Health and Growth

This Sermon Series Idea Strategy Will Boost Engagement, Growth, and Giving

This definitive guide to generating sermon series ideas will last you a lifetime (please steal these examples).

This Sermon Series Idea Strategy Will Boost Engagement, Growth, and Giving
by

Paul Maxwell

Every pastor wants to launch a sermon series that will attract new users, reignite excitement among current members, and cultivate deeper engagement among the church community.

But it’s hard to come up with fresh ideas when your sermon prep time gets squeezed into a tighter and tighter space by increasing responsibilities at church.

It can also be hard to come up with something fresh and innovative when you have to run your sermon content by an elder board that wants things to remain consistent.

As they say—if you want to split a church, paint one wall a different color and wait for people to start fighting about it.

But here’s the truth—

The Bible calls the church to reflect on different themes for different seasons.

The Apostle Paul writes: “Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn” (Romans 12:15). He also writes: “Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and encourage with every form of patient instruction” (2 Tim. 4:2).

Paul’s ministry exemplified a careful balance between faithfulness to the fixed teachings of Scripture and speaking prophetically into a cultural moment in which his congregations lived.

Understanding different kinds and examples of sermon series will help you as a pastor to consider what series will attract new listeners, boost engagement in your church, and spark a new flame of commitment among current churchgoers in your congregation.

Kinds of Sermon Series

Before we look at sermon series examples, it’s important for you to understand what are your options.

Many pastors think that a “series” must be constrained to a short, very specific topic.

But if you expand your conception of where a sermon series can source its material, then you expand the nature of your series options.

Let’s dive right into it. 

1. The Narrative Sermon Series

The narrative sermon series follows the story of a specific character in Scripture. 

This can be either an Old or New Testament series. 

For example, studying the life of Joseph, Moses, David, or Elijah are ripe for a capped series whose number of sermons and extent of study is already segmented by the narrative structure of the story itself, as it exists in the text of Scripture.

In a narrative sermon series, you could use moments of moral heroism to preach on moral ideals toward which God calls his people. You could use moments of failure to express themes of repentance, godliness, and sin. Finally, use themes in the story—family tragedy, grief, political turmoil, etc.—to comment on how these themes have manifested themselves and challenge the church in our current cultural moment.

Having these multiple angles of narrative analysis in your tool belt allows you to expand potential narrative sermon series from biblical “heroes” to anti-hero, and even villainous, characters. If God providentially saw fit to include these characters in the biblical narrative, then they are morally instructive for the church. 

The Apostle Paul writes: “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Tim. 3:16-17).

2. The Topical Sermon Series 

A topical sermon series, unlike a narrative sermon series, will not be constrained by a particular biblical text. 

A topical sermon series will address an issue—such as technology, family, marriage, child-rearing, food, or sex—and teach on various aspects of that issue as it relates to the Christian life.

Some pastors see topical series as “less than biblical,” because it does not follow the outline of Scripture itself.

But it’s important to recognize that even Jesus and the Apostles drew from various texts in various portions of the Bible in order to make a single topical point to their congregations.

Topical sermons are exemplified by Jesus and the Apostles—anyone who studies the use of the Old Testament in the New Testament will see this clearly.

So, let your conscience be free, pastor—topical sermons are quite biblical. 

3. The "Modern Issue" Sermon Series

The modern issue sermon series is a bit different from the topical series in that it addresses a pressing issue in the cultural moment.

For example, a modern issue sermon series might cover a particular issue related to the value of life in the womb, LGBTQ+ sexual ethics, the church and immigrants, and the church’s relationship to political leaders.

These series serve two functions—(1) to instruct the church on the Bible’s teaching about an issue that resonates culturally, and (2) to make clear your particular congregation’s position on a particularly pressing modern issue.

This can be important for congregations to know where church leadership (and denominational leadership) stand on issues about which they have questions.

4. The Need-Based Sermon Series

The need-based sermon series will have to do with a particular need in the church or community.

