5 Ways to Name a Message Series
We’re often asked how we name and theme message series with Dr. Merritt. At his church, it’s a team approach. The Pastor details where God is leading him to preach, often with specific passages and key sermon points given to the planning team. Then, it’s our job to wrap the message or series in a “look” that will help the congregation connect to it and make it more memorable. We’re not adding to God’s Word in this sense. Naming messages and series is like going from a handwritten draft to a typed final paper—it brings up the level of professionalism.
Naming a series or message is not specifically crucial. The Sunday bulletin could just say, “Sermon”, and God’s living Word would communicate through the pastor without so much as a speed bump. A name or theme, though, in a fast-paced and sound-bite culture, can be helpful to the congregation’s understanding and retention of the teaching. It becomes part of how people perceive and remember what they have heard. Where do the sermon and series titles come from? Here are five of the most common kinds:
The word. Often a single word forms a great sermon series title. This is especially true if the word is unexpected with respect to the subject matter. For a recent series on the Fruit of the Spirit, we began to think about how the life of a fruit-filled believer would draw others toward Christ—like a craving. This led to the series title Tasty. It was fun, unexpected and thought-proving. Who wouldn’t want to live a tasty life?
The action. The Christian life is not one to just sit idly through. A verb-based series title implies action. Run, burn, live, grow, change, stand, share. Action words not only give the listener a sense of motion, but a mandate to “go and do likewise”.
The mission. It’s never a bad idea to remind listeners of your church’s mission and vision. Each time you go back to this in your sermon series, look at different ways to present the mission. Recently we did a series on our missional mandate called Devoted. We took the aspect of growing believers into fully devoted followers of Christ and made that portion the series title. We’ve also used Follow Me and Revolution in titles about our mission. Next year we’ll teach the same material, but with a different theme.
The book or film title. Sometimes it’s worth asking yourself, “What phrase in this message or series would make a great book or film title?” Often catchy moments in your manuscript lend themselves to a series title. I would not recommend lifting a title from a popular movie or book, though—original wins out over familiar for mind-share every time.
The intrigue. Finally, obscure words or phrases often make great sermon series titles. Among the ones I’ve worked on over the years: Unstoppable, Foretold, Vaporous, The Warrior, It, Average Joe, Awaken and Lifeline. See if you can figure out what each one is about. You can always name a series, “What the Bible Says About Worship,” but Awaken is just so much more intriguing.
Author: Eugene Mason, Communications Director for Cross Pointe Church under the leadership of Dr. James Merritt.