On the surface, we don’t know much about you. We don’t know if or where you went to seminary. We don’t even know where you’re located in the world or what your church’s demographics look like. We can’t say with certainty whether your Baptist, Pentecostal, Methodist, Anglican, some other denomination, or no denomination at all.

After all that, it might seem like we don’t know much, but we do know something very important about you: Every weekend, you’re trying your hardest to preach the Word of God with boldness. 

You’re praying that God gives you effective words and that His Spirit would prepare the hearts of your listeners. You yearn for your congregation to be convicted and comforted by the Word of God every single Sunday.

Whether you’re new to preaching or have been doing it for years, you have a God-given burden for the souls of your hearers. And, along with that, you have some niggling concerns about whether or not your church family is comprehending and practicing what you’re preaching.

This may not be what you want to hear, but sermon outlines are your best friend for combatting these concerns. Having the right framework for organizing your thoughts and communicating your message can make the difference between confusion and conviction. 

Besides helping you speak your messages more clearly, outlines can also save you a TON of time when it comes to researching Bible passages and collecting illustrations. 

That’s why we’ve embedded 6 different pre-built sermon outlines into Sermonary, our word processor, developed specifically for writing sermons. 

Of course, once you’ve selected the right outline, the battle has just started. You’ll still have to make sure that you allow adequate time to develop your ideas, research, and practice presenting your sermon. 

That’s why we created this free PDF to walk you through the process of researching, planning, and presenting your sermon in just one week!

No matter what type of message you find yourself needing to preach this week, we think one of these outlines can be your perfect first step.

Traditional Three-Point Sermon

Corvettes, apple pie, and three-point sermons. What do these things have in common? They’re classics—loved and easily recognized by many. In fact, this type of sermon is so ubiquitous that you’re probably wondering why we’ve bothered to include it at all. 

Our reasons are twofold:  First, we provide this template in Sermonary because most pastors will use it again and again.  Second, although we acknowledge that it’s not the perfect outline format for every subject or preaching style, its advantages—mainly, that it’s straightforward to write and easy for people to follow—are worthy of consideration.

The three-point outline is similar to the essays you wrote in high school or college—you introduce a topic, expound on three points relating to it, then conclude by recapping what you’ve discussed.   

As you’re plotting a three-point sermon, you can use this standard structure or tweak it to make it your own. In fact, many of the sermon outlines we’ve included in this post are fresh takes on the classic three-point sermon. For example, if you’re teaching your congregation about a certain Biblical concept, you can use the following format:

  1. Introduction (e.g. “How does the Bible describe God?”
  2. An attention-getter.
    1. Some thoughts that relate the attention-getter to the main idea of the message.
  3. Point 1 (e.g. “God is all-powerful”)
    1. Introduce your point and explain what the Bible text says regarding that point.
    2. Use an illustration to further clarify it.
    3. Provide an application-—“Here’s how this idea relates to our lives.”
  4. Point 2 (e.g. “God shows no favoritism”)
    1. Explanation
    2. Illustration
    3. Application
  5. Point 3 (e.g. “God is love”)
    1. Explanation
    2. Illustration
    3. Application
  6. Point 4 (e.g. “God is concerned with the condition of our hearts.”)
    1. Explanation
    2. Illustration
    3. Application
  7. Conclusion
    1. Summarize what you’ve taught.
    2. Present a call to action—what should your congregation do, now that they’ve learned these truths from God’s Word?

See what we did there? We sneakily added in a fourth point! This highlights another advantage of using this method: it’s flexible. You can have two to four main points in one sermon without changing the structure of your outline. 

However, if you find that you need more than four points or that you’re running out of time to cover all of them, consider creating a sermon series on your topic and making each point the focus of an entire message. 