For example, if the church is raising funds for a building, or raising funds to send out a church plant, or to support a missionary, then each of these initiatives could have a sermon series driving the giving campaign for this initiative. 

People want to give, but sometimes they want to be told clearly the biblical rationale behind the project to which they’re giving, and the church’s exact role in the issue.

This sort of sermon series allows you to plant seeds of generosity with God’s word in the hearts of potential givers in your church that you can cultivate, water, and grow to fruition throughout the course of a sermon series.

5. The Holiday Lead-Up Sermon Series

The holiday lead-up sermon series counts back 2-6 Sundays before a Holiday and plans sermons which culminate on that holiday’s Sunday. 

Examples of this include Easter, Mother’s/Father’s Day, Thanksgiving, and Christmas. 

Planning lead-up sermons can make holiday-Sunday sermons feel much more meaningful. 

It’s very easy for holidays to come and go without much of a sense of meaningfulness or gravity.

People look to the church to explain and ritualize the highlighting of meaning as it relates to key holidays—and it is a responsibility that the church can honor by planning sermon series which lead up to particular holidays to make them feel like the fulfillment they were created to honor.

6. The Mashup (How David’s Repentance informs iPhone Use and Why That Means You Should Tithe More This Christmas)

The mashup sermon series should be avoided unless there is a particular intersection of approaches which fits irresistibly well with a situation at your church.

For example, if your church is going through a season of transition because it is building a new building, and it’s causing some relational turmoil in your church, you might preach on the building of the second temple in Ezra 1 and 2 Chronicles 36, and how Israel’s reformation of identity after a time of transition caused mixed feelings of grief and celebration within the community, and how their identity as a community came together in a new home which gave a place for both constituencies to express their experiences.

Something like this might work!

But you don’t want to make most of your sermon series this sort of series—it should be the rare exception.

Sermon Series Ideas

Now, we can cover real life examples of how these kinds of sermon series can find expression in the pulpit.

You should use this classification of sermon series to consult with your church leadership team in planning sermon content to determine what sort of series would work best with your congregation.

Ideally, you should be planning your sermon content a year out so that your content reflects the annual life of the church.

Understanding what your options are help to more efficiently pick season-appropriate content for sermon preparation.

1. God’s Scandalous Love: The Life of Hosea and Our “Bad Habits”

Self-improvement is the largest selling non-fiction genre of books.

People can't get enough self-help books in the 21st century.

There's now such a thing as "Self-Help Junkies."

Here's the point:

People are thinking more about their habits, the effects of those habits, and how to improve them, than they ever have before.

Hosea is a great book from which to preach the related themes of the love of God as it relates to the destructiveness of bad habits. 

This series unfolds from God expressing his ideal, to the multiple paths down which Israel can walk—judgment and corruption if they continue to pursue sin, and redemption and freedom if they choose God and cast away idols.

And yet, both of these paths are presented in the context of God’s loving faithfulness to the people of Israel.

This concept of committed love is so radical and scandalous that the world could never invent it—and, because of that, people are often starved of the message that God really does love them, since our culture teaches people to hide their private sins and inflate their public profile. Alternatively, and radically, God tells his people that to live flourishing lives, they should confess their sins and humbly turn to God to accept his love in an exclusive relationship.

2. Sexual Virtue in a Morally Complicated Age

Sexual issues shouldn’t be all your church talks about, but most churches make the opposite error—it refrains on teaching about sexuality when the Bible treats the subject at length.

Because of this, a sermon series on sexuality could flow something like this:

  • Genesis 1-3: How God Created Sexuality (Adam and Eve)
  • Genesis 4: Sexuality After the Fall (Adam and Eve 2)
  • Judges 16: How “Soft Boundaries” Dating Can Ruin Your Life (Samson and Delilah)
  • 2 Samuel 11: Singleness and Responsibility (David and Bathsheba) 
  • Matthew 5: Jesus on Marriage and Divorce
  • 1 Corinthians 5-6: Church Discipline and Unrepentant Sexual Sin
  • Revelation 22: Sexuality and Heaven

3. The iPhone and the Christian Life

Christians are often curious about the relationship between technology and the Christian life.

