You’ve decided that you’re going to work your way through Ecclesiastes next year in your church preaching calendar. You decide it’s going to be an 8 week series. Next, you roster the full-time workers and lay preachers to preach this series. The number of preachers for the series might range from 3 to 8. You inform the preachers of their assigned passages. Then, on the day, they show up and preach, having hopefully prepared well.
The above approach describes the pulpit planning process for many of us. It’s a really great start in moving our churches towards expository preaching. However, the main problem with this approach is that the series lacks coherence because each individual preacher might have their own understanding of how the whole book hangs together and what the whole book’s main message is. So, what ends up happening is the preacher on Week 2 might contradict something that the Week 1 preacher says. Even if there is no contradiction, there might be different emphases on what the book’s overall message is, leading to a congregation who knows that the book is about 8 different things but can’t tell you the central thing.
Here’s what we’ve done to try to make our sermon series coherent (when there are multiple speakers):
1, One member of the preaching staff (this could be an experienced lay preacher if there are no full-time staff in your church) is assigned to oversee a series, say on Ecclesiastes.
2. Responsibilities of the overseeing staff member
a) Getting a grasp on the content of the book (Main point, Purpose, Situation, Structure)
b) About 6 weeks before the series starts, he conducts an overview session for the Bible-book preaching series.
- Attended by everyone who is preaching in that series
- Aim of the meeting – learning from one another and to achieve greater coherence within the series
- Expectations for the meeting – each preacher prepares the main point and purpose for the whole book as well as the main point, purpose and structure for the passage he’s been assigned
- Format of the meeting – sharing, learning, questioning, praying
- Follow-up to meeting - the overseeing staff member prepares and sends out a Sermon Series Overview Document.
Here are some examples of Sermon Series Overview Documents from series we’ve done this year:
This overview document is then sent to the song leaders (for them to choose songs appropriate to the sermon for that week) and the presiding person.
The benefits of this approach are that it gets every preacher in the series to sing the same tune and to emphasise the same things. It also gives a greater sense of continuity from week to week because each preacher now knows what will be preached the week before and the week after.
Our congregation has noticed and appreciated the difference!