Outlining your sermon doesn’t happen in isolation. It’s part of the overall process of crafting a great sermon. Below is a summary of 7 easy steps to write a sermon (check out this post for a detailed breakdown of each step).
Day 1: Strategize and Study
Step 1: Strategy
Strategy is an important part of the process and actually begins in the early stages of planning, which should happen months before the sermon is actually preached. It is important to look at the year in front of you and start thinking through your preaching plan so that you can create a preaching calendar that gives you a framework to move towards.
This early planning stage is really when strategy begins to take shape. During your early planning, you’ll look at things like the topics you want to preach on, books of the Bible or certain scripture passages you want to teach from.
Step 2: Study
Begin formal study through research. What are scholars and other trusted writings saying? Write down what you learn, take notes, and document the details.
The Sermonary tool is a great resource for you to write your sermon and document your notes along the way. It will help you keep all your notes in one place in an organized and easy-to-navigate system.
You likely won’t use all of the information you gather during your study phase, but what you do find will help feed into your teaching, the direction you want to go with your sermon, and also clarify your messaging along the way.
Day 2: Get Sticky and Outline
Step 1: Create a Sticky Statement for Your Sermon
Sticky begins with creating what Andy Stanley calls “a sticky statement.”
When thinking through this concept, consider this: What is one statement you can share with your congregation that they’ll remember? This is a phrase that encapsulates the big idea of your sermon. It should be concise, yet easy-to-remember so they can take it with them after the message is over.
The point of the sticky statement is to give them something to hold on to so that they not only remember the words spoken in your sermon, but also use it to apply what was taught.
Step 2: Establish Your End Goal
Ask yourself, “What is my end goal for this sermon?” Or in other words, “what action do I want my congregation to take after hearing this sermon?”
What do you want your people to leave with after hearing it?
How do you want them to feel?
What action do you want them to take?
When you begin planning your sermons, you should always have an end goal in mind. It’s important to be clear on what that is on the front end, because this will help narrow down how you develop the rest of your sermon as you ensure everything should always point back to the end goal.
Step 3: Outline Your Sermon
You want your sermon outline to be a reflection of your personal communication style, so you should feel comfortable and inspired when building from it. Once you have landed your outline type, you can begin the work of filling in the gaps.
Make sure you outline your sermon step-by-step creating your main points with sub-text, scripture references, and any other notes that should go along with it. Continue doing this so that you’re creating points for every section of the sermon.
Once you finish the outline on day two, you are right on track and have set yourself up for success to preach a well thought-out and prepared message for the coming weekend.
Day 3: Incorporate Your Style
Step 1: Introduction
There are really three parts to an introduction. First, we want to grab their attention, then we want to explain what it is we’re talking about and why they need to listen to the message. Lastly, you want to draw a personal connection between your audience and the topic.
We do this all the time when we share stories, jokes, video clips, statistics, etc. Anytime we include something like this in our message, the goal is to hit all three elements of the introduction by grabbing their attention, explaining why they need to keep listening, and drawing a connection between them and your message.
Step 2: Illustration
Remember to consider what the end game of your message is. Your illustrations should support that.
This is how you add your personal style to your sermon. Your stories, images, and application of the text is what sets your message apart. The illustrations allow you to incorporate your own styling into how you deliver your sermon and in turn, will have a greater impact on your congregation because it’s coming from you.
Step 3: Conclusion
It’s important to be careful not to go back and add in more of what you may have forgotten to say during the sermon.
We find ourselves doing this sometimes with the intention of driving the point home yet again, but ultimately, this does more harm than good and just adds noise to your sermon, making it less clear. A lack of clarity results in a lack of impact.
It’s also important that you avoid going into detail again, pointing back to your message. Instead, briefly summarize and move to the end goal of your sermon or series.
Day 4: Solidify Your Message
Step 1: Analyze Your Sermon Illustrations
Day 4 is when you finish adding illustrations and explanations, but it is important that you take a hard look and analyze the illustrations you have chosen, considering whether or not they support your message properly.
Consider if the images and videos collected are illustrating and explaining what you want to communicate.
Ask yourself these questions:
“Is this really communicating my message effectively?”
“Is the big idea or overall takeaway being clearly visualized through the illustrations I’ve chosen?”
“Could the illustrations and visuals in my message add confusion to my big idea?”
Step 2: Trim the Fat From Your Sermon
It’s time to take another hard look at your message. At this point, you want to take an angle of purposefully clarifying your sermon by tightening it up and editing as needed. Really think through where and how you can cut the fat from your message, which will help it be much more effective in the long run.
Remember, it is easy to speak for a long time. But it’s hard to be succinct. So, go through your message, read it thoroughly, and consider what needs to be trimmed down and tightened up to effectively communicate the topic.
Day 5: Observe the Sabbath
We know how hard it is to walk away and actually take a break, but this is essential for your health and well-being.
Rest has a powerful way of giving us clarity and allowing God to meet us in new ways. Take advantage of this day –– embrace it for all it is and all it will offer you as you mentally, emotionally, and physically prepare for your time on stage when you actually preach the message you’ve been working on all week.
Day 6: Say and Rehearse
Instead of waiting until Sunday morning to say your message out loud, every pastor should practice their message – out loud – at least once or twice before Sunday morning. You can do this a couple of different ways, either by yourself or in front of a small group of people.
Look at day 6 as the opportunity to preach your message from beginning to end. To practice saying the words out loud, working out the kinks, getting used to the flow and rhythm of your sequencing, and allowing yourself to elevate your preparedness.
Day 7: Speak the Message
Day 7 is here and it’s the day you’ve been preparing for all week. It’s time to preach the message you’ve been studying, writing, and practicing all week. And because you’ve taken the time to study, prepare, practice, and assess, you are now ready to preach.
You aren’t cramming to remember your notes or points and you have a solidified and prepared outline that you can pull up easily on the Sermonary app and preach right from the stage using Podium Mode.
Podium Mode is just one of many great features offered by Sermonary to help you write, plan, and preach your message. You can even export your notes from Sermonary into a PowerPoint or ProPresenter presentation!
You will find that your messages become more effective because you have taken the time to dig into God’s Word, prayed through your message, and thought about what God wants you to say versus throwing a message together on Saturday evening.
Now that we have talked about the benefits of using a sermon outline, the obstacles to doing so, and how outlining fits into the overall sermon prep process, let’s talk about how to choose the best outline for your sermon.