It is common for pastors to feel that the toughest part of sermon prep is writing and developing the opening and the closing. You have a topic, you have ideas for your points, and you know how to craft the meat of your message, but you struggle with how to open the sermon and exactly how to wrap up the teaching. Today, I want to focus on the opening portion of the sermon prep process. Here are three different ways you can start a sermon to make sure your congregation is engaged right out of the gate.
Share a personal story. Being able to make yourself relatable to your congregation is key when you’re preaching. So starting your sermon off with a personal story that relates to your topic is a great hook. This is also a great way you can incorporate two other keys that are important in a sermon: humor and humility. Everyone loves a little humor when they’re listening to someone speak. And they also love when you are humble and willing to talk about your mistakes or the lessons you’ve learned the hard way, because, again, it makes you more relatable and down-to-earth.
Ask a question. The method of using a “cold open” is becoming more and more common in sermons. Instead of walking out on stage and introducing yourself and recapping the sermon, try starting things off by asking a single question. It immediately gets your audience thinking, it captures their attention, and it allows you to direct their attention towards whatever topic you want them to learn about in your particular sermon.
Identify a problem. You can go about this opener in a couple of different ways. You can use a statistic, you can incorporate an anecdote, but if your goal for your sermon is to provide a solution, you first have to identify the problem your solution can solve. If your audience doesn’t know there is a problem that needs addressing, then the solution seems irrelevant. Starting your sermon with identifying a problem makes the rest of the sermon hit harder and sink in more with your audience.
As you work on your next sermon or series of sermons, I hope and pray these tips on creating a great opening will prove helpful. Try using all three methods over the next several months and see which one resonates the best with your congregation. I will be praying for you as you seek to preach the Word of God and participate in the great harvest of souls!