One of my favorite things about running this website is getting emails from readers.
You guys are awesome. You ask great questions and challenge me to think deeper and more clearly.
I got an email this week asking a great question that most new pastors have but are afraid to ask.
So I got permission to share it with you, hoping my response will be helpful to you.
As a relatively new preacher/pastor I struggle with breaking down a topic into sermons/weeks. Should a topic be 4 weeks, 3 or 8? For example, I want to do a series on The Church (what it is and its purpose), but I don’t know exactly how many weeks I should dedicate to it. Is there some sort of formula to help with this or is it a seeking God issue?
That’s a great question. What is the ideal length for a sermon series?
There is no formula that I’m aware of for choosing the length of a series.
Some pastors preach in three-week increments; others go for three months.
Here’s how I would approach sermon series planning:
STEP 1: Pray
The first thing you need to do is pray about it.
God’s answer will always be better than mine, and he has all the power.
If the Holy Spirit is not working in your sermons, your series won’t work.
STEP 2: Select Scripture
Do some research and carefully choose the Bible verses that you want to cover each week. (I write more about this in my book).
For a topical series, it helps to categorize passages. So in your church series, for example, you might break it down by the questions answered in Scripture.
Maybe it looks something like this:
- Week 1: What is the church? (Ephesians 2:19-22)
- Week 2: What is the mission of the church? (Matthew 28:18-20)
- Week 3: How is the church governed? (1 Timothy 3:1-13)
I’ve also seen series broken up into studying one of the five purposes of the church every week (worship, evangelism, discipleship, ministry, fellowship) or the nine marks of a healthy church (see them here).
If you are going verse-by-verse through a passage (for example you could walk through the example of the early church in Acts 2), think about how you could naturally divide it into smaller sections.
If you would like a tool to help, check out my sermon calendar that has helped hundreds of pastors plan their preaching.
Cheating is an Option
You don’t have to reinvent the wheel. In the thousands of years of church history, there is nothing new under the sun (Ecclesiastes 1:9).
That Bible verse has been preached before, and it will be again. So why not learn from those who have gone before you?
As long as you aren’t plagiarizing (or you get permission), you can look at what other churches you respect are doing, learn from them, and adapt their series to work in your context.
As a young pastor, I benefitted tremendously by learning from what other churches were doing.
Just don’t get carried away and become a cheap imitation preacher. God created you to be uniquely you.
Plus, what works for them in their city may not necessarily work for you.
Effective ministry in New York City will look different than in rural Nebraska.
Ask: What is the Ideal Sermon Series Length for My Church?
Consider how long a series should be, based on your particular church culture and context.
This is more a matter of preference and experimenting to find what works best for your local church context.
If you really want to know, ask your people. They can tell you better than I can.
How long is too long for them? When do they start to get bored of a series? What could help them stay more engaged?
For most churches, I’ve found that anything longer than 6 weeks gets stale. So a lot of churches keep a series in the 3-5 week range.
However, there are also many great churches that preach through a book of the Bible for months.
Tips for a Long Sermon Series
If you go this route, you simply need to find ways to help keep people interested in what’s coming next.
Here are a few ideas:
- Treat every week like the launch of a new series. Promote every upcoming week with as much excitement and energy as every new series.
- Tease out the next topic to make people interested in the next week: “Have you ever wondered…? Next week, we’re giving you the answer! You don’t want to miss it.”
- Mix things up. Change up the graphic packaging after a while. Play around with the service order. Introduce new creative elements every week or so. Little changes will keep it feeling fresh. Bring in a guest speaker.
- Organize small groups around the sermon content every week for the duration of the series.
The bottom line is this: Find what works for you and your people.
There’s no one-size-fits-all sermon series approach.
It’s really up to you. The Bible doesn’t prescribe the length of a sermon series, so God gives us a lot of creative freedom as long as we hold firm to the truth of preaching God’s Word.
Happy sermon planning!