Planning Sermon Series? Try a “Big Idea Night”

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Have you ever struggled to come up with a great sermon series for church? Found yourself Googling “great sermon series ideas?”

Did you ever come up with what you thought was a great idea for a sermon series and it just fell flat? Didn’t connect with the congregation?

If so, you’re not alone. I think at times we all struggle with finding a great idea or theme for our sermon series (And before you hit the comment button, yes, I know that lectionary preachers don’t have to deal with that). I struggled with this so much a few years ago that I developed my own plan and it’s served us well for about three years now. It’s probably not the best plan for everyone, but it’s a great place to start. Try it out and let me know how it goes! I call it “The Big Idea Night.”

We gather as diverse a group as possible from the church and the surrounding community, if you can convince some of the folks in your community to participate who don’t attend church anywhere, then you’ve hit the jackpot! Usually for us, we have 2 or 3 high school students, 2 or 3 college students, 2 or 3 young adults, and so on. Usually. we try to have about 15 – 20 total people, both genders as equally represented as possible, the same with old and young, traditional and contemporary, etc. The more diverse your group the better.

Then we ask the four questions. But before I give you the questions, let give you the rules. First, listen only! Second, write down everything they say, no exceptions. Third, don’t evaluate; that’ll come later. So here are the questions:

What’s going on in your life that you’d like to hear a message series about?

Don’t expect a lot of feedback on this question, especially if the group doesn’t know each other well. This question is just to prime the pump. It gets them thinking.

What’s going on in your world, neighborhood, school, workplace, that you think a message series should address?

This is usually where they start to talk. And if my assumptions are correct, it’s where they really answer question 1. You’ll have to write fast to keep up with the flow of ideas here.

What have we never preached on from the Bible, or life in general, that you think we should?

This is our unpredictable question. I never know what kind of response we will get. Sometimes the ideas flow and sometimes you get that really awkward silence. If you do get the silence, don’t give into the temptation to rush to the final question. They might just be thinking or working up the courage to share the best idea you’ve ever heard. The silence is not always a bad thing.

What have we preached on before that we need to hit again?

We preachers tend to think we’ve covered certain subject, passages, and biblical stories so much that no one would ever want to hear them again. Usually, we are wrong. Those truly meaningful messages and series will be so again. We might need to spruce them up a bit. If they impacted lives before, they probably will again.

Those are my four questions to develop a sermon series. That’s my process. The last time I did a ‘Big Idea Night,’ I got nine months of sermon series ideas! It was awesome!

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