If you’re trying to encourage your audience to change their thinking or take an action relating to a particular topic, you might want to tweak your outline so that you strike a mildly persuasive tone. In that case, you can use the following three-point sermon format:

  1. Introduction

a. Grab their attention

  1. Relate it to the main point. 


Tip:  It might be helpful to end your introduction by stating the main question you’ll be answering with your sermon

  1. Point 1: What does the world/our culture say about this topic?
    1. Introduce popular thinking that is in direct contrast to what the Bible teaches about your topic.
    1. Add an illustration, like a quote, a video, a story, or statistics to illustrate your point. 

Tip:  In this point and the points that follow, it’s often a helpful memory aid for your listeners if you create a “mini” three-point structure within each of your main points.  For example, if you’re talking about idolatry, you could discuss, “The idol of productivity,” “The idol of approval”, and “The idol of financial prosperity.” Then, in your next main points, you can flip each of these mini points on its head, discussing how Christians don’t have to do anything to earn grace or keep God’s approval, and that He offers a life that’s much more fulfilling than that of chasing anything this world has to offer.

  1. Point 2: What does God say about this?
    1. Pull in Scripture
    2. Make the case for what you’re teaching in your sermon and re-state your main point. 
  2. Point 3: How does/should what God says affect our lives?

Now that you’ve contrasted what God says with what the world says, it’s time to put your teaching in practical terms. 

You can share a story about someone who lives or lived the principles you’ve discussed, encourage people to pinpoint their own wrong thinking or beliefs, or give specific action steps that people could take to apply these principles in their lives (e.g. “Next time I’m unhappy with my reflection in the mirror, I’ll remind myself that I belong to God, and I’m not a slave to the idol of other people’s approval!”)

  1. Conclusion 

Here, you’ll recap your main points in a succinct manner. Then, you can end your sermon with a specific challenge for people to apply during the week.

The three-point sermon isn’t only easy to organize—it’s also easy for your listeners to follow! 

The three-point structure is so familiar that people are able to anticipate and understand where you’re headed. In other words, familiarity with the structure creates clarity. 

However, as you’ve probably realized, the three-point sermon has limitations. The main issue?  If you aren’t careful, it can be monotonous and predictable. 

Sure, you can use this format when talking about any subject, but what about the things you talk about year after year, like Christmas and Easter?  

When you’re a new pastor, bringing a fresh approach and ideas to the table might be no problem, but as you settle into preaching, it can start to feel like you’re teaching the same lesson over and over again—and if you’re feeling that way, chances are the people sitting in your sanctuary are, too. 

You can try to solve this problem by using flashier technology or finding better and better stories to use as examples… Or, for more effective results, you can change up your presentation method by exploring a different preaching framework. 

See how the Three-Point Sermon template works

 
 
 
 
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Keep scrolling for five of our favorite alternative sermon outlines! 

The Me-We-God-You-We Method

In his book, Communicating for a Change, Pastor Andy Stanley talks about using this “map” as a way to powerfully communicate a message.  You can see him put this outlining method to good use in examples like Winning and Born to Run.  

The Me-We-God-You-We Method has two main facets:  First, it’s designed to help you communicate one big idea from a particular passage of Scripture. Second, it’s conversational, meaning that you’re connecting with your audience and engage with them in the way you would if you were talking one-on-one. 

It works for a variety of topics and is especially handy in helping ensure your sermon doesn’t take on a holier-than-thou tone since you start by pinpointing your own struggles.

Here’s how you can use the Me-We-God-You-We method for your own sermons:  

