How to write a sermon in 7 easy steps

One of the biggest frustrations we commonly see among pastors is their ability to shift their focus so quickly from one week to the next as they align their mind and heart towards a new message.

Pastors want to be effective in their preaching and they know they need to have clear alignment and vision as they write and prepare each sermon. But, in all actuality, it’s rare when this is accomplished well.

We see it all the time. In fact, many pastors have asked us, “How can I be more effective in my preaching?” They want to know the best way to write and prepare from week to week so that their message is both impactful and promotes spiritual growth.

Pastors are inspired, feel led by the Holy Spirit, and want the inspiration they receive to be communicated in an effective way that will translate into life-change. They want to see their congregation encouraged by the Word of God in such a way that inspires them to make positive choices that will impact their lives and the lives of those around them for the better.

This is a tall order… and it’s even harder from week-to-week when it can feel like you’re under pressure to be creative. How can you think creatively while being fully prepared to deliver a new message every single weekend?

It’s understandable that the pressure to deliver an inspiring and life-changing sermon each week could lead to burnout, frustration, and stress. Not only that, but the lack of inspiration can be crippling when you are feeling under the gun, causing you to come to a standstill in your sermon writing.

But it doesn’t have to be this way. In fact, we know for certain that there are real and useful ways to combat this very thing so you can be prepared every weekend, both in and out of the pulpit.

With a few tools and some strategic thinking, you can develop a plan and be on your way to feeling inspired once again, and once again feel prepared and excited to preach the Word of God each week.

With that in mind, we’ve come up with a step-by-step process on how to write a sermon in 7 days – because 7 days is exactly what you have. And with that, we’re not going to give you tricks or insights on how you can cut corners in your sermon writing. Instead, we have an effective and well thought-out approach to weekly sermon writing that will not only allow you to be more efficient with your valuable time, but have you feeling well-prepared on Sunday morning.

We like to take what we call the “Crock Pot Method ” approach, as opposed to the “Microwave Method” approach.

The idea is that, if you really want to dig deep into scripture, address the needs of your congregation, and truly see your sermons be as effective as they can be, you can’t just throw something together at the last minute.

No, you need a plan and you need to let that plan simmer so it can grow, develop, and produce the flavor of Christ that you want to come through in your sermon.

So yes, you only have 7 days from one sermon to the next, but we truly believe that –– with these principles –– you will be able to study, write, and prepare a thoughtful, creative, and inspired sermon that will make a big impact.

The 7 day sermon plan will help you write sermons more effectively and we’re going to show you how!

Day 1: Study and Strategize

Sermon Writing Plan Day 1
Day 1 of Writing a Sermon in 7 Days: Study and Strategize

Day 1 is made up of two parts – strategy and study. Let’s break these down further.

Day 1 – Step 1: Strategy

Strategy is an important part of the process and actually begins in the early stages of planning, which should happen months before the sermon is actually preached. It is important to look at the year in front of you and start thinking through your preaching plan so that you can create a preaching calendar that gives you a framework to move towards.

This early planning stage is really when strategy begins to take shape. During your early planning, you’ll look at things like the topics you want to preach on, books of the Bible or certain scripture passages you want to teach from, etc.

Once you have a general idea of your teaching topics, you’ll want to map where and when you’ll preach each series, while also structuring out the weekly sermon topics that will go in each series, which will also include the passages you’re going to be preaching from.

This is a long-term strategy that will help you effectively develop and preach each of your sermons and really set you up for success when you go in to do your weekly planning.

Let’s look closer at how you will map out your weekly sermons within each series…

Within the sermon series, choose the sermon title, Bible passage, and big ideas of the message. The big idea of the message is a one-sentence synopsis of the main point you are wanting your congregation to walk away with.

Notice what happens when you follow this system: Months before you preach a sermon, you develop a plan. You’ve established a plan for the year as you’ve created your preaching calendar, you’ve chosen sermon series to place throughout the year and broken them down into certain weeks within your calendar, and then you’ve honed in even further by detailing each week’s message with the scripture you’re wanting to focus on for that week and the big idea you’re wanting to leave them with.

This type of early planning will set you up for success and give you the ability to write your sermon in seven days with ease and intention.

After your early calendar planning, you can put these plans away until it’s time to write your sermon.

Day 2 – Step 2: Study

Monday morning has arrived and you have set yourself up with success because today is the day you will move into the study portion, which kicks off your 7 day sermon writing schedule.

Pull out your plan for the upcoming weekend and focus your entire day one on studying the passage you’ve predetermined for this coming weekend.

