I talked earlier this week about my system for planning series at your church. I want to help you take your planning to the next level, and I believe I have the ONE tool you need to help get you there. First, let me tell you where this tool came from.
When I arrived at Journey (my church) a few years ago, I wanted to make our series planning process more streamlined and effective. It’s one thing to get a bunch of series blocked out on a calendar, but I knew we needed something more.
Our team was great at developing everything I talked about in the previous post, but once we left the planning, I feel like we had a hard time remembering exactly what we wanted to do with these series. This was impacting our creative efforts, our teaching team, everyone.
What could we do to not lose all the great work we had done fleshing out these series?
That’s when I developed the Series Brief. 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. One of these briefs is created for each series, and we’ve seen some incredible benefits from them:
Increased clarity about the objective of a series.
Increased ability to plan creative elements that fit perfectly.
Increased opportunity to promote these series.
The Series Brief serves as the “hive mind” for each series, allow specific team members to view and edit this document over time. Our teaching team will use this document to share illustration ideas, content points, or simple ideas with each other. Our creative team can use this document as specific direction for their planning.
The Series Brief is broken up into four sections: Series Information, Series Objectives, Message Briefs, & Creative Elements.
(Check out the entire post to get a FREE Evernote Template of the Series Brief.)
This is a short section that only has bulleted information such as the length of the series (i.e. Three Weeks, Four Weeks, etc). Its used for a quick glance for specific information that is used when discussing the series in context. While you can put what you want in this area, my advice here is that you keep it simple, specific, and the same for every brief.
This section is comprised of three main pieces: Themes, the Series Brief, & the Objective Statement.
Themes are broad, sweeping topics or ideas that are at the heart of what this series is about. These could be concrete things, like Fear, Peace, Reading Your Bible, etc, or they might be more ethereal, such as Mercy, Forgiveness, Gratitude, etc. These themes should be used to color your view of the series and help to create the box in which you will construct your messages.
The Series Brief is two or three sentences that explain the main point behind the series. I prefer that these sentences begin with “We want people to . . .” or “People should feel . . .” to help provide some expectations for your team. For instance, here’s a recent series brief we used for a series called Fracture: Finding Hope in Your Pain:
We want people to understand that when we place our hope in anything other than Christ, we will eventually experience a fracture. We want people to be able to identify where they may have misplaced their hope. People should reflect on how their personal decisions and struggles can cause these fractures.
These sentences can be run-on and ugly, but they should focus in on specific keywords that will guide your speakers as they craft their messages. This leads us to our last piece of the Series Objectives.
The Objective Statement is actually new addition to the Series Brief for me. Our team recently read Secrets of Dynamic Communication by Ken Davis, where Ken outlines the SCORRE method. Essentially, the Objective Statement is a sentence that will shape every message of the series at the foundational level.
Every Objective Statement is either enabling (i.e. telling you how to do something) or persuasive (i.e. convincing you of something). The same goes for any message series. The Objective Statement also contains a specific keyword that will help to define your messages as well. I HIGHLY suggest getting Ken’s book, specifically reading his chapter on Objective Statements to help you better understand how this can improve your messages.
Similar to the Series Brief, Message Briefs are prepared for each week of the series. Again, I encourage you to use “We want people to . . .” or “People should feel . . .” sentences to fill it out. These Message Briefs should be designed to clearly communicate what that week’s message should focus on.
Maybe you want to leave your communicator a little room to develop their own bottom line, or maybe you want to go ahead and craft it ahead of time. Either way, the Message Brief is a great place to include as much information as you would like to help your communicator understand exactly the direction for that week. This is also a great place to include potential illustrations or scripture passages to be used.
This may seem a little over the top or even restrictive, but I bet if you proposed this idea to your teaching team, they wouldn’t just be excited about it, they would be grateful for this kind of support! Often, these communicators are juggling two or three message preparations at a time. A Message Brief like this can help provide clarity on the front end and a great resource for reference as they build the message.
Finally, the Creative Elements section is reserved for space to include ideas for service segments that could be used to enhance the message for the series or morning. This can include set design ideas, specific handouts (i.e. cards, posters, memorable object, etc), songs, or anything else that might be helpful.
You can let your content team develop this area, or you can (as we do at Journey) reserve this area for use by your Creative Team after the rest of this Series Brief as been filled out. The team can use this area to keep track of ideas or even to bounce ideas off of the teaching team, long before a service is even fully programmed. This is great for communication for open, clear communication between content and creative teams.
What About the Timeline?
Some of you might be a little confused as to when these Series Briefs might be filled out or even how they could be useful if we’re only able to get to them the week before a message. The entire idea of the Series Brief is to GET AHEAD! To give you a practical example, let me walk you through the schedule we used at Journey this past year to plan out (and continue to plan out) our 2015 message series:
The Teaching Team begins to cull potential ideas on their own for message series. They keep a running list on their own to bring to the planning meeting in a few months.
The Teaching Team meets for a one-day off-site planning meeting. The objective is to plan out the entire year’s schedule and then to create the Series Briefs for Q1 series (January – March), roughly 4 series in total. This will take the ENTIRE day.
The Teaching Team meets for a half-day off-site meeting to create the Series Briefs for Q2 series (April – June), roughly 4 series.
The Teaching Team meets for a half-day off-site meeting to create the Series Briefs for Q3 series (July – September), roughly 4 series.
The Teaching Team meets for a half-day off-site meeting to create the Series Briefs for Q4 series (October – December), roughly 4 series.
The Teaching Team meets for a one-day off-site planning meeting to plan out the entire 2016 schedule and then to create the Series Briefs for Q1 series (January – March).
By investing essentially 3.5 days a year, we are able to stay ahead of our message series and give our creative team room to program awesome services. You might be thinking that you could just knock out the entire year’s worth of Series Briefs in a day, but let me advise you against that for 2 reasons:
- We have found that getting through about 4 Series Briefs is our limit for one day. These things should be meticulously, purposefully, and intentionally planned, so it takes a great deal of brain power to get them right. We’re pretty fried after 4 of these.
- Things can/should be flexible. Even this year, we’ve shifted the purpose/structure of two different series. If we go ahead and knock out all of the Series Briefs at once, all that invested time will give us a bias towards keeping things where they are rather than adjusting as needed. When you plan ahead, flexibility is an affordable luxury.
I hope that you find the Series Brief helpful, and I’ve even provided you a link to a template that I’ve setup in Evernote. CLICK HERE to get it for FREE! As I said on the previous post, I have a PASSION for helping churches get ahead so that they can most effectively communicate the Gospel, so please click here (email) if I could be of any help!