The iPhones has changed modern life maybe more than any other invention in the 21st century.

It’s hard to know how to think biblically about something which the biblical authors couldn’t have conceived.

The iPhone has changed modern life in the following ways: 

  • (1) It has made people more isolated (preach from 1 John 1 on the value of community).
  • (2) It has made tedious tasks more convenient to automate (preach from Ephesians 5:16-17 on making the most of one’s time).
  • (3) It has made sexual sin much easier to access (preach from 1 Cor 5-6 and Matthew 5 on sexual immorality).
  • (4) It has made eCommerce much more available (preach from Matthew 5-8 on possessions and money).
  • (5) It has addicted us to social media and email in ways that have significantly removed personal boundaries between ourselves and our phones (preach from Proverbs on vanity and ego).

These realities can all be leveraged to help or hurt the Christian life.

Connect each of these themes with biblical teachings on these same themes and address the issues with God’s word.

4. Recurring Giving Launch Series

Launch a full sermon series on recurring giving. 

This could be a great way to launch a recurring giving platform like Tithe.ly at your church.

Whatever platform you use, your church should be using recurring giving in its fundraising strategy.

The best things you can do at your church to get people giving regularly are:

  1. Impress on people the centrality of generosity to the Christian life
  2. Make it as easy as possible to give with an automated recurring giving platform at your church
  3. Help people get into a financially healthy place where they can give. 

5. Reframing Life: How Advent Season Presses “Reboot” on Our Relationships with God

Advent is a season ripe for a sermon series.

The incarnation of Christ represents a newness which prompts the church to reflect on the possibility of putting away old habits, creating new desires, and breathing fresh life into aspirations for one’s life.

Advent already has themes baked into each week by church history that basically write your sermon series outline for you:

  • Week 1 (Advent Sunday): Hope for Eternity — The Second Coming of Christ
  • Week 2:  Peace Amidst Turmoil — John the Baptist
  • Week 3 (Gaudete Sunday): Anticipation of Joy — John the Baptist and Other Prophets
  • Week 4: Love — The Mary and Joseph Story
  • Christmas Eve: God’s Faithfulness to His Promises — The Birth of Christ

6. The Soul of God’s Care: The Mental Health Crisis and God’s Desire for Wellness

Mental health is a huge crisis in the world today.

A greater percentage of people every year are diagnosed with a mental health struggle.

By addressing these issues from a biblical perspective, you can help your congregation think through these issues biblically.

More than that, this sermon series is a good opportunity to liaison with medical and mental health care professionals in your congregation to help guide the church through thinking well about how to refer struggling members to the right professionals.

Many Christians feel guilty about seeking professional help for mental health struggles, and this sermon series can be an opportunity to give your congregants peace about seeking help.

Because of this, a sermon series on mental health could be life saving for your congregants.

What's your next series?

Your sermon series has the capacity to be a great source of clarity and encouragement for your congregation.

Don’t underestimate the power of a short, well-planned sermon series for your congregation.

It could alleviate guilt, convict the unrepentant, and prompt fresh growth in your church for the first time in a long time through a fresh and biblical approach to an often overlooked issue that your members feel has been made pressing by the culture.

Why Write Church Donation Letters?

In a previous blog post, I shared the different ways your church can thank donors—from automated emails to year-end giving reports. Printed donation letters also play an essential role in your church’s stewardship efforts.

Donation letters are the Swiss Army knife of your church’s gratitude arsenal. It may not be the most powerful—but it’s versatile, handy, and gets used often.

Your basic church donation letter can serve many different purposes, including:

  • Acknowledging that you received a donation
  • Thanking the giver for being generous with their finances
  • Sharing other ways the person can support your church
  • Allowing the donor to write the gift off on their taxes
  • Encouraging supporters to make recurring donations
  • Requesting future donations from church members

A single, well-crafted donation letter can pull together several of these things simultaneously. Better donation letters lead to more giving, which leads to more donation letters—thus creating a cycle of on-going church generosity.

