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How to Create A Sermon Outline

There is no right way to create a sermon outline. But is there a right way for you? Absolutely!

Two of the most vital pieces of a sermon include preaching the text as it was intended to be taught and delivering the message in a way that is true and authentic to who God created you to be. Within these two elements, you want to deliver a coherent and true message impacting your congregation and inspiring them to live out the Gospel in their daily lives. That’s no small task and this is why a sermon outline makes so much sense.

Essentially a sermon outline is a way to organize your sermon big idea, illustrations, stories, scripture, and additional teaching elements in a way that makes sense and will leave room for the greatest impact. 

When your outline is finished, you have the formula to walk through the text and communicate the text properly in a way your people can understand. You want them to leave talking about understandings gained from the passage you taught and how it applies to their life today.

A good outline is going to make your sermon make sense logically.

Sound good? Absolutely! A good outline will help you get the end result you want.

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Where Sermons Go Wrong

Imagine two lines. Your first line starts at point A towards the top of the paper and runs straight to point B at the bottom of the paper. Next to it, you have the same starting point A, and same ending point B, but in between is a jumbled ball of yarn mess… the train of thought goes all over the place.

Sermons go wrong when they don’t stick to a pre-defined framework. 

It is difficult enough for a faithful follower of Christ to track with a messy sermon, it’s nearly impossible for people new to the faith to have any idea of what’s going on or what it means for their life without a big idea and a delivery plan that builds upon that central theme.

A strength of many pastors is knowing God’s Word inside and out, having memorized lots of scripture. But without a sermon outline to help you identify the best scripture to reference in your message, it is very easy to lose track of the central theme and replace it with an overwhelming amount of references from throughout the Bible. 

Yes, there are lots of biblical illustrations that could support your central theme; yes, there are dozens of passages that elevate the authority and context of the passage you’re preaching on; yes, it is all truth… no, you do not need to provide so much evidence and supporting content that it causes hearers to miss the central point of your message or lose interest.

In essence, what a sermon outline or sermon template can help you achieve is successful editing by keeping the main thing the main thing. 

When you land on a framework that makes sense to you, helps you communicate the central point of the message, and helps you cut content from your message to make for a clearer, more concise delivery, you have a priceless tool that can help you move the mission of your church forward.

Relying On the Holy Spirit for Your Sermon Content

The Ministry Pass brand has been active on social media for years and our content is viewed by hundreds of thousands of people. Whenever we publish any content referencing sermon outlines or sermon templates we know we’re going to see comments that say something like:

“I wait on the Holy Spirit to provide me a Word.”

God has provided scripture to us through the Holy Spirit. Throughout scripture you see the role of the Holy Spirit, working with God’s people to assert God’s will on earth. 

In the sanctification process, we still have a choice and the Holy Spirit walks with us, empowering our minds to be renewed and transformed in accordance with God’s will.

We have a part to play in that process, a responsibility in that process.

In our preaching, the Holy Spirit is working in and through you, and we must be open to His work, but that is not an excuse to be lazy and unprepared to handle God’s Word. The Holy Spirit wants to work through you the entire week, not just during your message, and a sermon outline gives you a framework to apply and implement His leading as it comes.

The Bible is so detailed, powerful, beautiful, and insightful (not to mention divine) that when we fail to plan our preaching of the Word, we sell God’s message to us short and replace the richness of the Gospel with whatever comes to mind during the message part of the service.

God did the work to give us His Word and we must be willing to do the work to communicate that Word.

Harnessing the Natural Rhythm of Your Sermon

If you’re looking for more reasons to use a standardized sermon outline for your message preparation look no further than the fact that a well-structured outline allows you to harness the natural rhythm of your sermon and your preaching. 

Looking at good speeches, movies, and concerts, there is a natural rhythm or storyline that creates room for moments of intensity, comedy, drama, and vulnerability.

The best movies have a final sequence that the entire story has been building towards. If you made a movie with the same energy and intensity of that final sequence, by the time the conclusion came you’d be numb to the significance of that moment.

A good sermon outline will help you capture and channel the attention of your audience through a pre-planned rhythm.

You don’t want to yell the entire message. 

You don’t want to whisper the whole time.

You want the balance of emphasizing a point, then dropping down to give room for breathing.

Changing Your Outline Based Upon the Sermon Text

When you find a sermon outline you’re comfortable using, it might seem unnecessary to change outlines from message to message. However, some outlines will be more conducive to delivering different passages. 

It is a good idea to explore multiple outlines to become familiar with what makes each outline different and unique. This way, when you have a text that doesn’t necessarily fit a 3-point sermon outline, you have other frameworks you can use to decide which might be best for delivering the text.

For instance, when working through the book of Romans, a very dense text, a 3-point sermon outline can help to simplify larger points made within the text that allow you to build a case over multiple points and make the overall connection in your conclusion (rather than throughout the text).

When you’re preaching through a story, you could use Andy Stanley’s style where he focuses on a single big idea with no sub-points.

Read the text, study the text, and figure out what will work best for you to deliver that text.

Types of Sermon Outlines

As mentioned above, there is no right way to create a sermon outline — nearly every preacher spends time discovering an approach to drafting an outline that makes sense for them. 

That said, there are several solid places to start if you have never developed an outline or if you are not quite happy with the way your current structure is working.

  • 3-point sermon outline (multi-point outline)
  • The Me-We-God-You-We Method
  • Verse-by-Verse Running Commentary
  • The Defender’s Outline
  • The Children’s Leader
  • The Youth Pastor

These are just a few of the more common or well-known outlines that exist. You can download a free copy of each one to see more at this link.

It is far easier to react and respond to something in front of you than it is to create something from scratch. When you use a sermon outline (whether it be yours or someone else’s template) you immediately have a collection of prompts that you can use to inspire ideas, organize your thoughts, and generate some momentum as you build your sermon.

Planning, Preparing, and Delivering

The best way to discover what sermon outline works best for you is to just try each one. You may spend an extended period of time with a 3-point sermon outline and find that, while it works fine for you, the Me-We-God-You-Me sermon outline provides a much better flow and matches your natural delivery more perfectly. 

That’s okay! 

Don’t become an old dog that can’t learn new tricks. Be a wise dog that is always willing to try new things in order to find a better way to do something.

Your sermon planning, preparation, and delivery will hinge on the strength of your outline — so put in the time and effort to find or build an outline that works for you and the context God has called you to for this season of ministry.

The Outline of the Sermon, Hello Church! Podcast

In this episode of the Hello Church! Podcast we talk about what types of sermon outlines already exist, why a strong sermon outline matters, where sermon planning goes wrong, and how to transform your sermon outline into a strong delivery that leaves your people thinking about how God’s Word applies to their life today.

Chapter Markers

0:38 Subscribe & Review
1:12 What is a sermon outline and why is it important?
3:22 Is the Holy Spirit an outline?
5:00 Harness your natural rhythm
9:20 Inductive and deductive preaching
13:20 6 sermon outlines
13:38 Traditional 3-point sermon template
14:40 Me-We-God-You-Me sermon template
16:18 Verse-by-Verse Running Commentary
17:08 The Defender’s Outline
18:24 The Children’s Leader template
19:19 The Youth Pastor template
19:44 Using sermon outlines in Sermonary

Resources Mentioned

Free Sermon Templates
Effortless by Gregory McKeown

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