  • Observe what characters say and why they say it
  • Underline words and key phrases
  • Observe the text and take notes

Begin formal study through research. What are scholars and other trusted writings saying? Write down what you learn, take notes, and document the details.

The Sermonary tool is a great resource for you to write your sermon and document your notes along the way. It will help you keep all your notes in one place in an organized and easy-to-navigate system.

You likely won’t use all of the information you gather during your study phase, but what you do find will help feed into your teaching, the direction you want to go with your sermon, and also clarify your messaging along the way.

There’s one last step in this process that is essential, and that’s going back to the preliminary plan you created months ago (during your preaching plan strategy) and compare your big idea plan from then to what you’ve just read, studied, and researched.

Has anything changed?
Have you had any new learnings since your recent study?
How has the process and intentional study time you’ve done shaped or changed the angle you want to take toward the big idea of your message?

If there’s anything that has changed, you’ll want to note that here. Make sure to adjust so that your new vision is established and clearly noted. Then you can write your sermon with a clear focus.

Taking the time to properly strategize early on will only set you up for success when it comes time to prepare for the coming weekend’s sermon. Starting day one with a full day of dedicated study will lay a strong foundation for the remainder of your week.

Once you have a full day of study behind you, you can rest assured you are set up for a strong day two.

 

 

Day 2: Get Sticky and Outline

Sermon Writing Plan Day 2
Day 2 of Writing a Sermon in 7 Days: Get Sticky and Outline

On day one we looked at strategy and your long term planning, then we showed you how to dig deep and study the passages you intend to use for the week’s sermon.

This is essential work as you lay the foundation for your sermon each week. Having a solid framework for you to build and create from will help you to be more efficient in your sermon writing because everything you do in step one will speak into what comes next.

Day 2 – Step 1: Create a Sticky Statement for Your Sermon

Now that you have your foundation laid, it’s time to move into day two: sticky. Here is where we outline how to apply the message to your people.

While your people need to grow in their knowledge of the scripture and what God has to say to them, it’s even more important for your congregation to learn how to apply the message to their everyday life.

A sticky sermon equals application. And your sermon is just a bunch of words if they aren’t followed up with application.

Sticky begins with creating what Andy Stanley calls “a sticky statement.”

When thinking through this concept, consider this: What is one statement you can share with your congregation that they’ll remember? This is a phrase that encapsulates the big idea of your sermon. It should be concise, yet easy-to-remember so they can take it with them after the message is over.

The point of the sticky statement is to give them something to hold on to so that they not only remember the words spoken in your sermon, but also use it to apply what was taught.

Having a sticky sermon means that when they walk away, they aren’t forgetting everything you said, but instead they’ll grab hold of the sticky phrases and concepts you spoke on and have something to take with them and apply to their lives.

Let’s take a look at ways you can actually create your own sticky statement.

Typically on Tuesday morning, you’ll want to focus on how to make your message sticky. Look over your pre-determined passage and your sermon’s big idea.

As you focus and study this message, what is one statement that encompasses the message? What’s a phrase that communicates what you want your congregation to walk away with?

This sticky statement may take some time to narrow down. Don’t be afraid to jot down several phrases and ideas as you study over your material. The more you write down, the more clarity you’ll have.

Eventually you’ll come up with your sticky statement. And the good news is that the more you practice creating sticky statements, the better you’ll get at it.

Once you have your sticky statement, it’s time to determine the overall point of what you’re trying to communicate or leave people with. This is your end goal.

Day 2 – Step 2: Establish Your End Goal

Ask yourself, “What is my end goal for this message?” Or in other words, “what action do I want my congregation to take after hearing this message?”

What do you want your people to leave with after hearing it?
How do you want them to feel?
What action do you want them to take?

When you begin planning your messages, you should always have an end goal in mind. It’s important to be clear on what that is on the front end, because this will help narrow down how you develop the rest of your sermon as you ensure everything should always point back to the end goal.

In figuring out what this is, we need to ask ourselves two questions:

  • How do we want our listeners to feel?
  • What is it we want them to do?

By asking these questions it prepares you to connect with the listener’s mind and emotions, and helps them to apply the message so that you can actually achieve the purpose you set out for in your sermon.

It’s important that your end goal references your sticky statement and the results you want your members to walk away with.

Once you have your end goal established and your sticky statement determined, you can move on towards building out the framework of your sermon through outlining.

Day 2 – Step 3: Outline Your Sermon

Whether you choose a simple three point sermon, a template you’ve created yourself, or something more specific, such as Andy Stanly’s “Me, We, God, You, We” method, make sure to choose what works best for you.

You want your sermon outline to be a reflection of your personal communication style, so you should feel comfortable and inspired when building from it. Once you have landed your outline type, you can begin the work of filling in the gaps.

