July 14, 2011

Series Planning: 5 Steps to Streamline Your Series Planning


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Yesterday, we talked about planning ahead to improve the impact of your teaching series and services. I promised I should share the framework for building your own planning process. The basis for this process goes all the way back to my days at Granger Community Church. I still think Granger is one of the most creative ministries around, and one of the reasons that’s the case is because they have a system that leverages the gifts of many staff and volunteers. Here are the critical steps to include in your process.

STEP 1: Teaching Calendar (1 year in advance) — Include your teaching pastors and strategic leaders in the conversation. The outcome of this process should be a planning document that identifies when series will start and stop and the general topics of those series. You can also use this plan to determine who is going to teach each Sunday throughout the year. Of course, one of the keys to building a solid teaching calendar is to shape the series around holidays and school calendars to leverage periods of momentum for the church.

STEP 2: Series Planning (3 months before series starts) — This meeting will likely include your teachers and your creative team leaders. This is where you’ll begin to develop a series planning document. That summary should eventually include the series title and theme, key Bible passages, message titles and topics and the one next step you want people to take out of every service. It’ll help your creative teams if you also draft a paragraph or two to provide an overview of the entire series including the primary objective. Once this process is completed, your communications team can begin working on graphics and promotional strategies for the series.

STEP 3: Service Planning (6 to 8 weeks before series starts) — This gathering is for your creatives. The teachers don’t need to be there. In fact, sometimes they’ll just get in the way. This is when you’ll brainstorm ideas to creatively communicate the key themes of the series. That may include music, video, images, set design and other elements. Out of this meeting you ultimately need to develop service orders for each Sunday with worship and creative elements that support the message topics.

STEP 4: Message Preparation (varies depending on the teacher) — With a planning process like this in place, the teacher has flexibility to work on message preparation at their pace. If you’re the kind who works a few weeks ahead, this process works. If you’re the kind who is still tweaking your message on Saturday evening, this process works. As you can see, the primary shift is that the message topics are decided in advance so that the creative teams can plan services that support the teaching. This process also provides enough space for you to invite input from other people in your message preparation.

STEP 5: Evaluation (every week after the services) — Because the message and creative processes have been separated using this system, there will be occasions when the worship and creative elements don’t make a good connection with the teaching. That’s why evaluation is so important. It keeps the communications open between the teachers and the creative arts leaders. Over time, my experience is the disconnects between arts elements and the message will become rare.

By using a system like this, you gain many advantages:

  1. People on your team can help you creatively communicate Biblical truth.
  2. You can leverage volunteers who typically need more time because of their work schedules to complete service planning tasks.
  3. You’ll save money. Better planning always leads to better stewardship of resources.
  4. You can better promote your upcoming series. There will be time to create themes and promotional strategies to engage your audience.
  5. It makes it easier for people to invite their friends. When you are able to generate buzz because of good planning, invitations get a lot easier.
  6. You can prayerfully make sure you’re covering the topics people need to hear–both the people in your church and the people you’re trying to reach.

Maybe most important, a process like this will reduce the stress levels of everyone involved. Over the long run, that will create a healthier environment that will produce healthier people.

What’s your experience? Can you offer some advice from your experience to help leaders plan more effectively? Join the conversation by sharing your comment.

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