Last time I shared a few reasons why I think sermon series should be a key part of the preaching schedule in a church. Here are some suggestions to help them work well:
1. Spirit – Does a series quench the Holy Spirit? Does preparing a sermon quench the Spirit? It is amazing how a series can be scheduled many months ahead of time, then when a particular Sunday comes, the text and its application fit as if the Spirit Himself had made the plan. Nevertheless, we still need to allow flexibility in our schedules.
2. Scheduling – It is unhelpful to pack the schedule so tight that the preacher feels under pressure from the schedule. Consider leaving “buffer weeks” in the schedule between series. You will have no problem filling them when the time arrives, either with a visiting missionary, a one-off message on a text you’re dying to preach, or addressing an issue that comes up, or a one-off for one of the preachers you are mentoring in the church. You might also need to extend a series by a week. Buffer weeks are never a problem. No buffer weeks can create a headache.
3. Variety – A long series in the same book can get old. There are several ways to avoid this. Vary the message structure (include a first-person sermon, a more narrative sermon, a more interactive sermon, etc.) Vary the text length (some weeks you may choose to cover only a few verses, but other weeks it would be possible to cover a chapter or two). Perhaps sameness can be avoided by having another speaker involved (see below). And, of course, a long series in the same book can get old, so . . .
4. Length – Think through the length of the series. The old days of seven years verse-by-verse through one book really are the old days. Today some advocate that a series should not go longer than 8 weeks. Others say 4 or 5. I say you have to think through the situation – who is preaching, to whom, what are they used to, what is the preacher capable of doing effectively, what is the subject matter, etc. No hard and fast rules, but several months will probably get old for some. Cover ground more quickly, or break the series and then return to it. Remember that a new series is a moment for new energy, new invitations to guests, etc.
5. Preachers – A series with more than one preacher can work well, but it takes some coordination. Make sure you are on the same page about the book’s structure, main idea, relevance to your church, etc. Probably don’t go higher than 2 or 3 preachers in a single series. If you are blessed with more, save them for the next series. Be sure to communicate and take advantage of the team ethos.
6. Series – Remember to balance your series too. If you have just been in Colossians, probably don’t follow up with a series from Ephesians (or any epistle, for that matter). Mix up sections or whole books across the whole canon, always prayerfully considering what book or section should leave its mark on your congregation.
What else do you find helpful as you plan series?