Make sure you outline your message step-by-step creating your main points with sub-text, scripture references, and any other notes that should go along with it. Continue doing this so that you’re creating points for every section of the message.

Once you finish the outline on day two, you are right on track and have set yourself up for success to preach a well thought-out and prepared message for the coming weekend.

Now it’s time to make your sermon your own by adding your very own style.

 

 

Day 3: Incorporate Your Style

Sermon Writing Plan Day 3
Day 3 of Writing a Sermon in 7 Days: Incorporate Your Style

Now that we’ve covered strategy, study, and how to make your message sticky, it’s time to move on to day 3 as we discuss your personal preaching style.

Day 3 is typically done on Wednesday, the third day after you start.

Let’s recap: you have the big idea, you know the end goal, you’ve outlined the message in depth, and now it’s time to really bring the message to life by filling in the details. This is the fun part because now you get to make it your own.

Here are the specifics of what you’ll dive into on day 3:

  • The introduction
  • The conclusion
  • Each section within the 3-point template
  • Begin filling in illustrations

Sermonary allows you to lay this out with an organized and clean setup, and with the Sermonary desktop app, you have access to the offline tool that allows you to write your messages. It simply syncs with the cloud to keep everything up to date, while removing distractions like the internet when you’re doing the hard work of writing.

So let’s look at the three pieces that make up day 3 of your 7 day sermon writing plan.

Day 3 – Step 1: Introduction

A lot of times, when developing an introduction, it’s easy to get caught up in just wanting to grab the attention of the listener. Attention-grabbing is an important ingredient to any good introduction. This is your chance to set up your message and engage with your audience, but it’s not the only key to a good and impactful introduction.

There are really three parts to an introduction. First, we want to grab their attention, then we want to explain what it is we’re talking about and why they need to listen to the message. Lastly, you want to draw a personal connection between your audience and the topic.

We do this all the time when we share stories, jokes, video clips, statistics, etc. Anytime we include something like this in our message, the goal is to hit all three elements of the introduction by grabbing their attention, explaining why they need to keep listening, and drawing a connection between them and your message.

Consider these ideas and you’ll be well on your way to crafting an excellent introduction.

After you have set your introduction, you’ll move through each of the bullet points you’ve laid out and explain what each verse and text used in each section means.

This is your way of unpacking each supporting point of your message in a way that resonates with your congregation. At the same time, you can begin to reference applications and help your guests think through how they will apply this teaching to their lives.

Day 3 – Step 2: Illustration

Once you have your introduction set up, you’ll want to add illustrations. We recommend not just adding anything you think is attention grabbing. Avoid the red herrings that will grab the listener’s attention but not connect them to the real message. Look for something that will help people understand the text and the point you are trying to make.

Remember to consider what the end game of your message is. Your illustrations should support that.

This is how you add your personal style to your sermon. Your stories, images, and application of the text is what sets your message apart. The illustrations allow you to incorporate your own styling into how you deliver your sermon and in turn, will have a greater impact on your congregation because it’s coming from you.

Day 3 – Step 3: Conclusion

The last piece of the puzzle for day 3 is writing your conclusion. At this point, it’s important to be clear and concise and you can do this by quickly summarizing the message.

It’s important to be careful not to go back and add in more of what you may have forgotten to say during the sermon.

We find ourselves doing this sometimes with the intention of driving the point home yet again, but ultimately, this does more harm than good and just adds noise to your sermon, making it less clear.

A lack of clarity results in a lack of impact.

It’s also important that you avoid going into detail again, pointing back to your message. Instead, briefly summarize and move to the end goal of your sermon or series.

The conclusion is also where you outline what you want your listeners to do next.

Day 3 can seem like a lot, but once you have the groundwork established, it’s very straightforward and will help you construct your sermon through an efficient and somewhat seamless process.

With this approach to writing your sermon, day 3 allows you to hone in on your own personal style. By this day, you are finished with the outline so you can focus on the details and then move onto polishing the message you’ve been working so hard on.

 

Day 4: Solidify Your Message

Sermon Writing Plan Day 4
Day 4 of Writing a Sermon in 7 Days: Solidify Your Message

This step is all about taking the time you need to really allow the Holy Spirit to work in and through you as you prepare the Word He has given you.

As we talked in the beginning, you don’t want to make a microwave message –– throwing it together at the last minute. The Holy Spirit can work through us at any time, and can work through us as we work through our process.

So let’s use the slow cooker method and really simmer the main ideas. Give yourself time to rest in your message and allow Him to speak into your heart as you wait on Him and process your sermon.

