Sermon Series Planning Process
By: Emily Hendrickson
The church ought to be the most creative place on the planet. It’s one of our mantras at National Community Church in Washington, DC. But it’s more than a mantra. It’s an operating system for us. We want people who come to NCC to get swept away by the greatest Story ever told. We’ve found that leveraging sermon series helps us communicate the gospel and teach practical truths in a creative way week in and week out. The series are typically between 3-8 weeks depending on the flow of our calendar.
Here are some practices that I’ve found helpful as we plan out our sermon series from idea to execution at NCC:
Evaluate your diet
Evaluating your diet of past sermon series will give you some ideas of what topics your upcoming series need to cover. It’s really easy to go a whole year or even several years missing a key topic because you aren’t keeping tabs on where you’ve been so this is always where we start. I’ve also found that during this part of the process I find myself remembering all that God has done in our and through our church.
While this list certainly isn’t exhaustive, I tend to think of our diet as wanting to get a good mix of these:
- Old Testament/New Testament Mix (Revealed, If, Altars)
- Life and teachings of Jesus (The Moral of the Story)
- Spiritual Disciplines (How, Reset)
- Character of God (God Anthology, Holy Ghost, Blessing No 10)
- Practical Living Tools (He Said She Said, Work the Plan, Reset)
- Mission (On Mission Everyday)
- Community (One Another)
- Practical Theology (Did God Really Say)
Establish a rhythm
When you establish a rhythm you maximize workflow. When it comes to series planning, every detail cascades to more details. You need an idea to get a title. You need a title to get a graphic. You need a graphic for promotion. Every deliverable relies on another deliverable. What gets even trickier is that often deliverables are coming from different teams–teaching team, creative team, communications team, admin team. It’s important to establish a realistic rhythm and set milestones for your team.
Here’s an example of an ideal rhythm for sermon planning:
- Evaluate Diet / Big Ideas and Themes (July) – where have we been? Where are we going?
- Series Calendar Planning (October) – big ideas and titles nailed down
- Series Brief (10+ weeks out) – series title and teaching topics communicated to the team
- Creative Brainstorm (8 weeks out) – branding, illustrations, trailers, stage design
- Mood Boards (7 weeks out) – options for branding
- Graphic Package (4 weeks out) – delivered for promo
- Communication Brief (4 weeks out) – communication/promotion strategy, announcement schedule, key Scriptures
- Trailer Preview (2 weeks out)
- Trailer Completed (10 days out)
- Weekend Service Planning Meeting (Tuesday before) – service order, input on teaching content, response song, announcements
Get the whole team on board
Some of the most effective series we have done have been church-wide efforts–what we call alignment series. Take advantage of teaching topics that can work for adults, children and students. This gives families an opportunity to talk about what they are learning at church together and it aligns your staff in a way that few other things do. Write songs for adults and kids. Distribute curriculum. Create videos. Launch small groups.
These are valuable not just for what they bring to our congregation but for the vision that fuels our team. When we are all working together for the same goal it brings us together, maximizes our collective strengths, and diminishes the silo effect.
Share the platform
C.S. Lewis said, “Every life is comprised of a few themes.”
Every preacher has a handful of life messages that they would preach over and over again if they could, and those themes seep into their messages even when we are intentional with diet.
A teaching team does the following:
- Decreases the burden.
- Gives new perspectives, personalities (different people at NCC connect with them to varying levels).
- Opportunity for discipleship–train up others.
Make going with the flow part of the agenda
Planning is helpful. If you don’t know what you want, you’ll seldom get it. But, no matter how well you plan, you will fare better if you expect the unexpected. The plan is there to serve you, not control you. It’s always easier to deviate from an existing plan, than it is to make last minute changes without a plan. Work hard to have “in advance ideas” but leave space for “last minute ideas”. I love my nice, neat, clean Excel sheet that tells me what we have coming up in 6 weeks. But what I love more is seeing the Gospel communicated in creative, effective, and compelling ways, which sometimes requires a change in plans. Have a plan, but don’t be afraid to deviate from it. Make going with the flow part of your agenda.
[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/4″][vc_single_image image=”281″][/vc_column][vc_column width=”3/4″][vc_column_text]Emily Hendrickson is the Weekend Experience Director at National Community Church in our nation’s capital. You can usually find her tuned into ESPN or out playing a competitive corn hole game. Emily graduated from the University of Tennessee where she worked alongside the legendary Coach Pat Summitt with the Lady Vol Basketball team.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]