Church Donation Letter Samples

Here’s the good news—you don’t have to write an individualized letter for every person who gives to your church. That would be tough to do for even smaller churches. And most donors don’t expect you to. They’d rather you be putting their gift to better use in the community, instead of ceaselessly writing thank you notes.

With the possible exception of some unique circumstances, your church can use template language for the majority of your church donation letters. You’ll have to add in custom details like the donor’s name and gift amount, but you can write everything else in advance.  

To make this even easier on you, here are a few basic church donation letter templates you can copy and paste. Keep in mind that not all of these have to be in print—you could just as easily turn some of these samples into email appeals.

1. Donation Acknowledgment Letter

The Donation Acknowledgement Letter is a basic way you can confirm and affirm a monetary gift to your church. Sending these is standard practice in church and nonprofit culture.

Dear [first name],
I want to personally thank you for your donation of [gift amount] to [church name]. We’re honored you would bless us with your generosity. Donations like yours make a big difference in the work our church is doing in the community.
Without givers like you, our church can’t have an impact or influence in our community. With your support, we’re partnering with local nonprofits, sending out global mission trips, and hosting small groups on topics that help real people like you. Together, we can make a difference.
Because we’re a tax-exempt nonprofit, you also get to write this donation off on your taxes. This letter serves as official proof of your donation, so keep it in your records come tax season. At the end of the year, we’ll also send you an annual recap with how much you’ve given to the church.
Thank you for supporting [church name]!
Sincerely,
[your name]

2. Donation Request Letter

Not every church member realizes the importance of giving, or understand Bible verses about tithing and giving.  So a Donation Request Letter helps to spread that awareness and encourage a spirit of generosity.

Dear [first name],
How are the finances in your household? That was a rhetorical question, so you don’t have to answer—besides, this is a letter so we wouldn’t hear you anyway. But we still want you to think about that question.
Money is a uniquely human issue, one we all struggle with to one degree or another. Even if you’re financially blessed, you still have the burden of stewarding your money wisely. And we believe that one of the best ways to invest your money is into the local church.
Tithing (giving 10% of your income) on a regular basis not only supports the work we do at [church name]. It doesn’t just support local missions and community growth. It also shows an obedience to God by making his work a financial priority in your life.
So if you find yourself ready to put God first in both your heart and your wallet, we encourage you to make a one-time gift or sign up to make recurring donations. That way, you won’t have to ever wonder again about the financial status of your household.
Sincerely,
[your name]

3. Monthly Giving Letter

Many church donations aren’t just one-time gifts. Plenty of givers contribute monthly—and that should be acknowledged.

Use this template to correspond with recurring givers.  

Dear [first name],
Thank you for being an active and faithful member of our church community. By giving to our church on a monthly basis, you’re showing that our church has a meaningful place in your heart. We just wanted to write this to let you know that you’re in our heart, too.
Donating to the church monthly allows us to preach the gospel, make disciples, and support others in our community who need help. Others like the local food bank and the nearby homeless shelter. We’re answering the cry of the needy, and it’s all thanks to contributors like you.
We earnestly appreciate your ongoing support and want to let you know we’re here for you. If there’s ever anything we can do for you and your family, don’t hesitate to reach out. You are a valued member of our church family. And you’re financial support is making a difference.
Sincerely,
[your name]

4. Year-End Giving Letter

At the end of each year, it’s customary to give your church supporters a summary of their gifts. The primary reason is for tax purposes, but it’s also a way to recap everything your church has done over the past year with their support.

