Big-picture series planning

I hear a lot of sermons. I’m constantly going to church websites and checking out their current series. Most churches I follow do a great job of presenting their series in a compelling way. Most of the time, the messages have really good insight.

What’s always interesting to me about pastors, though, is how excited they get about a principle in a message or series, only to never mention that principle again. For example, if they were talking about priorities, they might end a big message by saying, “The way you spend your time is a direct reflection of what you value.” Everybody felt so moved. The preacher might get a hundred compliments between the stage and his car.

Inevitably, the next week rolls around and a new series has to start. Now he’s talking about something else. He’ll probably never preach the priorities message to this church again. So, what happens to that incredibly moving principle?

In my experience, it seems like a lot of churches just kind of float their way through series after series without any real sense of purpose. They get everybody energized about one series, and make comments about “how important this is”, only to introduce another important thing the next week. I always want to ask, “what happened to that important principle you shared 4 months ago?”

Churches are doing an incredible job of creating environments and mediums to share messages, but churches aren’t necessarily doing a great job of thinking through where their messages will lead people. Week to week, services are great. Week to week, messages are being communicated excellently. But what about year to year?

We have to ask questions like… Where are people going to end up in the long run as a result of our preaching? What will we have covered when we end this year?  How can we make sure to recycle important principles regularly? In what area do we want people to grow this year?

In my opinion (which, let’s be honest… really probably doesn’t mean much) a church that fails to ask these questions will have a lot of great Sundays, but they minimize their ability to implement change in people’s lives long term.

What’s your system for reiterating what’s important? How do you map out where you’re leading people?

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11 comments

  1. So which churches do u follow online?

    I follow TRBC, Northpoint, and just recently Crosspoint.

    I know what u mean about sermon series. Even in the smaller churches I have attended there is often a series and then no connection back to that series anymore… Makes a person wonder how do you take what was learned in that series and continue to apply it? Or is it forgotten when a new series starts?? Good points to ponder for sure.

    1. Hey Jennifer, I follow a lot from a distance. Connexus Church, Grace Community Church, Seacoast Church, Crosspoint, The Village Church, and several others. The most consistent is North Point because I benefit the most from Andy Stanley’s preaching. I also listen to Chuck Swindoll, but usually on the radio.

      You said it with application. Moving on makes it hard to apply. Thanks for sharing!

  2. Great post Nate. Sunday needs to be more than just pep talks with slogans. Rarely will those sermons change lives. Authenticity and community are far better influencers.

  3. Solid thought nate. And I have to agree with you.

    I am reminded of a series Rob Bell did going through Philippines. He opened up the entire sermon series with a message on Grace and Peace. I still think most of the time he starts his messages off by saying “grace and peace to you” which is a direct quote back to that series they did years ago. The people of Mars Hill remember it and I am sure that it sparks that sermon series back to present time.

    But you are right, most preachers (and most bloggers) present a huge principle one day only to forget it the next day so they can come up with a new idea or thought.

    It is a tough place to be really and could be indicative of our society in wanting new and great thoughts every single week.

    Good stuff

    1. That’s cool about Rob Bell’s church.. it’d be great if the people could remember the name of the book he preached from too… haha, just messing with you.

      It’s interesting that you tossed bloggers into the mix of preachers. I’m wondering if that should have implications for me personally. In my mind the purpose of my blog is to hash out ideas I’m currently having as a way to articulate them, gain feedback, and plant them further into my brain for the future. I think the bottom line is intentionality. We have to have a purpose for what we do.

      There could be something to what you just said though. What if a blog was dedicated to spiritual development, specifically teenagers. Lots of people say they want to help people with spiritual development, but personally I’ve never read anybody who was actually doing it. I would love to write for a blog geared towards average teenagers focused on who they’re becoming. Teenagers don’t read though, so it’s probably wouldn’t work, but it gives me something to think about.

      Thanks for stimulating thoughts.

  4. Great thoughts, Nate. I’m with you completely. The problem is that we, as church leaders, are always looking for bigger and better. Rehearsing past principles seems to be a step backwards. It’s not, but it seems that way.

    We need to think how we can creatively share these profound principles in a way that doesn’t sound like we’re recycling entire sermons & series.

    Thanks for helping us think, Nate.

    1. I agree, Ben. I haven’t fully spelled these thoughts out yet, but I’ve been playing with what that could look like. I think a church needs to establish a set of truths they want recycled, and find a way to weave their series (plural) around those truths. Everybody’s slogan is “leading people into a growing/transforming relationship with Jesus”… the problem is that nobody’s spelling out what that looks like. We have to answer the question, “what characteristics are evident in a person who has entered a growing relationship with Jesus?” Then we can start shaping our principles around that. We start with the need and lead to the principle. It should be the other way around.

      1. Yes, you’re on point, Nate. I’m beginning the process of thinking through what that would look like for small groups, too. Excited to see what will come of it.

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