Last Update 9th October, 2016.
Knowing how to write an attention grabbing sermon introduction is more important now than it has ever been.
It used to be that you automatically caught the attention of your congregation simply because of your pastoral title or because of that open Bible in front of you.
In the past, your hearers had very little to distract them during your sermon. How times have changed.
The technological revolution means that an unengaged listener can happily scroll though their Facebook timeline, play video games, get caught up on their favourite blogs, post a tweet and a thousand other things, all while the preacher preaches his heart out just a few feet away.
So what can we do to write a sermon introduction that will immediately engage our listeners?
What can we do to help ensure that their sermons are, in the words of Duane Litfin, “the most interesting thing going on in the room?”
The answer to writing a good sermon intro, I believe, is to be intentional about grabbing your church’s attention.
You need to make your sermon introduction count.
The first 90 seconds of your sermon is the most powerful time you have. Don’t waste them. 90 seconds makes the difference between engaging your listeners right from the get go or losing them for the rest of the sermon.
In this post I’m going to share with you just a few quick sermon intro pointers I learned from the Preaching Rocket Core Coaching program; a revolutionary, step-by-step system designed to take the stress and worry out of preparing and presenting powerful sermons.
Take advantage of the 7 day free trial and learn how to preach better sermons from the likes of Andy Stanley, Charles Stanley, Louie Giglio and Jeff Henderson.
Check out my full 3,832 word Preaching Rocket review here.
A wise preacher once said, “Don’t jump out from behind the same tree every week.”
His point is simple. In the same way that variety is the spice of life; variety is the spice of writing an attention grabbing sermon introduction.
Therefore, like a gourmet chef, who uses a diversity of herbs and spices to enhance the appetiser, we as preachers need to use calculated variety in our sermon introductions.
Specifically, how can we mix it up when we’re starting our sermons?
In this blog post, I will offer nine keys to an attention-grabbing sermon introduction.
This list is not exhaustive, but it does include some of the most tried and true strategies for attention-getting sermon introductions taken from one of the first training modules within Preaching Rocket.
9 Keys To Writing A Sermon Introduction:
1. Start With Urgency
Martyn Lloyd-Jones said,
“In preaching you first have to demonstrate to the people that what you were going to do was very relevant and urgently important.”
A great sermon introduction is one where the preacher walks up to the pulpit and gets right to it.
So cut the waffling and social banter.
Now is not the time to give let people know how well the church bake sale went.
There’s no need for ‘warming up the crowd’ – it’s time to preach – so just start and start quickly.
The clear message this sends to your listeners is, ‘I have something important and worthwhile to say.‘ It’ll make them sit up a little straighter in anticipation of what you have to say next.
“The sermon only has as much authority as the preacher can win for it.” [Tweet this]
2. Start High
As preachers we get to preach. Right?
We don’t don’t preach because we’ve got to, no, we get to reveal God’s Word to His people.
What an honour!
Therefore, when your writing and presenting your sermon introduction, start high.
Every time you walk up to the puplit and open the Bible, you have the opportunity to present the Word of in a way that causes life change.
God’s Word transforms families, marriages, lives of people like you and me.
When your introducing your sermon you should be so excited to share about the love that God has for each and every precious life sitting in front of you.
Let your excitement for your sermon be contagious. Let it show. Smile!
Be energetic and enthusiastic about your message. After all, it’s not just what you say in your sermon intro that counts, but also how you say it.
If you introduce your sermon with genuine excitement for what everyone is about to discover in God’s word, they’ll follow your lead and prick up their ears in expectation.
3. Start With a Story
The third key to writing a sermon introduction is to start with a story.
Stories get people’s attention, especially personal ones that share feelings and experiences your church members can relate to.
Do you remember the first time you got bullied or had your heart broken?
Connect with everyday frustrations you know your people have experienced.
Stories about being cut off in traffic or having to put up with a difficult colleague in the office, can be used to draw your listeners in to the rest of your sermon.
Here’s an extra hint: just tell the first part of a story and save the ending for later. Hollywood does this all time – oftentimes a film or TV show will draw you in with a captivating story but lave the ending up in the air before comping back to it later.
Move through your content and then come back to your story, connecting it to your point.
Done right makes for an exceptional sermon.
So next time you preach – preach like Jesus and use a captivating story to immediately engage your listeners.
Just be careful to ensure your story is relevant to the point you want to get across.