Dear [first name],
You’re getting this letter because you gave to [church name] at some point during the past year. That might have been a one-time gift, or recurring donations. Either way, we want to thank you for your generous support. Every contribution helps.
One of the official reasons for this letter is for tax purposes. That’s right—you get to write these donations off on your taxes. Which is why we’ve included a summary of all the contributions you’ve made to our church this year.
But the other reason for this letter is to let you know what we’ve done with the money you gave. We take stewardship very seriously, which means we value spending our time and resources wisely.
During the year, our church supported local nonprofits, sent global missions teams, and baptised quite a few people. It was a great year for us—thanks in large part to donors like you.
So thank you for your support of our church, and we hope you’ll consider continuing to contribute to our mission in the coming year.
Sincerely,
[your name]  

5. Church Fundraising Letter

Sometimes you need to make a more significant financial push using tried and true church fundraising ideas. Some churches call this a Stewardship Campaign or a Church Capital Campaign. Either way, the goal is to raise a certain amount of money for a big project. And typically, a solid letter of appeal is an integral part of that.

Dear [first name],
God has a plan for everyone and everything. That includes you, and it includes [church name]. None of us can fully know God’s plan—the best we can do is pray and listen for clarity. Our church leadership has been doing just that and are excited to announce our latest church project.
[Detail the outline of the major church project—this could include a building campaign, or raising support for a global mission trip. Anything specific to your church that requires a fundraising letter. Be sure to include a fundraising goal so everyone knows what you’re shooting for.]
But we can’t pull this off without your support. Whether you give to the church on a regular basis, or just attend on occasion, we’re asking you to consider contributing to this massive undertaking prayerfully. It’s something we need our entire church community’s help with.
Even if you can’t make a large gift, know that every little bit helps. It’s more about coming together as a community united behind a common cause. We hope that you’ll consider making a donation towards this great step forward that we’re making together.
Sincerely,
[your name]

Tips when writing church donation letters

It’s not enough to just copy and paste this content and send away. The key to an effective church donation letter is a touch of personalization. Follow these tips to take your donation letters to the next level:

  • Examples: Add specific examples of how your church will use the donation. Tell a story about the work your church is doing in the community and connect that with giving.
  • Personalization: For regular donors, don’t be afraid to add a short, handwritten personal note. This shows that you’ve singled them out with praise.
  • Timeliness: Sending donation letters quickly reminds people you’re thankful for them. But this also takes organization and efficiency. All the more reason to use pre-written templates.
  • Storytelling: Everything is better with stories—including donation letters. Weave in a specific narrative of how your church is making a difference and how the money will be used.

There’s no one right or wrong way to write a donation letter or request contributions. You’ve got to do what is right for your church and congregation. But if you stick to these general tips, you’ll probably start to see some traction when it comes to giving.

What’s next?

Most people don’t love talking about money in church. But it’s a necessary and vital part of your church. And maximizing your efforts when it comes to donation letters will help make those conversations more comfortable. So what do you do next to put this into effect?

  • Customize these letters: Take the samples above and make them work for your church. Personalize the content. Remove the stuff that doesn’t sound genuine and add in stuff that does. Remember that these are just a starting point.
  • Create some systems: Develop processes that make it easy for you to replicate sending donation letters. Use a letter template that allows you to drop in names and details. Then develop guidelines for when these letters will be sent out.
  • Empower a champion: Find out who is going to be responsible for making these letters happen. Rather than thinking of this as adding more work to their plate, think about how you can elevate their work. This could be a staff member, or a volunteer.
  • Start sending: All of this will be for nothing if you don’t actually send out the letters. Take the time to get it right and get them into the hands of your church donors.

And if you’re looking for ways to grow your church’s giving capacity, Tithely can help.

We provide several different ways your church members can support your church financially—from online giving, text to give solutions, and giving kiosks.

Tithely’s systems make it as easy as possible for people to give to your church. Now all you need to start doing is generating a culture of gratitude. There’s nothing standing in your way. Go unleash generosity in your church.

How does your church use donation letters to spread generosity? Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Editor's Note: This is a guest post from Robert Carnes. Robert is a writer and storyteller. He's the author of The Original Storyteller: Become a Better Storyteller in 30 Days. A former church communicator and nonprofit marketer, Robert works as a managing editor for Orange in Atlanta.

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This Sermon Series Idea Strategy Will Boost Engagement, Growth, and Giving