  1. Determine your main text. This method centers around illuminating one main passage of Scripture. You can use supporting verses, but the bulk of your sermon should be focused on one main text.
  • Focus on one idea. Just as you’ll be preaching from one text, all the elements of this method will circle back to the one main idea you’re trying to communicate to your listeners. Knowing what this is before you start will make your planning process much smoother.
  1. Craft the “Me” section by answering the question, “How do I struggle with this?”  Providing stories or examples from your life is a great way to connect with listeners and establish both the main idea and the conversational tone.
  2. Write the first “We” section by answering the question, “How do we all struggle with this?” You can naturally flow from the specific (your struggle) to the more general (your audience’s struggles) by asking them if they’ve ever experienced the same thing.  Sharing statistics or stories of people you’ve known can help you speak directly to your audience and demonstrate that you have a larger understanding of the issue than just your own problems, and you’re inviting them to see themselves in your message.
  3. Point them to God by answering the question, “What does the Bible say about this?” Once you’ve found common ground and established that the problem you’re discussing is universal, you’re ready to move on to what God has to say about your topic. This is where you read Bible passage and really delve into the teaching, by explaining what it means and how it relates to your main idea. This section is the heart of your sermon, and you’ll probably spend the most time developing it. 
  4. Challenge them to apply what they’ve learned. Also known as the “You,” section, you’ll be answering the question, “What should you do about this?” You might have a specific challenge for your entire congregation, or, more likely, you’ll have a few suggestions they can select, based on their particular struggles.
  5. Create a vision of a better future.  This is the second “We” section, and you’ll craft it by answering the questions “How can we all live this out together?” and “What would the world look like if everyone lived this way?”  Be specific about what would change in people’s lives, your community, and the world, if everyone followed God’s Word in this way. 

We’ve received permission to include this template in Sermonary and using this format is beautifully easy if you subscribe to the platform. Just open the editor, click “The Me-We-God-You-We” method and the software will walk you through the steps of outlining and writing your sermon!

See how the  Me-We-God-You-We method works

 
 
 
 
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Verse-by-Verse Running Commentary Outline (Also known as an Expository or Textual Sermon)

Have you ever heard a message that forever changed the way you viewed a certain passage of Scripture? Or, have you ever walked away from a sermon thinking, “Wow, I understand what the Bible is saying so much more clearly now!” If so, chances are you were listening to what we call a “Verse-by-Verse Running Commentary,” sometimes called an expository or textual sermon.  

The running commentary format is an amazing way to explore a passage in depth. Preaching in this style allows you to delve into the Biblical context, history, culture, and difficult-to-discern meanings found within your text. It’s an amazing way to bring the Bible to life for your congregation, but it comes with a huge caveat: If not done well, a running commentary can be more confusing than helpful. That’s why it’s crucial to understand how to preach effectively in the expository style. 

Follow these steps to construct your sermon outline:

  1. Start by reading your text.  What’s the main idea portrayed in the verses you’ll be covering? Make a note of it—this is the main idea of your sermon.
  2. As you introduce the topic, don’t only seek to grab your audience’s attention, but make sure you cover why these Biblical truths matter for our lives today. In essence, pique their interest and explain why they should keep listening.
  3. Before you read the text, explain background and context. If you’re preaching from the middle of a story, give them a summary on what’s already happened or is about to happen.  If you’re not preaching from a story, talk about the culture and time period where this passage was written or what had or was about to happen in history or in the human author’s life. 
  4. Congrats! You’ve finished your introduction. Now, you’ll read the first set of verses that forms a thought and use them to craft your first point. As you teach, start by explaining what the text means, using more background and/or referring back to the Hebrew or Greek. Then, illustrate this meaning by painting a picture of what it looks like to live this out.
  5. Next, move on to the second set of verses and do the same thing: explain it, then illustrate it.
  6. Finally, give the same treatment to your third set of verses!
  7. Now it’s time to give your congregation a takeaway for this passage. To craft this portion, ask and answer the questions “How should we act, based on this passage?” or “As a result of what we’ve just learned, what should we do differently?”
  8. As you conclude, give a summary of what you’ve taught, then reiterate what actions need to be taken, now that we’ve heard the word of God.

Now that you see how much research and background knowledge goes into crafting a textual sermon, you might be feeling a little overwhelmed. Don’t! We’ve created a FREE PDF that will help you effectively manage your time so that you’ll be fully prepared to preach each Sunday.  Get your free download here.

See how the Verse-by-Verse Running Commentary Outline works

 
 
 
 
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The Defender’s Outline

There’s a lot of happy themes in the Bible: peace, hope, joy, and love, just to name a few! However, eventually, every pastor is compelled to teach about topics that other people might not agree with, like the inerrancy of the Bible or the church’s stance on specific moral issues. 

