As people make resolutions for the new year, many decide to pay more attention to their spiritual life. Consequently, churches see an attendance spike at the beginning of each year.
Knowing there will be a predictable increase in attendance, it's important to plan and do our best to maximize that impact. We will want to do everything we can to make Sunday’s sermon even better.
One of the best ways to reach out to those who are considering visiting your church or returning to it is to offer a series of sermons to create interest or address major issues. The goal is for people to see your series information and say, “That sounds interesting, I should check them out.”
Here are some interesting topics to spark your imagination in the new year.
Skeptics guide to the scriptures
No matter where you go, there are some people who seem almost hostile to Christian beliefs. Sometimes, this stems from a negative personal experience with a Christian or it could be a perceived lack of intellectual rigor among those who choose to follow Jesus.
Whatever the reason, helping skeptics find grace-filled answers to some of the most common objections to Christianity can be both fascinating and helpful. Beyond that, addressing the issues in worship can empower your members to invite the more skeptical people in their lives to come to church.
Preaching controversial issues without dividing the church is an art form. One thing skeptics respect is those who give the other side of an argument a powerful hearing without making it seem implausible. Once you have done that, they often will grant a fair hearing to your side.
From there, you can begin your response by recognizing the truth found in the opposing view and show how you can build on that truth in an orthodox direction.
What are the topics? You can probably name a few yourself, but some that come up often are:
- Disagreement between Genesis and science
- God-directed genocide in the Old Testament
- The problem of predestination
- Contradictions in the scriptures
- The historical reliability of the biblical text
Some pastors tend to talk about life and faith through a negative lens. However, when you look at the scriptures, God is constantly calling the people of God to celebrate and share messages of hope.
A church that decides to spend the first month of the year celebrating will be a breath of fresh air to people all across town. It will continue the season of celebration happening throughout the preceding month.
Beyond the sermon series, use excellent content marketing to get people in the pews. Create videos and write stories of celebration that you can share on your church’s social media accounts and web pages.
What can you celebrate in the sermon and online? Try these topics.
- We changed the world (your global impact through our missional giving).
- We fed children (stories from a feeding ministry or vacation Bible school or both).
- We loved our community (stories of outreach, both personally and church wide).
- We advocated for justice (stories of individuals or small groups who engage in justice ministry).
Just as a computer can start to bog down and lose speed, so can our lives. Little by little, we pick up bad self-care habits and allow the tyranny of the urgent to crowd our spiritual time. When that happens, we need an opportunity to reboot and start fresh.
The Bible is full of stories of beginning again. Each can offer a different perspective on how people can take a fresh look at their lives and make fresh starts. Each week, you can tell one of these stories and offer 21st-century applications to encourage people to have their own life reboot.
Here are some places to start:
- How Moses recovers after committing murder.
- How Naomi recovers from losing her husband and sons.
- How David recovers after committing adultery.
- How Peter recovers after denying Jesus publicly.
Romans is a tough book to read and to preach. It can be made more accessible when we see how it relates to real people in a real place in time. To do that, consider offering some insight into:
- The daily life of the family.
- The ruler of Rome when it was written.
- The mainstream religion of the empire.
- The persecution of Christians.
When we combine historical or archaeological topics from the Bible that speak to freedom or persecution, respecting those in authority or living as a family, we bring scripture to life. Bringing in history and archaeology, like information on the construction of the Roman road called the Via Appia that Paul traveled, can entice those that are interested in those subjects to attend when they might normally stay at home and watch the History channel instead.
Sometimes, it's helpful to begin with scripture and understand what it says. Other times, it is helpful to begin by taking time to understand the current culture’s perspective on an issue and allow the Bible to respond to that perspective.
For this series, you can use Google and dig into Google Trends’ goldmine to discover current understanding of big ideas. To do this, simply Google your topic (for example, love or peace) and use the first handful of Google results as an indication of the popular definitions of the idea. Once you have a clear understanding of what Google says, turn to the scriptures to see where the two perspectives meet and where they diverge.
Using Google Trends, you can take your search term and drill down by clicking on the map to get more details on popular related search terms for your specific region. This will help you understand exactly how people are using your term to explore the internet’s content.
Offering compelling ideas is always important, but especially so when we know people will be searching for a place to re-engage or engage for the first time. We hope these topics help spark your imagination!
When Jeremy and his wife are not playing with their four children, he oversees youth and college ministries and leads the evening worship service at Christ UMC in Mobile, Ala. Jeremy is an author of several books and resources that you can find at JeremyWords.com or follow him on Twitter!