4. Start With an Impactful Statement
When you’re writing your sermon introduction, start with a bold and powerful one liner.
When you walk up the platform and stand at the pulpit, allow a few seconds of silence to hang in the air to build anticipation.
Then deliver your opening statement with power.
“Today I’m going to teach you how to backslide in three easy steps.”
As with opening questions, be sure that your statement will engage the audience immediately and make them want to hear what you have to say next.
An introductory sermon statement should be short and memorable.
If you’ve ever listened to Andy Stanley preach, he will always say
“So if you remember nothing else from my sermon today, today’s takeaway is…”
and then proceed to summarise his whole sermon in a powerful one liner.
The simpler and more memorable the better, sermons stick when they’re easy to remember.
5. Start By Saying “At the end of this sermon, I’m going to ask you to ______.”
“A sermon fails, though it be well presented, biblical and inspiring, if it has no call to action.” [Tweet this]
Introduce your sermon content by telling your people what you expect from them. Tell people what you’re going to ask them to do.
It’s unexpected, even kind of shocking.
Usually, people use their sermon introductions to build up a case, give reasons and then ask for life application at the end.
Instead, you can just come right out and say what you’re going to do in the message, and give them the action step at the intro.
I used this technique one time when i was writing a sermon introduction for a message called “Servolution”.
The purpose of the message was to get more people to sign up as a church volunteer.
I started my sermon like this:
“At the end of this message I’m going to ask you all to fill out the card in your seat. And for the next 30 minutes, I’m going to do everything I can to convince you to serve. That’s where we’re going and that’s what I’m going to ask you to do.”
People didn’t expect that direct of an approach, but it worked as a great sermon introduction.
6. Start With an Attention-Grabbing Question
Including poignant questions within your sermon intro is a powerful technique to engage your listeners form the very beginning of your sermon.
Don’t be too hasty to give answers, but instead get your people hungry for the answer you’re about to give by asking good questions.
You want to be sure to ask questions that people actually care about and ask them in a way they can recognize as being similar to their own.
For example, beginning a sermon with the question,
“If God is so good, then why do such bad things happen in the world?”
is much more likely to resonate and connect with your congregation, than
“Which theodicy best justifies God’s continuing allowance of moral and natural evil in the world?”
7. Start With Startling Facts and Statistics
A great way to start a sermon is to include some startling facts and statistics in your sermon introduction.
“One in three marriages will end in divorce.”
“Only 45% of regular church attenders read their Bible more than once a week.”
“51% of Americans deny Jesus’ resurrection.”
Statistics are a great way to quickly engage your listeners but be careful here, any time you’re going to use a fact or statistic that sounds incredible, it may not be credible. Make sure your sources are credible, and I recommend making it a habit to cite the source in the sermon.
8. Start With Humour
Some of the best sermons I’ve listened to are full of humour.
Adding comedy value to your sermon introduction is great way to get everybody on board and on your side from the get go.
For example, a young and nervous bride planning her wedding was increasingly terrified about her upcoming marriage.
To calm her nerves, she decided to have a Bible verse which had always brought her comfort (1 John 4:18, “There is no fear in love; for perfect love casts out fear“) engraved on her wedding cake.
So she called the caterer and all arrangements were made.
About a week before the wedding, she received a call from the catering company. “Is this really the verse you want on your cake?” they asked.
Yes, she confirmed, it was the one she wanted, and after a few more questions they said they would decorate the cake as requested.
The wedding day came, and everything was beautiful…until the reception, when the bride walked in to find the cake emblazoned with John 4:18:
“For you have had five husbands, and the one whom you now have is not your husband.”
Once you’ve introduced your sermon, try to use the irony found in the joke to point out a tension in the life of the listener to take move through the rest of your sermon outline.
9. Start With Scripture
Write your sermon intro by diving straight into scripture.
There are certain scriptures like Psalm 22:1: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” that are so compelling that you can start simply by quoting it.
The Bible is full of compelling and intriguing verses like:
“It is better to live alone in the desert than with a crabby, complaining wife.” Proverbs 21:19
and Proverbs 31:6;
“As a dog returns to its vomit, so a fool repeats his folly.”
If you’re not careful or if you start with a passage that is too long, your people can tune out.
The key to starting your sermon introduction with a scripture is to pick a portion of scripture which is relevant and to the point.
What You Can Do To Improve Your Preaching
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What do you think? Do you have other examples of attention-getting strategies for sermon introductions?
Let us know your thoughts by commenting below.