Preachers, it’s time to elevate your pulpit prowess and deliver sermons that shake the very foundations of hearts and minds.
This 10-step guide on how to write a sermon outline is not for the faint of heart – it’s for those ready to ignite a spiritual fire within their congregation.
Follow these steps and you’ll discover how to command attention, inspire change, and leave an everlasting impact on the souls you touch.
Are you ready?
Let’s dive in!
How To Write A Sermon Outline In 10 Steps
1. Choose A Scripture
2. Do A Deep Dive
3. List Out Your Points
4. Create Your Call To Action
5. Bring Your Sermon To Life With Stories
6. Use Illustrations
7. Craft A Sticky 1-Liner
8. Go Back & Write Your Intro
9. Refine & Rehearse
10. Let Yourself Go!
Step 1. Choose A Scripture
Let’s kick things off by picking a scripture that’s going to act as the foundation of your entire message.
With an open Bible and open heart, ask God what He wants to say to His church and listen closely to that still, small voice that will guide you to the right verses.
Step 2. Do A Deep Dive
Next, you want to delve deep into the research phase to, with the Holy Spirit as your guide, study yourself full and unveil the hidden gems within.
Dig deep into the scripture, meditate on it and look at it from every angle.
Consider using concordances and lexicons to grasp the original meaning behind the Hebrew and Greek words used.
You could explore Matthew Henry’s Commentary, which offers valuable clarity and insights into the context of your verses.
Take as much time as you need with this step because you must uncover the meaning behind the verse so you can be sure that what you’re saying matches what God is saying.
Do this and you’ll walk up to that pulpit to preach with unshakeable confidence.
Step 3. List Out Your Points
After the research phase, you might already know how many points your sermon will be.
You could find just 1 main point to make in your sermon and that’s perfectly fine…
Or maybe it’s 3 points so you want to preach in a 3-point sermon…
Or maybe there are 4 points in the text and you decide to spread it out over 4 sermons over 4 Sundays and turn it into a sermon series.
And there’s nothing wrong with using AI to help you write your sermon outline.
Here’s what it came up with:
It’s not a bad start at all… but personally, I’d want to make it simpler.
If I were preaching on Psalm 121 I’d probably stick to 3 main points:
- God is your helper
- God is your protector
- What will you focus on: the mountains (problems) or God who is bigger?
We haven’t fleshed it out yet as we’re just listing out the points for your outline (we’ll get onto this later), but I think we’ve made a solid start!
Onto the next step…
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Step 4. Create Your Call To Action
The best way to end a sermon is with a compelling call to action.
How can people respond that what you’re saying?
How can they apply the Word of God to their life?
These questions hold the key to a compelling call to action that will resonate deeply with your listeners.
Getting this right is vital as your call to action is probably the most important part of the entire sermon; it’s where inspiration meets practicality, where faith takes a walk outside the church doors and where real-life transformation happens.
It’s where you show your congregation how to put their faith into action, not just on Sundays, but every single day of the week.
So make your call to action as practical as you can. You’re teaching your people to be doers of the Word and not hearers of the Word only.
Your call to action serves as the heart of your sermon conclusion. It’s the destination you want to take your people to.
“A sermon fails, though it be well presented, biblical and inspiring, if it has no call to action.”
With this destination in mind, you can now work backwards, shaping your sermon to lead them on this transformative journey.
Step 5. Bring Your Sermon To Life With Stories
Everybody loves a good story.
Jesus knew this and always used stories in His preaching to help convey profound truths.
“Jesus used stories when he spoke to the people. In fact, he did not tell them anything without using stories.”
Stories have a unique ability to hold people’s attention, stir their emotions and make the message come alive in their hearts.
As you write your sermon, think of stories that bolster your main idea and connect with your congregation on an emotional level.
The Bible itself is a treasure trove of powerful stories, such as:
- The Prodigal Son: A timeless tale of forgiveness and redemption, reminding us of God’s boundless love
- The Good Samaritan: A powerful example of compassion breaking through societal barriers to help those in need
- David and Goliath: A story of courage and faith, demonstrating how God equips us to overcome giants in our lives
- The Widow’s Offering: A touching narrative of sacrificial giving, revealing the heart of true worship
- Paul’s Conversion: A transformational account of God’s grace, showing the power of a changed heart on the road to Damascus.
- The Feeding of the Five Thousand: A miraculous display of God’s provision, illustrating His abundance and care
- Ruth and Naomi: A beautiful story of loyalty and friendship, reflecting God’s faithfulness in challenging times
Personal stories from your own life experience work really well too.
Just be sure your stories support your point and don’t detract from them.
Step 6. Use Illustrations
Now you’ve embraced the power of stories, let’s take it a step further by incorporating compelling illustrations to amplify your message.
Sermon illustrations serve as practical and memorable examples that reinforce what God’s Word is saying.
Think of any analogies and metaphors you can use to illuminate what you’re saying.
- When discussing the power of prayer, use the analogy of a cell phone signal that connects us to God, reminding your congregation of the importance of staying connected
- When illustrating the concept of God’s guidance, share a personal story of a journey through a dense forest, emphasizing how God’s Word acts as a compass, directing our path
- To convey the idea of God’s protection, paint the picture of a mother hen sheltering her chicks under her wings, symbolizing God’s loving care and refuge
Remember, effective illustrations transcend mere words, resonating with your listeners on an emotional level. They breathe life into abstract concepts, making them tangible and applicable in their daily lives.
