Wednesday, August 23, 2006

To Lection or Not to Lection? That is the Series!

I'm just finishing up my first-ever sermon series, on King David (with a couple more on Solomon), and I've learned some lessons.
  • Always outline all the sermons in the series (at least, that you are going to preach) before you decide to do such a thing. This way, you will be sure you really have enough to say about each item in the series.
  • Be sure the series is something you feel passionate about. I like David's story, I think it has a lot to say, but--I feel much more passionate about Psalms, or Peter, or the prophets.
  • Try to have a theme that runs all the way through the series (using God's gifts, or bread-hah!-or good vs evil) to bring the units together.
  • Alternatively, have a non-thematic series and just run with it. A mentor pastor had parishioners list questions they had on cards, and drop them in the offering plate. She did this over about a month. At the end of the month, she selected the ten most popular/interesting questions for the series, which was done during the summer. The only one I remember right now was about forgiveness; that was the one I preached on, as a guest. It was about four weeks after I came back from my trip to Poland and the concentration camps, so it was a very powerful question for me at the time. This was a very popular series, by the way--she had published the schedule of questions/sermon topics in the church newsletter, and so people made sure to come to church when a topic they were especially interested in was being preached--and most of them were the sort of thing that people were interested in--forgiveness, theodicy, the afterlife, etc.
  • Be very sure you want to preach on these things for a while (see passion, above).
So, what I am getting ready to do?

Another series. This one is off lectionary, however. I've almost never gone off-lectionary. I like the lectionary, it keeps me from preaching Luke, John, and Isaiah all the time, and won't let me avoid the difficult texts. However...

It's been a while since the congregation here rewrote their mission and vision statement. It's time. But we need to get ready for that. We also need to address church growth issues--Church Makeover is the title of the study series one of my leaders has put together. And then there's the issue of finding space--which is an ongoing drama. So I'm going to be preaching on the Exile to Babylon and the return, via the prophets and Esther.

It's a natural follow-on to David and Solomon--on Labour Day Sunday I'll talk about the kings after Solomon and the fall of the kingdom and the exile to Babylon and Jeremiah. Then I'll bring in Esther and Mordecai in two parts and move on to Ezekiel. Later we'll hear from Ezra about the return, and finally Nehemiah, rebuilding the temple, just as we prepare for the mission and vision retreat in October.

The whole story fits well into the history of the congregation, as well as our need for growth, and looking for a place to call home.

I feel much better about this than I did the David series--and it's shorter, too.

1 comment:

Questing Parson said...

After 41 years I've added another rule about sermon series. Make sure the series is on something you're not going to get tired of before the congregation does.

Clarence Darrow--Beyond Scopes and Leopold & Loeb

Personalities fascinate me--people do. One way I try to understand history and places is through people--which is why I love good histor...