Sermon Illustration Ideas, Featured Image

Best Sermon Illustration Ideas

Sermon illustrations help retain audience attention. Our world today is full of so much chaos and noise it can be difficult for our minds to know what to focus on. Even during a Sunday sermon, there is so much that we bring into the room, distracting us, that sermon illustrations help turn the mind back to what the pastor is saying and refocuses our attention.

The average Sunday sermon is 25-39 minutes, while the optimum attention span for adults is about 20 minutes. Does that mean you should cut your messages to 20 minutes? No, but find ways to continually recapture audience attention throughout your sermon, about every 5-10 minutes. You can do that by explaining an interesting fact about the text, or with a sermon illustration. 

Here is an episode from Hello Church! Podcast to help you come up with great illustration ideas.

You want to give brains a mental break, a zig where you have been zagging. If you have been preaching, teaching, and working through deep content, then a pause to illustrate or a shift to a lighter topic or moment will reawaken the brain and draw the audience back in.

Good sermon illustrations connect the ancient world to modern times. 

Illustrations explain the scriptural text of the ancient world, to whom was this text written and why, and then build a bridge to connect the ancient world to today. A well-placed sermon illustration shines a light on a piece of text and helps people understand why it matters to them thousands of years later.

Strong Sermon Illustrations Make the Message Stick

If you went to church as a child, think back to sermons from when you were in children’s church. How many do you remember because of good (albeit sometimes silly) sermon illustrations?

Maybe it was a science illustration disguised as a “miracle,” a funny skit, or a messy game, those illustrations not only keep kids engaged but also press record on the brain’s memory button so that the stories stick for life. 

Sermon Illustration Database Spreadsheet Mockup

Illustration Ideas Database

A color coded, pre-configured spreadsheet to help you create a database of your best illustrations and ideas.

It’s not so different for adults.

When proper sermon illustrations are used, the audience’s imagination is engaged, interest is peaked, and a deeper understanding of what Jesus was talking about is gained.

What Makes a Sermon Illustration Great

A sermon illustration needs to illustrate what you are talking about and make the big idea stick.

An illustration that is entertaining but has no correlation with the sermon might be funny and might even be remembered but will not create a sticky “aha” moment for your big idea or main points. Your audience will leave, not remembering the point you intended to make. 

The core theme of your sermon illustration should directly correlate with the big idea of your message.

Let’s be clear, illustrations can be funny, but they should be strategically placed in your message where you are breaking up the flow to recapture your audience. You’ve done the big exegesis, but now you are pointing to practical life application; this is where a strong illustration creates a sticky moment that illuminates the lightbulb.

The delivery of your illustration matters. You don’t need to pause between the scripture and starting your story; jump right in and let it flow. 

And if storytelling in your sermon isn’t your strength, make sure to practice the delivery.

Sermon illustrations may also involve the use of visual aids and props. This could be a piece of art you display on stage, a long rope with a knot or two that gives a visual to a timeline, or a piece of sporting equipment like a goal post or a basketball hoop. Sometimes you can use your words to paint images, but other times there is just no substitute for that visual effect.

Four Things Great Sermon Illustrations Do

Great sermon illustrations capture attention. If the audience has become distracted, they will draw them back in and refocus them on the big idea.

A great sermon illustration will also help the audience to understand the biblical text and historical background. They can take a confusing passage of scripture and help the audience understand at a level that mere words cannot.

Connecting how the scripture or Bible story applies to us today is imperative to make the sermon meaningful and stick. A great illustration will take a story from thousands of years ago and make it relevant and relatable.

Great sermon illustrations create lightbulb moments for the audience where the story becomes real and personal to them. They create a very specific moment where the audience feels something click and there is a new level of understanding and enlightenment.

In summary, great sermon illustrations will: 

  • Capture attention 
  • Help the audience understand the biblical text
  • Connect how the scripture or Bible story applies to us today
  • Create lightbulb moments for the audience where the story becomes real and personal to them

How Many Sermon Illustrations Does a Message Need?

