This past week, our “Message Team” met for an all day off-site to finalize our plans for our message series for the upcoming year. The message team consists of 7 people on staff who meet each week to help develop and evaluate my weekend messages. A few times a year we take extra time to do long range planning. We spend a lot of time brainstorming, researching, and finally writing our messages and at this point they’re all in series. A message series is an approach to preaching that explores a single theme over the course of multiple weekends (we tend to prefer 4 to 6 weeks…3 is too short and 7 seems to long).
The idea of the message series is something we picked up when we decided to start learning from the growing evangelical churches around the country, and its really transformed our approach to preaching and teaching- and ultimately to reaching the unchurched and forming disciples.
Here are 5 reasons I love preaching in message series.
#1. Series Make Preaching Prep Easier
If you are a priest, deacon, or minister of another faith tradition and preach regularly, you will appreciate this one. There is less preparation because I don’t begin from a blank slate each week. I’m not immediately worried Monday morning what I will preach about next Sunday. It still takes work, of course, but it feels more natural and cohesive.
#2. Series Unify the Year
Message series force us to look ahead to the whole year. That’s a discipline, but it pays off big. We find it helps us sync up with the whole liturgical year. It also helps us sync up with important events or themes we want to emphasize that are happening in the life of the parish or the culture more generally. For example, we’re planning a series called “8th Grade Faith” for this fall that coincides with back-to-school, and one on the topic of Grace and Truth that leads us through Advent. Series also help us better reach goals we set around events like Stewardship weekend, small groups launch, or new ministers push.
#3. Series Encourage People to Come Back
Message encourages people to come back and hear the rest of the message. Message series help build “momentum,” as we say. It doesn’t leave people guessing what you will say, and even encourages people to invite someone to church if there’s something they know someone needs to hear.
#4. Series Focus on Life-Change and Application
A series helps us focus on the purpose of a message: life-change. Message series are designed to be relevant and practical. During our off-site message meetings, we talk about the needs, stresses, and challenges of the people in our community (including our own challenges) and use that as the jumping off point for series topics.
#5. Series Connect Us With Other Churches
Here’s another plainly practical point for those considering this approach. There are plenty of resources online for helping you establish great message series. From topic ideas, starter-guides, even inspirations for artwork, there is a growing amount of content out there making it easier than ever to give message series a try. It’s there to be helpful. As our friend Pastor Rick Warren always says, “Use my stuff because we’re all on the same team!”
If you’re still looking for more on this topic, you might consider joining our Rebuilt Parish Association, which we’ve created to offer more resources and collaborative opportunities, including message series, in your church.