Yesterday I started a new sermon series entitled “Attack of the Giant Leeches.” I really didn’t know how to feel when some of my friends and colleagues posted their sermons series for the weekend. Many of them had titles like Philippians, 2 Thessalonians, Acts of the Church and Exodus. Frequently I feel like my approach to preaching and ministry is less spiritual than most pastors would choose. At moments like these, I want to give a little explanation of why and how I arrive at the material I preach.
1. Focusing on Needs. I start my sermon planning process by discovering the needs of the people in this world, this community, and this Church at this moment. These needs may be deeply spiritual to very practical. Once I arrive at a list of possible needs then I ask myself, “If someone were to walk into my office wanting to know more about one of these subjects, what would I tell them?” For example, I might pick a single passage to explain to them, or I might pick three various scriptures that help us to understand the issue and some action steps.
2. The Lord’s Leading. After I have developed a list of the needs I see that need addressed, then I ask God to guide me into the 10-12 primary needs that need to be developed into sermons this year. Many times, a topic may be placed in the file and not used until a year or two down the road. This process includes prayer, web searching, and just good old-fashioned thinking. I feel the Lord leading me in numerous ways through this process to make a plan for the year.
3. Creative Ingredients. This is where I start to take a right turn from many guys. I could just preach a sermon on relationships or marriage, but I want to add a little creativity. This year I have preached on “My Crazy Family” and “Attack of the Giant Leeches.” To me, these add a little bit of fun and intrigue. I usually do not pick a title like “Mark,” but call it “Encounters with Christ.” I rarely chose the plain or a creative spin in a title.
4. Making On-Ramps. I like to keep all series under ten weeks. This creates an opportunity for Church members to invite new people on a regular basis. Next year I am going to preach on Jesus and follow that with a series on Acts. I am making them two entirely separate series so that with each new start there is an “on-ramp” for people to join the Church. More and shorter series help people to bring their friends to Church and for anyone else to join us too.
5. Personal Preference. This is pretty basic, but I only preach sermon series that I would want to attend. If a title or topic holds no interest to me, then I imagine it will not generate excitement in other people. I know this might seem shallow, but it is a final question I keep in mind.
These are the pieces of the process it takes for me to come up with a sermon series. It might not be like a lot of other Churches or ministers, and that is okay. I am in no way saying that my approach is the best. Each preacher and Church needs to find what works for them and this is the method that works for me.
I hope you learn and grow from what I do each week, even if it seems a little weird at times.