Something that I have discovered over the years through my own failures, and by having better leaders around me, is that there is a particular rhythm to sermon series planning.
It’s not just something that hopefully comes together. There is a way to do it that can help your church grow both spiritually and numerically, all while decreasing your stress when it comes to figuring out what you will preach next.
And the best time to start planning your sermon series for the next year is now. In fact, the sooner the better. There is no need to put unneeded stress upon yourself. I can not even imagine what it would be like to wake up on a Sunday morning and ask myself, “What am I going to preach today?”
By having a planned out sermon series calendar, you can be more prepared, you’ll get your Saturday back and maybe even an extra hour or two of sleep on a Sunday morning.
The When and Where of Series Planning
Built into every year, there is a certain rhythm. There are things that happen every year that are important to the life of your church like Easter, Christmas, and Mother’s Day.
And within that rhythm, the people in your church have a rhythm. They take vacations at certain times of the year, schools have spring breaks, summer breaks, fall breaks, winter breaks, etc. There are other things that may factor in as well, like sports.
In the south, we plan certain things in the life of the church around football schedules; high school, college and in some places, even the NFL. One year, we did a series called Friday Night Lights, themed around the passion of football, to talk about the vision of our church.
Rhythms are important, so don’t overlook them. Learn them.
How To Plan In Rhythm
Something I learned from a friend and mentor is that at certain times of the year, preaching is about development of your people and other times it's about expansion.
Development times are when the people in your church can take steps toward spiritual maturity, growth, and preparing to disciple others. The best times for a development series are times when people in your community are less likely to either be thinking about church or when it’s a slower season, like parts of the summer.
I say parts of the summer, because July can actually be an expansion time, right after the July 4th holiday. If you live in a growing city, people with families are moving into your city during June and July, just before school starts. So they will be visiting your church in July. Again, knowing the rhythms are important.
Every church and community is a bit different, so these times may differ for your church. For us, we do development series January to Good Friday, Memorial Day to back-to-school (August for us) and mid-October to Thanksgiving. Also, a short series in July to pick up on those moving to our city.
A development series may be about walking through a certain book of the bible. This past summer, we took a quick, 12 week, walk through the first half of Acts. It might be doing a series based on the Sermon on the Mount, prayer, or other spiritual disciplines. Other development series could be about making disciples, learning how to share their story, vision, mission, or serving.
Done properly and with the right intention, a development series can really push the maturity level of your church.
The other time is called expansion. An expansion series is about inviting your community, taking advantage of “big weekends” and holidays. The best times for expansion series are when people are thinking about church, spiritual matters, holidays, and those natural times in the calendar that signal new beginnings.
Expansion series (for us) work best at mid January to President’s weekend in February, and then Easter to Mother’s Day, when school starts back up in August to October, and again at Christmas or Advent.
A few examples of expansion series may be a 30 Days to Live series, a series on relationships and conflict, a sex series, a series helping families, or a Christmas themed series.
A Few Sermon Planning Tips
- Take time to plan. Mark off a few days in your schedule to sit down, pray and plan out your sermon calendar
- Ask for input. Ask people on your team, trusted attenders, or a group of people you invite to weigh in with topic ideas, series ideas and passages. Ask them the question, “what do you want to know?”
- Write it down. A sermon series calendar does no good if you don’t write it down and then share it with your team. This let’s your worship leaders, creative people, and other ministries align with you.
- Know the right information. Get a school calendar to see when the breaks are, when school returns and lets out. Plan accordingly.
- Refresh and reuse. Do a sermon years ago at the wrong time of the year and wonder why it didn’t work? Give it a fresh makeover, rebrand it and use it during the right season and see what happens.
Take time to know the rhythm and work within it, and you will see your church take huge steps in maturity, growth, and discipleship.
Take a Next Step
You can get our one page ministry plan template (along with a separate version for each ministry and an annual calendar template to tie it all together) here.
The templates are a part of a 3-module course called “Creating an Annual Plan.” It also comes with coaching that explains every step of the process. You, your staff, or your key leaders can use this course to create a growth plan for the coming year.
You and your team could watch the training videos to lead up to your own annual retreat.