assigned lectionary readings. If you haven’t tried using sermon series in the life of your congregation, let me give you three reasons I think it would be worth giving them a try.
Three Benefits of Using Sermon Series
- They help bring balance to your messages. With an evangelist’s heart, my leaning is to preach salvation messages. I could always find something in the lectionary readings each week that pointed to salvation and use that if I wanted to! Other preachers might lean toward discipleship or worship and always point to those areas. By preaching a series of sermons, it helps to preach balanced messages that both bring in the lost and build up the believers. Sermon series also help balance messages around all five VITAL areas of church health: Evangelism, Worship, Fellowship, Discipleship, and Ministry, ensuring all five areas are being addressed. As a general practice I would do some sort of series in the Fall/Back to School time designed to bring in new people followed by a three week Giving/Stewardship series. In Advent I would create a more traditional, four-part series from the lectionary. Lent would be discipleship oriented with another themed series after Easter Sunday that tried to bring back the Easter visitors. In the Summer I would usually preach chapter by chapter through a book or two of the Bible.
- They help to bring creativity and excellence to Sunday worship. By planning ahead with series, the various leaders in the church could plan around those themes as well. The worship leader (I know rectors are the “worship leaders” but here I mean the musical leader), would know what the general message for each Sunday was going to be six to eight weeks in advance. They could prayerfully and creatively pick and prepare songs well in advance. The Children’s and Youth ministry leaders could plan messages around the same themes so that the whole family would be learning the same topics at the same time. Small group leaders could do studies around the same theme during that window of time. Planning ahead often led to offering special experiences to move the messages from head to heart to hands. Like when doing a series on prayer we had a movie night showing “War Room” and created several prayer services to practice prayer during the six weeks.
- They help church members to better invite others to church. This is my favorite reason! Most church members are already hesitant to invite unchurched people to church. This hesitancy is heightened when they have no idea what the preacher is going to preach on each week. They might think, “I want to invite Joe to church but what if Fr. Frank is going to preach on giving this week?” By preaching sermon series and promoting them in advance, church members can have the confidence to invite. I would regularly hear from members before new series started something like, “Oh, my friend really needs to hear about that! I will invite them.” Or, “Since you’re going to preach on giving the next three weeks, I’ll wait to invite my friend until after that.” To make it even easier, we would often print invitation cards with the series title, a brief description, and the times and location of the services. You can find pre-printed cards at outreach.com if you don’t have the capability to make your own. These were very effective.
So, as you prayerfully think about this Fall or this next school year, what sermon series could you create? How could you add creativity and excellence into the life of your congregation? How could you increase the comfort level of inviting unchurched people into your church? And, if you’re not sure how to go about creating series, please reach out. I’m happy to help!
The Rev. Canon Mark Eldredge is Director of Church ReVitalization and Coaching at the American Anglican Council.