Theme-based ministry is the idea that your congregational year has a plan.
Many congregations approach planning their lay-led and minister-led services with the patchwork method: they fill in the gaps in their calendar with the most recent ideas that have floated to the top. There is no cohesiveness to programs over the years, nor is there a particular thread that ties services and congregational life together.
In addition, it is rare for topics to be repeated or revisited unless they are tied to specific traditions. It may be that a minister discusses a salient theological theme in one year but does not return to it for five or six or more years. By then, the congregation has largely forgotten the original sermon, so it is difficult to build upon the first sermon when creating the second sermon.
Using theme-based ministry allows your congregation to be more deliberate about its worship service plan. It then allows other congregational programming to build plans around that worship theme, allowing theological learning and exploration to take place at all levels of congregational life.
To sum it up, theme-based ministry offers these direct benefits:
– an organized approach to worship service planning
– a way for congregational life to be integrated with worship service topics
This is very similar to the lectionary approach for Christian or Judaic worship. An organized list of scriptural readings are prepared over a specific time period. Once the list is completed, it is repeated in a cycle. Three years is a common cycle because readings are revisited and it has not been so long that the congregation has forgotten the prior sermon and it gives enough time for a minister to cover quite a lot of material.