How to Improve Your Message Series Planning

The ONE System to Change Your Planning for the Better

How to Improve Your Message Series Planning

We’re heading into the Summer months, where many pastors or teaching teams take time to dream and think about the upcoming semester or ministry year to come.  Often times, Worship Leaders, Creative Pastors, and Service Producers are relied upon to help organize or guide this process.  This may excite you or terrify you based on whether you’re a planner or a non-planner.

If you’re a planner, then getting ahead in your service planning is second nature.  You’ve probably got a good idea of the rest of the series your church will do this year and have already started fleshing out your back-to-school series.  This post might not be specifically for you, but the system I share below could make your life MUCH easier.

If you’re a non-planer, like most creative types tend to be, then you’ve barely thought about what songs you’re playing next week.  Whether it be a condition of personality or circumstances (i.e. your pastor isn’t a great planner), getting ahead in your service planning is an anxiety-ridden prospect and doesn’t even seem possible.  However, with this system below, you’ll have the practical steps to take to make changes in your church today!

Regardless of what camp you reside in, YOU can be a HUGE RESOURCE for your pastor or teaching team.  You can make yourself available to help guide the creative process of series planning, helping to give life to their ideas, insights, and yearnings.  These people may be able to determine how to shape a teaching series, but what if you could help them think through and plan your next year of ministry in a strategic and intentional way.

I’ll share a little about how we plan message series at Journey in a post later this week, but we follow this very same system.  As a result, I can tell you what series we are doing at any point of 2015, and can tell you the general bottom lines for message within the current quarter.  Yes, I said bottom lines for an ENTIRE QUARTER.

Sound like a dream?  Its pretty sweet, but you can make it a reality for your team.  If this feels a little overwhelming, that’s ok, embrace it.

The good news is that you can do it, and I have the simple system that will help you be an effective aid in the process.  All you need to do is follow these simple steps and you’ll be able to provide an effective structure to your church’s creative process in message series planning:


1. Get a General Overview of Your Calendar

Whether you’re mapping out your next semester or next year, you need to get it all out in front of you.  Be sure to make any important dates (start with Easter, Christmas, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, etc) obvious so you can leverage them in your planning.  Make this available to everyone involved in planning.

2. Write Down ALL Your Message Series Ideas

Perform a Brain Dump, where your team throws out any idea that they have.  In this part, there are no bad ideas (. . . yet).  Whether they are half-baked or fully formed series, put them on the board.  Again, make it so everyone can see them and don’t limit this time too much.  Turn on the faucet and let it flow!

3. Edit Ruthlessly

At this point, your goal is to shoot holes in EVERYTHING.  Yes, even your ideas.  As a group, begin to edit this huge list to get it to a manageable size.  Encourage everyone to look at everything objectively, with no comments meant personally.  Cull the list down to the strongest ideas.

4. Put Your Big Rocks in First

Once you have your first round of edits done, put in your strongest ideas first where they fit best.  This will be different for every church, every year.  You know your church best, so as a team, determine which series are your “Big Rocks” for the year, and start with them.

5. Play Tetris

After putting your Big Rocks in, start playing Tetris with the other series ideas.  Where do they fit best?  How do they flow?  Do we want to do two 5-week series in a row?  Again, the way you fit everything in will be determined by what is best for your church.

6. Go to Lunch

Yup, you read that right. Once you’ve got a majority planned, put everything down and go grab some good food.  Pro Tip: Don’t talk about this stuff at lunch either.  Use this time to let your brain rest and reset a little bit.  Coming back to the planning with a fresh mind and perspective is INVALUABLE!

7. Edit Ruthlessly . . . Again

Now that you have a fresh perspective, look at what you have and make sure its what you need.  Bend things and make them fit how you need them to fit.  Make a 3-week series a 2-week if it fits better.  Start the Christmas series a week later.  Bottom line: do what’s best for your church with regard to teaching diet, flow of momentum, and pacing (i.e. maybe don’t do 3 super heavy series in a row).

8. Complete a Series Brief for Each Series

At this point, you’ve got your master outline for the year.  Most people stop here, celebrate, but don’t take full advantage of this process.  Take the time to work out a Series Brief for each of your series for the year.  I’ll be honest: this is the most tedious, painstaking & work intensive parts of this process, but it ALWAYS pays off.

The Series Brief is a document that is filled with information that explains to the reader the series’ contents, relevant details, intent, and other helpful information.  I’ll be doing a post on this later this week because this is easily the ONE TOOL that will change the way your series planning.

9. Share the Planning With Everyone

After you’re done with all the Series Briefs, share them and your full calendar with your team.  Share them with anyone who would benefit from seeing it.  Your family ministries staff, elders/leadership team, creative arts teams, anyone!  What if you coordinated your series on money with a children’s ministry month about stewardship, think about the conversations around the dinner table!


If you have any questions about this process or could use some help developing a system that fits your church, feel free to contact me here. I love to help churches get better at what they’re doing, and I want to help you plan better. I don’t want a dime, so if you could use some help, drop me a line!


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