Planning for Summer Worship: Constructing Series of Sermons

The summer is a good time to draw the worship planners together to take a look at the season that is past.

Planning Time

The summer months are approaching, and these months are very important for worship planners. After an intense season of planning for Lent, Holy Week, Easter, and Pentecost, and also with other special events in the congregation's life, it's good to have a few months with a somewhat slower pace. The months ahead are your time to catch your breath.

While you catch your breath two other tasks can and should receive attention.

1. Look back and review the season of worship.

It's a good time to draw the worship planners together to take a look at the season that is past. Review the schedule. Then ask yourselves questions about the balance in the whole season of worship—between the anticipation of Advent and the reflective spirit of Lent, the celebration of Easter and Pentecost and the challenge of mission and service, times of joy and times of sorrow, the inclusion of Old Testament lessons and New Testament lessons, the inclusion of children, youth, and adults. What were the richest times of worship this season and when did worship seem dull and routine? Spend an hour or two in discussion of such a review. It will be highly profitable for the year ahead.

2. Look ahead and begin planning.

The summer months are strategic times to set the planning process in motion for the coming year. Two important considerations will shape the year of worship—the seasons of the Christian year and the preaching plans of the pastor. The slower pace of summer gives the pastor opportunity to take some uninterrupted time to sketch out the major worship seasons of the coming year and the series of sermons to be prepared. Spend some time with questions such as these:

  • Which events of the Christian year will we observe?
  • When will the sacraments be included in worship, and how often?
  • What special events in the life of our congregation will need to be included?
  • When will vacation periods be included?

Many pastors find it very helpful to take some time away from normal pastoral duties in order to plan. They can do that more easily during the summer than any other time of the year. So they take retreat time and sketch out the year of worship.

Once you have the seasons and the sermons mapped out for an extended period of time, be sure the information gets to others who will use it to do their planning. Musicians need time to select, order, and prepare music. Those in the ministry of visual arts, drama, and so on also need sufficient time. So the pastor serves them all best when he or she provides planning information for them as soon as it's available.

Summer Ministry of Music

Many churches have choirs who participate in worship from September through May. If yours is such a church, you need to plan for music during the summer months. Music needs advance planning to function well in liturgy. We suggest that you develop a resource bank of individuals and small groups who can assist the congregation in its worship through these summer months. Draw up a survey that would open opportunities for congregational involvement in worship. Include options for vocal and instrumental soloists and small groups, as well as those (particularly youth) who could assist the organist or pianist for the day in service music. Children and youth can serve very well in playing preludes and offertories. Every church has people who are willing to volunteer for such roles, but there are also many people who need to know that their service is desired before they will offer it. We have found that often people want to serve but need to be invited to do so. [If you would like to see a sample of a resource bank survey as a guide to constructing one for your congregation, feel free to contact us and we will share what we have used.]

Summer is a time to work at a more relaxed pace. Working with individuals gives leaders of a church opportunity to both get to know people better and to help them develop the musical gifts that God has given.

Crafting Sermon Series

In our provision of worship services on this website, we've often included series of sermons that shape the worship services. Planning and writing a single sermon is a craft. Planning and structuring sermon series is a craft.

A series is a number of sermons that build on the previous one, anticipate the next, and yet are able to stand alone. This method provides the opportunity for a more extensive and thorough exposition of a theme or passage. While some may find this difficult because they find it hard to plan ahead, or they are concerned that it doesn't leave room for unexpected events and needs, there is much to recommend series preaching.

Benefits:

The benefits of series preaching are many:

1. It provides for a greater cumulative impact on the congregation as a theme is continually reinforced.

2. It provides for a more thorough treatment of a subject, theme, or passage. Each week can build on the previous week and take the subject further.

3. It provides continuity for the listeners—they remember the previous week and can anticipate the next week.

4. It allows for a more focused and directed study plan for the preacher. As he/she lives in a subject, chapter, or book of the Bible for a period of weeks study patterns can be more efficient and focused.

5. It encourages regular attendance at church and communicates the message that each week is linked to other weeks.

In the past many preachers practiced the “lectio continua,” which means they would continue in the reading and preaching of Scripture in order and would preach through a whole book of Scripture in a very lengthy series. We have found that today a series of three to twelve sermons is most acceptable, except for more extended series on the basis of the Heidelberg Catechism, Westminster Confession, or one of the other major confessions of the church.

Types of Series:

There are many different types of series. Here is a quick outline, provided in random order with no intention of priority.

1. Doctrinal Series. A specific and fundamental doctrine of the faith is selected and taught in consecutive messages.

2. Narrative Series. God's acts in history are part of his revelation of himself, so to study a process of historical events can be helpful.

3. Biographical Series. The drama of individual lives is a prominent part of the Scriptures, but requires more than one sermon to explore them. A series is the answer.

4. Thematic Series. A specific theme of the Christian life or faith is selected and explored.

5. Issues Series. Many problematic questions arise within the Christian faith. It can be helpful to raise a series of these questions and provide the biblical answers to them.

6. Chapter Series. Select one special chapter of the Bible and work through it with consecutive sermons.

7. Book Series. This is probably the most historic method; a book of the Bible is selected and expounded in succeeding weeks until completed.

8. Confessional Series. The historic confessions of the church can be used for an extended series of sermons that aid in expounding the teachings of Scripture on the core doctrines of our confession.

9. Request Series. A pastor may desire to solicit suggestions from the congregation on issues, questions, and passages that they'd like to hear in sermons. These can be collected in a series of “request sermons.”

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