Use the first 3 years to establish your church and establish your people. Adopt flexible preaching pathways that free the pastor to lead.
Preaching in the early years of a church plant establish the DNA of the church and establish a solid foundation for the people you attract. Or perhaps not! The difference between the two extremes depends on your ability to build a cohesive plan. After a year of establishing your church, a good strategy for sermon preparation is to make use of customized preaching pathways to establish your people in their beliefs. Here is some sage advice from 3-time church planter, Jeff Gauss, who used The Story as a Bible overview and Believe to teach theology.
Most church planters start with lots of preaching ideas. Was it actually helpful to have 30+ weeks of sermons laid out for you?
Gauss: Yeah, it was. I’ll admit, it caused me to have to swallow my pride a bit, but you can still make it your own. The big benefit is you are given a lot of tools and resources, so while you never feel like you’re preaching someone else’s sermon, you are able to take a lot less time to put the sermon together.
How did it work for you to preach on the same pathway for 30+ weeks?
Gauss: We typically do 6-week sermon series, so we’re having to create fresh material six, seven times a year, whereas with The Story and Believe it’s like you get a nice breather for 30 weeks. This is great not only for the preacher, but for your worship team, your volunteers, everyone now knows what we’re doing up to 30 weeks out.
For a church planter, what is the benefit of saving time in sermon preparation?
Gauss: During the two years I did The Story and Believe I found it was really beneficial to be freed from having to write a sermon from scratch every week. I could focus my energy in different areas that needed my attention, things that helped us to grow, like our guest follow-up process and assimilation.
Here’s a possible preaching plan for the first 3 years:
Year 1: Our Story
“I think that first year you really need to be talking about the vision and the direction of the church. We hammered that stuff – this is who we are, this is where we’re going, this is what we’re going to be about.”
Pastor Jeff Gauss
Year 2: God’s Story
Some reasons pastors choose The Story as the pathway to teach God’s Story in Year 2:
- The Story is an abridged chronological Bible: A sermon series based on The Story is Bible-centric, rather than author-driven or topic-driven.
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- Preaching to reinforce rather than introduce: The Story is a whole-church Bible engagement experience; the pastor is not the lone voice. Every teacher is teaching it, every small group leader is facilitating discussions on it, and every person is reading it. It’s highly satisfying to preach when people have already read the Scripture prior to the sermon.
- Upper Story/Lower Story: This new nomenclature gives you a thread with which to string the 31 chapters of The Story together and explain God’s sovereignty and man’s condition. By teaching the upper and lower story, you are training people in the whole-Bible method of Biblical interpretation.
- 31 weeks of content: You don’t have to invent a new series every 6 weeks. Most pastors break up the 31 chapters into a series of series so it doesn’t feel so long. Many ideas for series topics have been collected in the sermon library.
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You can be yourself: Every chapter includes a lot of Scripture, so there is room for the pastor to choose which topic, character or event the sermon will focus on. To avoid being too directive, no sermon manuscripts are provided, but sermon features are offered for pastors to build into their sermons, and sermon videos from various denominations are in a sermon library for inspiration.
Year 3: My Story
Some reasons (beyond those already cited) pastors choose Believe as the pathway to teach My Story in Year 3:
- Believe is an abridged theological Bible: Believe assembles complete Biblical narratives, one from the Old Testament and one from the New Testament, explaining the 30 most important theological ideas in the Bible.
- Theologically neutral: You are the teacher of your theology, using the passages in Believe as your Scriptural platform.
- Transformational: The Believe pathway of 10 beliefs, 10 practices and 10 virtues gives you 30 weeks of discipleship, spiritual formation and transformation topics to build up your fledgling congregation.
To learn more about THE STORY, click here
To learn more about BELIEVE, click here
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Special thanks to Shelley Leith, Director of Church Relations for Zondervan Publishing, for providing this post. We greatly appreciate your support!!