The part of writing that pastors tend to struggle with most is how to end a sermon well. Like a pilot landing a plane, creating powerful sermon endings are often the most challenging part of writing a sermon.
Good news! We have seven tips for you (plus a bonus!) on how to end a sermon well.
#1 Develop Your Introduction In Light of Your Conclusion
What would fiction stories look like if authors started writing a novel without the end in mind? They would likely struggle to maintain a clear storyline. Similarly, to achieve powerful sermon endings, pastors should start crafting their sermons with the end in mind.
Start by establishing your big idea. Determine the conclusion you want to drive home at the end of your message before writing your introduction.
As you are working through creating the big idea of your message, determine a specific objective, and write it down. “As a result of listening to this message, I want the people in my church to…”
- pray every morning
- stop resisting God’s grace
- reflect on God’s love
- or your desired result
Think about how you can point specific members of your audience to that particular objective. Consider, “I want people who are not believers to…” or “I want people in our church to…”
When you develop your conclusion first, you can craft the introduction knowing where you are going.
Maybe you already have an idea for your introduction. Write it down and keep it, but don’t formulate that sermon introduction idea until you have your conclusion.
You may begin to reveal your big idea in the middle of your message but you really want to develop it and drive it home in your conclusion.
#2 Recap the Points of Your Message, Don’t Repeat
Another tip to end your sermon well is to recap your main points without repeating your entire message. Your recap can be a short paragraph, “Throughout this message, we have been studying… and we learned….” Be concise.
#3 Anticipate Objections
Sermonary, the sermon writing app, offers a fantastic Master Class with Dr. Jeff Magruder available for free. If you haven’t yet taken it, you can click the previous link or find the link in our resources below.
Dr. Magruder says:
“Anticipating objections is effective in both the application and conclusion, especially if the call to action is developed in the conclusion. In this type of conclusion, you identify what objections your audience could have about what you have been preaching. What might they find hard to believe? What are some of the competing priorities they possess that could make it difficult for them to act on what the sermon is directing them to do?”Dr. Jeff Magruder
For example, if you preach generosity and the call to action is to start giving to charities or to the church, anticipate what the objections will be. How can I trust the church with my money? How do I pay my bills if I’m giving my money away? Then, talk through to those objections and respond to them in a biblical way. Finally, when your audience walks away, they are much more likely to engage with your invitation at the end of the sermon.
#4 Rehearse the Ending
When giving a sermon, your energy will naturally wane and you will feel more tired by the end, especially if you are teaching multiple services. Rehearsing the ending will help counteract this energy drain and allow you to end the sermon well.
Rehearsing the entire sermon is always encouraged, but if you can’t, you must rehearse how to end the sermon.
Josh Shipp, a renowned speaker in public schools, recommends rehearsing your talk over 100 times. That is impractical for pastors, but his point is anything that is worth doing and that you want to be good at needs to be practiced.
Here is the bold truth, a bad conclusion can make a good sermon weak, and a good sermon ending can make a weak sermon feel strong.
Make sure your sermon conclusion is not neglected. Really think through sermon closing stories and rehearse them.
#5 Be Specific and Be Clear With the Invitation At the End of Your Sermon
Visit almost any sales-based website and there will be a call to action. Potential customers are encouraged to subscribe to emails or texts for a discount, free template, or an e-book.
Good marketing will clarify what step a customer is encouraged to take next.
Your invitation at the end of the sermon should be the same.
When you end a sermon well your conclusion is clear about what your audience should take away from it and give a focused and specific call to action, “I want you to pray three times a day for seven days in a row” or “Spend ten minutes a day reading your Bible this week.”
Be specific and be focused with a clear invitation at the end of your sermon so your people know what to do.
#6 Make Your Sermon Conclusion Memorable with Illustrations
When considering how to end your sermon, it can be helpful to have a strong sermon illustration at the end. The illustration can be a visual element or a story, but should not be overly manipulative. Your sermon ending is not the place for the emotional tear-jerker that is going to manipulate your audience into responding.
If possible, it is a good idea to connect the closing illustration to the beginning of your sermon. You might start a story at the beginning of your sermon and circle back to finish it at the end. Or if you mentioned mountains in the beginning of your sermon, mention something about mountains at the end. This type of connection provides a sense of resolution for the listener, so they can focus on the content of your message rather than trying to make their own connections.
Tie your sermon up with a nice bow.
Powerful sermon endings may include giving the audience something to take home.
One example of a sermon conclusion that saw the audience leave with a prop is a pastor who was doing a series on the Fruit of the Spirit and each week he would equate the Fruit of the Spirit he was teaching on to an actual fruit. At the very end of the message ushers would hand out a piece of that specific fruit to the people in the church. They left with a very tangible reminder of the sermon.
Andy Stanley did something similar when teaching on Jonah, who was more concerned about not having shade than he was about the people of Nineva. At the end he gave each person an inexpensive plant and instructed them to put it in a highly visible place and then watch it die. That call to action at the end of his sermon kept the sermon front of mind for each person in the audience for the entire week.
You want the same thing for your sermon and your people.
#7 Connect Your Conclusion to Current Daily Life
A powerful sermon ending connects the big idea of the sermon to current daily life. To do this well you might need to specifically address different groups in your audience.
Maybe students are returning to school and you want to directly speak to how the message connects to them. Or maybe you want to directly speak to the people who are new in your church and not yet believers.
How does your message connect to their daily life and needs in a way that might compel them to act and respond?
Connect your sermon to the every day lives of the people around you. If you do that in the conclusion, people will remember what you talked about.
Bonus! #8 Let Your Conclusion Be Your Conclusion
Finally, when ending your sermon, do all of the things above, but let your conclusion be your conclusion.
Don’t get caught up in all of the things you realize you forgot to say, or become so worried that maybe the audience isn’t responding the way you expected that you begin rambling.
End your sermon well by letting your practiced and rehearsed conclusion be your conclusion.
Watch This Episode of Hello Church! Sermon Conclusions People Remember
Here is what Pastor Rick Warren has to say, “A sermon without a conclusion is a sermon without a purpose. Changed lives come from great conclusions.”
The conclusion is the most important part of the sermon and it seems so fitting that it is often the most difficult portion of the sermon to draft. But the struggle is worth it! Yes, you want your entire sermon to be strong, but if you have to pick one area to solidify with the limited time you have, the conclusion is where that investment should go. Why? Because a strong conclusion will make even the roughest of sermons great.
In this episode of Hello Church! you’ll learn several prompts or filters you can use to inspect your conclusion and move forward with your sermon in confidence, knowing that when your message is preached people will be inspired to follow Jesus in new and transformational ways.
0:23 Introduction to the Sermon Conclusions
1:36 Listener Shoutout, Rate & Review
2:41 Develop Your Introduction In Light of Your Conclusion
7:04 Recap the Points of Your Message, Don’t Repeat
8:11 Anticipate Objections
10:30 Rehearse the Ending
13:40 Be Specific, Be Clear
15:00 Make It Memorable with Illustrations
19:36 Connect Your Conclusion to Current Daily Life
20:28 Let Your Conclusion Be Your Conclusion
22:08 Leave a comment in the comments section