And wherever possible, use props and visual aids to show and not just tell and really hammer home the message.
And if you’re looking for some inspiration, here are the best sermon illustrations I’ve ever seen on YouTube.
Step 7. Craft A Sticky 1-Liner
Now your sermon is taking shape, it’s time to encapsulate the essence of your message into a bottom line:
A sermon’s bottom line is a memorable phrase that will linger in the hearts and minds of your congregation long after you’ve finished preaching.
Andy Stanely does this all the time. When he’s preaching you’ll hear him say, “If you remember nothing else from this sermon, today’s key takeaway is this…”
So, how do you create a 1-liner that sticks?
Here’s a cool CREAM acrostic I learned from Killer Sermons Academy you can use to craft your bottom line and make it truly unforgettable:
C – CONTRAST
Merge two contrasting ideas, drawing attention to the tension between them.
For instance, in a sermon series profiling Haman from the book of Esther, your 1-liner could be:
“A life devoted to self ultimately leaves you alone.”
R – RHYME
Employ one of the oldest memory tricks in the book by using rhyming words or phrases.
Like Benjamin Franklin’s famous quote, “An apple a day keeps the doctor away,” Andy Stanley’s Comparison Trap series featured the sticky 1-liner: “There’s no win in comparison.”
E – ECHO
Create an echo effect by repeating a word or phrase, reinforcing its significance.
For a series on controlling your thoughts, you could say, “Fixing your mind on Christ fixes your mind.”
A – ALLITERATION
Embrace the power of alliteration (words that start with the same letter) to engage your congregation.
For example, if you’re preaching about being bold you could come up with something like, “Your boldest moments are your best moments”.
M – METAPHOR
Tap into the realm of metaphors to ignite the imagination of your listeners. The Bible itself is replete with metaphors, like “a ring in a pig’s snout.”
And if you prepare sermons in a team then you can bounce ideas off each other.
Crafting a 1-liner requires a lot of thought and creativity, but the payoff is worth it.
Check out these sermon bottom line examples for inspiration.
Step 8. Go Back & Write Your Intro
Now that you’ve laid the groundwork for your sermon, it’s time to focus on the critical task of crafting a compelling introduction that captivates your audience from the very beginning.
Here are 9 ways to start your sermon strong:
1. Start with Urgency: Grab their attention by highlighting the urgency of the topic or the significance of the biblical truth you’re about to share.
2. Begin on a High: Launch with a powerful and uplifting statement that inspires hope and sets a positive tone for the message.
3. Tell a Story: Share a relatable and engaging story that illustrates the core message of your sermon and connects with your listeners on a personal level.
4. Make an Impactful Statement: Start with a thought-provoking or profound statement that challenges conventional thinking and prompts reflection.
5. Issue a Call to Action: Encourage your congregation to take action based on the biblical truth you’re about to unfold, inviting them to experience transformation firsthand.
6. Pose an Attention-Grabbing Question: Stimulate their minds by posing a question that makes them contemplate the relevance of the sermon’s theme in their own lives.
7. Use Shocking Statistics: Begin with eye-opening statistics that shed light on the reality of the issue you’re addressing, drawing immediate attention to its significance.
8. Inject Humour: Tell a relevant joke to lighten the mood and open hearts to segway into what you want to say next.
9. Start with Scripture: Ground your introduction in the Word of God by sharing your key Bible verse and dive straight in.
However you choose to write your sermon intro, remember the first 90 seconds are crucial – you’ll either engage your listeners or risk them losing them for the rest of the message.
The key here is to build tension and make people hungry for the answer or solution you’re about to present to them before you present it.
Step 9. Refine & Rehearse
Now that you have your sermon outline, it’s time to elevate it to its full potential.
Give your sermon a test run by reading it out loud. This step will help you identify any awkward phrasing or areas that need improvement to ensure your message flows naturally.
Don’t hesitate to leverage AI tools to fine-tune your message and make it even more impactful.
But don’t stop there! The true power of your sermon lies in your delivery.
Then it’s all about practice, practice, practice…
Whether you plan to preach without notes or not, familiarise yourself with your outline, rehearse your main points and become comfortable with the content so you’re more confident when the time comes to step up to the pulpit.
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Step 10. Let Yourself Go!
The day has arrived and you’ve done all you can to prepare for this moment and now is the time to deliver!
If you’ve followed the steps in this guide then you know that you’re preaching the Word and it’s time to let go and trust God’s Word to do its job.
“The Word Of God is more than enough to accomplish the work of God in the people of God.”
So step onto the pulpit and trust the Holy Spirit to guide your words.
Let go of any doubts. Be authentic and vulnerable, breathe and be present, knowing your preaching will transform lives and leave a lasting impact.
Unleash The Preacher Within
There are essentially 2 parts to preaching:
Preparation and presentation.
In this post, we’ve given you a step-by-step guide on how to write and research a sermon that’ll get you halfway there.
However, if you’re serious about unlocking your full potential then I can think of no better way than taking a solid preaching course that will help you master preparing and presenting compelling sermons.
Here are the best preaching courses we’ve reviewed so far…
🏆 Best Preaching Courses 🏆
Writing Sermons: The Bottom Line
I hope you find this guide on writing sermons helpful as you prepare for your next preach.
You got this! 💪🏻
Any experienced preachers out there have any tips on how to write sermons you want to share?
Scroll down and let us know! 🙂