10 Ways To “Sink” Your Sermon Series
I’m always looking for ways to improve my preaching, be it in preparation, content, or presentation. Tony Morgan recently wrote an article about effective sermon series’ and considering that most of my sermons are presented in a “series” format the article peaked my interest, and so I thought that I would share it, and along the way I’ve added some of my own comments. (in italics)
Scoping out what other churches across the country are doing to help people meet Jesus and take steps in their faith is one of my favorite things to do. By doing this over the past several years, I’ve learned that many churches use sermon series to both hone a teaching’s focus, and encourage people to invite their friends, not just for one week but perhaps four or six. I’ve also noticed, however, that some churches implement sermon series much more effectively than others. And, some series inherently engage the unchurched better than others.
Ironically, I’ve learned how to do it right from the churches who are doing it wrong. To present an effective evangelistic sermon series at your church, avoid making 10 crucial mistakes I’ve seen repeatedly at churches across the country.
Address questions that no one is asking. Typically, we have people’s attention for just 30 to 45 minutes each week. Weigh what you really want people to know, and respond to the questions people are asking. But this requires first knowing the questions they’re asking. For example, How do I raise my kids? How can I save my marriage? What am I supposed to do with my life?
Schedule your series to last more than six weeks. A series will probably lose momentum after six weeks. People consider a new series as an opportunity to invite their friends, but the longer the series drags on, the less likely those they invite will come.
(Occasionally I’ll go longer than 6 weeks, but rarely if ever longer than 10. In a series it’s important that the sermons connect to one another, but it’s also important that they are able to stand alone, for those who may not have heard the previous one.)
Pack your church calendar so full that inviting friends to worship isn’t a priority. The more activities and ministries you provide, not to mention meetings you schedule, the less you’ll focus on your weekend services. Ask yourself: What is our primary way for reaching people who don’t attend church? If the answer is your weekend service, focus on making that effective by doing less of something else.
Teach too much in each message. Too many points can confuse not only your listeners, but you as well. Pick one point and stick to it. And remember … brevity is your friend.
(While brevity can be your “friend,” it can also be your worst enemy! Sermons that are too long turn people off, but sermons that are too short impede the ability to effectively expound on a passage. My rule of thumb is that a sermon should be between 30-45 min.)
Teach the truth without life application. For the most part, people don’t need more knowledge, but rather to learn how to put their existing knowledge into action. They know Jesus died for them, but what does this mean for them when their alarm goes off on Monday morning
Assume the message stands alone. The artistic and worship elements that surround the message need to prepare people’s hearts and minds for God’s Word. People must hear the message, but they also need to experience it with their emotions.
Don’t tease the coming series with appropriate promotions. Launching a series without letting people know its coming does no good. How will your members invite people ahead of time? Promote what you’ll be talking about and why they should care enough to attend.
Don’t creatively connect biblical truth with the spiritual conversations in our culture. The Bible has a lot to say on hot topics in today’s culture. And when culture lobs us a softball and opens up a spiritual dialogue, we should be ready to swing the bat. A recent example is The Da Vinci Code movie. Whether or not people saw the film, the authenticity of the Bible was publicly called into question. Were you there to help answer these questions?
Make sure your series only connects with people who already attend your church. Want to ignore the unchurched in your community? A sure-fire way to do this is to preach a series that assumes your listeners are already Christians. Eventually, churches will die when they stop focusing on people outside the congregation.
(Churches should always have an outward focus, driven by “personal evangelism,” and the Sunday message should be applicable to non-believers as well as believers, with an appropriate invitation to accept Christ as Lord and Savior. That being said, we must never forget the fact that Sunday morning isn’t the time to focus on evangelism, it’s the time specifically set aside for the edification of the believer. Should we be “seeker sensitive” in our Sunday morning service? “Yes.” Should our service be “seeker focused?” NO!)
Don’t sweat the details. A good series involves more than just developing a message. When a team of experts comes together to plan out the messages—the art elements, the promotions and the rest of the service experience—there’s a much better chance the series will succeed in both offering biblical truth and reaching more people for Christ.