Friday, May 18, 2007

Sermon Series Structure Strategy

Some of us had a discussion the other night and out of it I realized that most people who are "regulars" of CBC and you church planters who read this blog might benefit from pulling back the curtain a bit as to how we strategically plan our messages. It is not by accident, and much planning and thought, go into when how and why a message series, or study is preached. For those of you who believe that pre-planning is the enemy of the Holy Spirit, I say that He knows this year what we need to preach next year. Don't use the Holy Spirit's leading as an excuse to procrastinate or fail to plan altogether. Enough ranting, here is the process....

1. Pray - "All scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable." Seek God's face and specifically ask him to burden you with a message that people desperately need to hear.

2. Plow - read, read, read, read, read, read, read, read, rest, read, read, read, read, read.

3. Plan - "Look to the fields for they are white already to harvest." Why did Jesus say this? Because he had prayed, and plowed, planned and planted. The woman of Samaria was the reason. Now he drew the attention of the disciples to the harvest. It was no accident that the city was coming to hear Him. He planned it that way.

  • Know the season - Different seasons are more effective for different crops. The heat and rain storms of the summer combine to make some great watermelons. In message preparation, we see Four distinct harvest seasons in our community. By that I mean times that we can draw people from the community into Cornerstone for one service. Those times are: 1. Christmas 2. Easter 3. Back to School 4. Harvest (All Saints Day for those of you boycotting Halloween.) Knowing this, our message calendar revolves around these seasons. For instance prior to those seasons we teach evangelism and missions. We want to call attention to the fields as Jesus did. After that season, we teach a shallow end (seeker sensitive) message series. These are meant to serve as a easy first few steps for newcomers to get acclimated to church. Topics might include money, marriage, or parenting. Know the season!

  • Know your field - Different fields have different soil makeup. A good farmer will tailor his nutrients (fertilizer) and crops to the makeup to his field. For this analogy the field is the community. What are the specific needs facing the people of Four Corners. It is my experience that there is little soil differentiation between the community in the church and the community outside of the church. Thus a message for the un-churched is just as applicable to the un-un-churched. Take these things into consideration. What are their hurts, what are their temptations, what are their needs. Get out there and talk to people in your community and you will know what their needs are. Know your field!

  • Know your crop - Do you remember the line in Planes Trains and Automobiles where Steve Martin yells at John Candy "when you tell a story, have a point!" What is the point (crop) that you are trying to get. When considering a message series, know your goals. Preaching is not teaching. Teaching conveys knowledge, preaching is designed to change beliefs or behaviors. What are the incorrect beliefs that I need to address? What behaviors are not being lived out in our church that I can speak to? What needs to happen as a result of this series.

For example, let me pull back the curtain a little more on the series structure for 2007....

Christmas 2006 - Harvest

January/February - Money Talks - 5 talks on money without asking for any. This was by design shallow end series, as a post harvest series for the Christmas newcomers. For those of you who may not know... we taught giving in our small groups during this time. But really addressed a need that people in our community identified with.

February/March - The WORLD series - A series on missions. This was designed to help our people prepare their hearts for the upcoming Easter harvest.

April/May - The 5 Love Languages - Another series designed to get people into the habit of attending church. This is a shameless attempt to let people test drive church attendance after coming from the first time on Easter. We usually will pass out invitations for this type series.

June/July - Building Life in Disney's World - This is a series through the book of Ephesians. It is specifically designed to address needs in the field. Ephesus was a city that is much like our own. Paul really addresses some of our same issues that we face here.

July/August - Conversations -To address questions and respond to the people of Cornerstone. To dialogue with them in a sporadic series that is disconnected on purpose. Many will be vacationing and it is a great time to address some issues.

August/September - Kidz Rule - This is a parenting series that is designed to help parents perform a hostile takeover and kick Jr. out of the corner office. Again this is a harvest series.

September/October - Disciple - To teach spiritual disciplines. I am still working on this, but it will most likely be a study through James, or one of the gospels. This will strengthen us for the upcoming Harvest.

I don't have the November & December planned out but I know that November will be about evangelism, and December is again Harvest. Also, we strategically will plan outreach events to go along with each harvest. All in all, for better or worse, this is how we do it. I am not saying that it is the only way, but how God has led our pastoral leadership team to plan for the harvest. Also, It is important to remember that our worship service is just the front door ministry of our church. It is designed to meet people where they are and walk alongside people into a small group.

Please feel free to email me if you have questions or comments.