When the time comes to preach apologetics from the pulpit, you’ll want to make sure that your teaching is presented in a way that your congregation can understand and re-state when having discussions with unbelievers or fighting their own doubts. 

This outline, which is one of the pre-built outlines provided Sermonary, will walk you through the steps of crafting a tenable but uplifting message to share with your church.

  1. Introduction. Start, as always, with something that will capture your audience’s attention. This is a little bit easier when you’re preaching on controversial subjects—all you have to do is introduce your topic! You can follow that by explaining the importance of your subject, why a discussion is needed, or by acknowledging that some people have doubts or differing opinions on the subject.
  2. Explain the Biblical principle. If you didn’t read your sermon’s text in the introduction, now is the time to bring out your Bible. If you did, refer back to key verses or phrases as you explain the position you’ll spend the rest of your sermon defending
  3. Consider objections. In academic terms, this is known as “addressing the counterargument,” and you might remember it from college. Unsurprisingly, it’s a crucial piece of the sermon, and should not be glossed over. Do your research and make sure that you fully understand the opposing side—after all, there could be people in your congregation who struggle with these same doubts or who are trying to witness to someone who throws these very arguments at them. This not only helps you to provide a thoughtful and complete rebuttal, but it sets you up to demonstrate that you’re someone who has examined all the arguments and come to the rational conclusion that the Bible offers the right answer.
  4. Offer a defense. This is where you refute the arguments against the Biblical principle that you’ve introduced. This, too, may require some research, because you’ll be offering reasons beyond, “You just have to accept it on faith!” As you’re crafting your closing arguments, be encouraged by the fact that your hard work will help ensure that the people at your church understand their faith is based in reality! Plus, you’re giving them the tools to witness to their unbelieving family and friends.
  5. Provide application. Now, encourage your congregation by explaining how this head knowledge can change our lives! It’s the part of the sermon that reinforces how believing the right things about God affects our entire life, and it gives your congregation something that they can directly apply to themselves, even if they don’t struggle to believe the position you defended. It enables you to end a potentially dense or emotionally heavy sermon on a high note, and it encourages spiritual growth.

Want to have software that will help you systematically work through the process of creating an outline for your Defenders outline?  Sign up for a free trial of Sermonary today!

See how the Defender’s Outline works

 
 
 
 
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The Children’s Leader

If you’re a children’s pastor or teacher, this outline is a godsend. Even if you’re not, a children’s sermon outline (called “The Children’s Leader” inside Sermonary) could come in handy in several situations, for example:

  1. When you’re preaching to a mixed crowd of adults and kids
  2. When you’re trying to explain something in a super-easy-to-understand manner (like a salvation sermon at Easter!)
  3. When you want to make your message memorable.
  4. When you want to have some extra fun on Sunday morning!

Developed with children’s church leaders in mind, this format centers around mixing things up and giving kids different reminders of what you’re teaching that day. 

Using this method for crafting a lesson will help you share messages that kids look forward to hearing every Sunday—plus, they’ll have an easier time understanding and remembering what you taught.

Sound good? You can sign up for a free trial of our beautiful drag-and-drop interface that makes crafting children’s lessons and sermons a breeze. Or, you can follow this outline, which is a variation on the one we include in each and every subscription to Sermonary. The results will speak for themselves!

