How to Deliver a Sermon

Minister giving a sermon

Delivering a Sermon for the First Time

A sermon is a certain style of oration that is supposed to give a lesson or examine a theme that is spiritual or religious nature. Most sermons are delivered during the congregation of a church or when there is a worship gathering, but more and more sermons are being delivered over the internet or through a newsletter. A sermon can last anywhere from 5-45 minutes and will typically be a centerpiece of the service being held, communicating a overarching message to the recipients.

What Goes Into a Sermon?

When you are preparing a sermon you can draw from many different sources. Once you have decided upon your central message, you should work to organize the sermon so that your audience can easily follow your ideas. Here a few examples of resources you could use to craft a sermon:

  • Passages and scriptures from holy books
  • Writings from knowledgeable scholars
  • Art, music, poetry, and literature
  • Anecdotes or personal stories
  • Issues that are currently in the news or have relevance to current times

There are few limitations on the topics that can be covered in a sermon. That being said, you should remember that a sermon is meant to deliver a message that is centered around spirituality and religious teachings. Preferably, the sermon will also be relevant to the members of the congregation you are preaching to. Follow the simple rule: know your audience. It is very common for a sermon to help a congregation find a spiritual understanding of controversial current events or more broad cultural topics. However, when speaking on these subjects it is best to tread lightly.

Using personal experiences or anecdotes can also be an effective tool to give both spiritual and personal context to your congregation during the sermon. Sermons can be effective for exploring religious concepts that are confusing or commonly misunderstood.

Generally, most sermons are used for teaching, preaching, and to uplift and inspire the congregation. A very common theme in sermons is the exploration of different virtues. For instance, you might hear a preacher deliver a sermon on the concept of giving or sharing. Other virtues which are often sermonized include grace, kindness, forgiveness, and love.

Getting Started on a Sermon

A great sermon isn't an accident

Finding inspiration for your sermon is a very important step in the process. A good starting point is to think about what moves you and expand on these feelings in writing. Consider the following:

  • What type of sermons have you heard in the past that you felt inspiring?
  • What about those messages was inspiring to you?
  • What are the emotions that are felt when you hear this message?
  • What type of impact can this message have on the everyday world?
  • Can this message be applied to your personal life or those in your congregation?

Using real world examples is a great way to make the topic feel relevant to your audience. Don't be afraid to include your own struggles and questions regarding spirituality. Your discoveries and revelations can help personalize the message. Incorporating scriptural examples or passages from holy books will also serve to draw the congregation in. Listeners should be reassured that the struggles you speak of are normal. In fact, they are often an essential part of spiritual learning and growth.

Thorough examinations of a topic can be necessary for certain sermons, but generally you will want to avoid too much complex detail or exegesis. Diving too deep into a complex topic can make your sermon too dense for the audience to follow. If you do decide to explore an intricate subject then you will want to make the sermon as relatable to the audience as possible. Think of Jesus's "Sermon on the Mount". He delivered this to a diverse group of people so he used language that could be easily comprehended.

Be Inclusive

You must be careful not to include language that is alienating. Using "we" statements is a great way to promote inclusivity in your sermon. For example, "we all have experienced a problem like this" is an inclusive sentence that does not sound accusatory and also indicates you are speaking from a higher spiritual plane. Statements that tell what "should be done" about certain topics can come across as accusatory or excluding towards individuals in the audience.

You should never mention specific persons in your congregation or single people out in a negative manner. It would, however, be appropriate to reference a conversation you had with a congregant that sparked your thoughts on a topic. In the interest of that person's privacy, you ought to be non-specific regarding who you were speaking with.

Are Short Sermons OK?

Jesus' sermon on the mount

In reality, you may not always be able to craft a positive or relevant message in your sermon. Even experienced ministers can struggle with this. A considerable amount of time typically goes into writing a sermon. Most veteran ministers will take at least a day to prep a sermon.

Keeping things short and sweet is always going to be your best bet. If only speaking for a short time, it is much easier to make the sermon relatable to the audience. Remember to rehearse beforehand, even if only speaking for 5 minutes. Preparation is the key to delivering the successful sermon. You should also remember to save copies of each sermon you write and deliver. This will help you avoid being repetitive in your messages and will provide archived notes which can be touched on in the future.

Giving a Sermon

Giving a sermon can be an exciting and fulfilling experience for many people. Don't be nervous! Delivering a spiritual message in public is a great honor. Remember, the audience is there to support you and listen to you.