A standard message will contain four to five sermon illustrations. 

You will want one in the introduction that sets up your sermon and initially connects with the audience.

Plan on one sermon illustration for each main point. This will help to ensure that your audience connects with and remembers each one.

Finally, you should have one in the conclusion. Find a sermon illustration that brings home your big idea and makes it memorable.

Each illustration does not need to be grandiose or drawn out; some, such as showing a picture on a screen, can take as little as 30 seconds.

Ten Types of Sermon illustrations

If you’re looking for ideas of different type of sermon illustrations, Influence Magazine recently published a list of ten types of sermon illustrations you could consider.

Each message should contain a variety of illustration types to help keep the audience engaged and guessing as to what might be coming next.

The ten types included on the Influence Magazine list are:

  1. Stories from your life (This is the most used type, be sure to get permission from your family first before using any story about them in a message.)
  2. Historical Examples 
  3. Personal Testimonies
  4. Quotes from Famous People (Christrians or non-Christians expressing a desire for something more in life.)
  5. Biblical Analogies
  6. Research (Statistics, Psychology Experiments, etc.)
  7. Articles
  8. Devotional Commentaries
  9. Jokes (Don’t steal someone else’s jokes or bits, play a clip instead.)
  10. Poems

How to Find Sermon Illustrations

One of the biggest struggles of using sermon illustrations is finding great ones. Here are a few suggestions on places you can find inspiration and how to organize your thoughts and ideas.

  • IllustrationIdeas.Bible –  New and fresh illustrations posted free everyday
  • Sermonary 2.0
  • Read widely – history, fun articles, and even fiction 
  • Every time you come across something interesting, write it down, take pictures, and create a document with ideas all in one place
  • Create some sort of database and use keywords to make it searchable
  • Ask other pastors for ideas
  • Ask in The Pastors Circle Facebook group

Find an organizational system that works for you and don’t be afraid to reach out and ask for ideas.

Final Thoughts on Sermon Illustrations

Using sermon illustrations will make you a more effective communicator. They are powerful tools for making your sermons more memorable. 

The use of a sermon illustration can mean the difference between someone not being able to remember your sermon the next day and someone able to recall it with clarity fifteen years later.

Strategic and well-placed illustrations can illuminate both the hearts and minds of the people in your audience. They can turn the lightbulb on, build a bridge, and draw the connection from what your audience is experiencing today to the ancient world of the Bible.

Best Sermon Illustration Ideas from Hello Church! Podcast for Preachers

Pastors, how memorable are your sermons? You prepare your sermon by praying, determining the topic, then researching and studying the Bible passage. Then you craft your message for your congregation, but will they remember it?

Charles Spurgeon said sermon illustrations are like windows, they let the light in and illuminate your sermon. Your illustration will capture the attention of those listening, and by using an illustration for each point, you will keep it. A good illustration builds a bridge between biblical times and modern times. Sermon illustrations shed light on each of your main points and help you deliver a powerful message that your people will be able to apply to their lives.

In this episode of Hello Church! we talk about the importance of using Sermon Illustrations and how to use them to make your sermons memorable.

Chapter Markers

0:00 Welcome to Hello Church
1:16 Our topic today is Sermon Illustrations
2:41 Why are sermon illustrations important?
5:56 Strong sermon illustrations help your congregation remember sermons years later
8:42 What makes a sermon illustration great?
14:03 How many types of sermon illustrations
14:55 10 Types of sermon illustrations
20:19 How to find sermon illustrations
26:09 Final thoughts

Resources Mentioned

Influence Magazine Article
The Pastor’s Circle —
Sermonary 2.0 

Sermon Illustration Database Spreadsheet Mockup

Illustration Ideas Database

A color coded, pre-configured spreadsheet to help you create a database of your best illustrations and ideas.

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