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September 23, 2020
After you've learned how to write an effective sermon, Every pastor wants to launch a sermon series, preaching sermons that will attract new guests, reignite excitement among current members, and cultivate deeper engagement among the church community.
But it’s hard to come up with fresh sermon series 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 sermon series ideas 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 free sermon series and seeing a few sermon series ideas 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.
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 set of sermon topics.
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.
The narrative sermon series follows the story of a specific character in Scripture. Btw, this is one of the most effective sermon series ideas out there.
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 incorporate moments of moral heroism to preach on moral ideals or 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).
A topical sermon series (a classic sermon series idea), 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.
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 may 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. A great sermon series idea to help your church.
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 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.
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.
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 community 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 may work!
But you don’t want to make most of your sermon series this sort of series—it should be the rare exception.
Now, we can cover real life examples of how these kinds of sermon series ideas can find expression in the pulpit.
You should utilize 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 helps to more efficiently pick season-appropriate content for sermon preparation.
Sermon series idea number one is all about Self-improvement—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.
Why not create a sermon series around this? 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 good 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 sends a message to his people that to live flourishing lives, they should confess and humbly turn away from sin to accept his love in an exclusive relationship.
Sermon series idea number two can be a tricky one. Sexual issues shouldn’t be all your community 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:
Sermon series idea number three is critical for 2020 and beyond. 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:
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.
Sermon series ideas about giving abound, but it's important that you launch a full sermon series on recurring giving.
This could be a great way to launch a recurring giving platform like Tithe.ly in your community.
Whatever platform you use, your community should be using recurring giving in its fundraising strategy.
The best things you can do at your church to get people giving regularly are:
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 community history that basically write your sermon outlines for you:
Mental health is a huge crisis in the world today. If you spent sometime thinking with your leadership team you'd likely come up with some great sermon series ideas around this topic.
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 community 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.
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 community 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.
Editor’s Note: This post was updated on June 2, 2020 for accuracy and comprehensiveness.