  1. Introduction: capture their attention and direct it toward the lesson.
    1. Start with your opening hook or something that will make them sit up, listen, and start thinking about the main idea or the story of your lesson.
    2. Introduce the big idea of your lesson. It should be a one-sentence phrase that kids can remember. Do what you can to make it memorable—for example, create a rhyme.
  2. Word of the Day
    1. For this part of the lesson, pick a word in the passage that encapsulates or plays a big part of the entire lesson. Introduce it to the kids, and have them say it with you.
    2. Then, explain the term in a way that kids can understand. If your term is something like “Faith,” make sure you explain it on a level that a kid who hasn’t grown up in church could understand.
    3. Put this word up on the screens, on a whiteboard, or anyplace that the kids can see it and be reminded of it throughout the lesson.
  3. Bible Story
    1. Now it’s time to tell a Bible story! Pick one passage for emphasis and tell the story in your own words.
    2. As you go, explain how the story relates to the big idea and word of the day that you introduced earlier.
  4. Illustration and application
    1. Start the part of your lesson with an illustration, which can be an object lesson, story, skit, or anything that helps kids interpret and apply the passage to their life.
    2. Then, move on to the application, by giving them specific, age-appropriate ideas for how to apply the story to their life.
  5. Reflect: small groups
    1. Divide the kids into small groups and have leaders walk them through a few questions, talking about what they just learned and how they’ll apply it.
    2. While you’re planning the lesson, create questions kids can understand and that will reinforce the story, big idea, and word of the day.
  6. Review with a game, which should help reinforce the lesson/story.
    1. Memory games, dramatically re-enacting parts of the Bible story, or creating slight twists on playground games (like duck-duck-goose or Simon Says) are great places to start.
    2. Do you still need some ideas for a game?  Check out these sites for inspiration:
      1. 10 Indoor Games from ChildrensMinistry.com 
      2. Fast and Easy Bible Games from Danielle’s Place
      3. 10 Sunday School and Bible Games for Kids from Icebreaker Ideas

See how the Children’s Leader Outline works

 
 
 
 
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The Youth Pastor

If you’re in youth ministry, you don’t need us to tell you teaching teens is a different beast than teaching adults or children. 

Teens are in that wonderful in-between spot. They’re capable of understanding many of the deep truths of God’s Word, so you don’t have to talk down to them or shy away from difficult subjects. However, when it’s time for the lesson, you’ve probably found that they’re still like small children in a lot of ways—needing something to capture their attention before they start talking about memes or standing on their heads. 

That’s why we created this template specifically for youth pastors and leaders who want to create messages that will resonate with their students. 

It’s a variation on some of the other sermon outline types already included in this guide, but we’ve tweaked it to account for short attention spans and rooms that can get crazy fast. 

In short, we know you need a game plan that will allow you to keep the main things the main things while you preach for life change. If you’re using Sermonary (and if you’re not, why aren’t you?!), you can find this template, called “The Youth Pastor” in our pre-built template section.

We like to think of this outline in terms of the 5 C’s. Here they are:

  1. Capture: Grab their attention with an illustration that directs them toward the big idea of the message. Stating the big idea early and often can help you keep things on track if something happens to distract your listeners. Depending on your lesson, stories (from popular culture, history, or your life), video clips, songs, pictures, or object lessons can help interest students in what you’re about to share.
  2. Connect: During this part, you’ll connect students to God’s word. Do this by reading the passage and specific verses you’ll use as the basis for your teaching, then explain what the author of the text was trying to say to their original audience.
  3. Consider: Now, you can discuss what this teaching means today. For example, you could phrase it in terms like, “Jesus talks about _________ in this passage. Here’s what that looks like today.” During this part, you can reinforce your point with another illustration.
  4. Collide: Now it’s time to show your students how they can apply God’s word to their life, or what steps they can take to live out the teaching you’ve presented.
  5. Call: Finally, close with a call, or something that your students can do right now to put this lesson in action. It might be an altar call, taking communion, gathering together for prayer, signing up for a small group before they leave the building, calling someone and reconciling or any number of responses. The key is to create a moment where they can immediately respond to the Holy Spirit’s conviction.

See how the Youth Pastor outline works

 
 
 
 
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We hope you enjoy using these sermon outlines, and that you’ve found the perfect one for your next message! 

Of course, having the perfect outline for your topic isn’t the only component of getting it done. You’ll also need to get it written, and that requires breaking this important task into manageable, smaller tasks. 

That’s why we created this free PDF guide to crafting a sermon in 7 days. Download your free copy today!

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