How to Design a Message Series for Unchurched People
Carey Nieuwhof: Can you preach to a room full of churched people and unchurched people at the same time?
Can you craft a message series for unchurched people and still be faithful to scripture?
Can you preach to a room full of churched people and unchurched people at the same time with the same message and help them both take a step in their faith?
Without a doubt, yes.
The question is how.
While a short article can’t exhaust the subject, let’s get started and tackle the biggest issues in creating a message series that connects with unchurched people: angle.
Preaching to unchurched people is not about watering down content, preaching ‘baby’ sermons or avoiding hard subjects.
It’s really all about the angle you take on a subject.
Let me give you a recent example.
I wanted to preach through a biblical book recently, and I picked Esther.
I could have called the series Esther. But that would have been, well, interesting to people who like the book of Esther.
So after thinking it through, I called it “Your Big Moment”. After all, that’s what happened to Esther (and Mordecai, and Haman) – she had her big moment, when she least expected it. Because people can relate to wondering about whether or when their big moment will come, we found an angle that worked for churched and unchurched people. And I managed to cover the story of Esther in the process.
The problem with most message series is that they are focused on what the speaker wants to say, not what the listener wants to hear. If you only want to reach Christians, that’s a great strategy.
If you want to engage unchurched people, in my view, it’s a terrible strategy.
So where can you get ideas to find the angle? Obviously, you should talk to unchurched people…but in addition to that, here are five ways you can stay on top of what people in your culture and community are thinking about:
1. The Amazon Top 100 List. Check out the Top 100 of 2013 to see what your neighbours are already thinking about. Finding 6 books on eternity and near death experiences on the list caused me to create a 7 part series called “Afterlife”. The series resonated deeply because so many unchurched people were already investigating the issue on their own.
2. Movies. This doesn’t mean you have to do an “At the Movies” series, but it does mean what people are watching gives you a clue as to what they are thinking. Horror movies are perennially popular. I really don’t like horror movies personally, but in crafting a series for 2014 on evil, I’m going to make sure we cover our culture’s ambiguous attitude toward evil: on the one hand we dismiss it, on the other hand we simply can’t.