The practice of solidifying your message is about reflecting on the work you’ve done earlier in the week to get you to this point and then working out that content and fine-tuning your words as you polish and start to practice your sermon.

This day should be about confirming and honing in on the details of your message. At this point, your outline is created, you have filled out your message notes in detail, and you’ve parsed out your illustrations and looked at them closely.

Day 4 – Step 1: Analyze Your Sermon Illustrations

Day 4 is when you finish adding illustrations and explanations, but it is important that you take a hard look and analyze the illustrations you have chosen, considering whether or not they support your message properly.

Consider if the images and videos collected are illustrating and explaining what you want to communicate.

Ask yourself these questions:

“Is this really communicating my message effectively?”
“Is the big idea or overall takeaway being clearly visualized through the illustrations I’ve chosen?”
“Could the illustrations and visuals in my message add confusion to my big idea?”

Going through this process will really allow you to finalize the illustrations you choose to utilize for your message and ensure you’ve chosen the best possible supporting elements.

When we look at our sermon in Sermonary, we’re always keeping the big idea of our message in front of us. We do this because we want it to be at the forefront of our minds and ensure it’s supporting our sermon.

Your big idea should guide and direct how you develop the content surrounding your message and that content should continue to support the big idea by always pointing back to it.

Day 4 – Step 2: Trim the Fat From Your Sermon

It’s time to take another hard look at your message. At this point, you want to take an angle of purposefully clarifying your sermon by tightening it up and editing as needed. Really think through where and how you can cut the fat from your message, which will help it be much more effective in the long run.

Consider the following:

  • Is there anything you want to say just to make yourself sound smarter?
  • Is there anything I want to say because I think it is funny, yet doesn’t really reflect the big idea, the text, or sticky statement?
  • What feels unnecessary or redundant?
  • Are there areas that feel wordy or over-communicated?
  • Is the language I’m using easy to understand for the majority of people?

Remember, it is easy to speak for a long time. But it’s hard to be succinct.

So, go through your message, read it thoroughly, and consider what needs to be trimmed down and tightened up to effectively communicate the topic.

Day 4 is simple, yet essential. And when you follow this process, you’ll have a completed and finalized manuscript ready to go for the weekend by Thursday!

The good news about that is you have the entire weekend to really prepare for delivering the sermon. And by this time, you’ll have the framework so narrowed down that the preparation for the delivery process should be much more seamless than ever before.

Next we’ll move into day 5; we can’t wait to dive into one of the final days of your efficient sermon writing plan.

 

 

Day 5: Observe the Sabbath

Sermon Writing Plan Day 5
Day 5 of Writing a Sermon in 7 Days: Observe the Sabbath

Day 5 is Friday and by this point your message should be completely written.

Most pastor’s take a day off sometime during the week. We have added that on Friday, or day five of the sermon planning. This is when you take a break from your message.

We know how hard it is to walk away and actually take a break, but this is essential for your health and well-being.

You may find yourself still thinking about the message and things may come to mind while you rest from the process, but the great thing about taking a scheduled break is you get to rest. And God can do so much in and through your posture of rest.

Try and take advantage of that. Do as much as you can to actually walk away from the work. Be intentional about the time you have with others outside of work –– your spouse, children, friends, When you come back to your message the next day, you will be able to see things in a new light.

Rest has a powerful way of giving us clarity and allowing God to meet us in new ways. Take advantage of this day –– embrace it for all it is and all it will offer you as you mentally, emotionally, and physically prepare for your time on stage when you actually preach the message you’ve been working on all week.

Rest isn’t just important –– it’s essential. It will fill you back up so you can pour out to your congregation on Sunday morning. Take the sabbath seriously and make sure to schedule it into your 7 day sermon series writing plan.

Now that you’ve taken time to rest, it’s time for the final steps of sermon planning just before you deliver your sermon.

 

 

Day 6: Say and Rehearse

Sermon Writing Plan Day 6
Day 6 of Writing a Sermon in 7 Days: Say and Rehearse

Day 6 is so important and something we pastors often miss. Often pastors write their messages, don’t rehearse, and then preach from the stage with it being the first time they’ve said the words out loud

If that’s you, we understand… we’ve all been there. But we want to show you a new way of doing things, and adopting the following practice is going to elevate the way you preach in tremendous ways.

Instead of waiting until Sunday morning to say your message out loud, every pastor should practice their message – out loud – at least once or twice before Sunday morning. You can do this a couple of different ways, either by yourself or in front of a small group of people.

Look at day 6 as the opportunity to preach your message from beginning to end. To practice saying the words out loud, working out the kinks, getting used to the flow and rhythm of your sequencing, and allowing yourself to elevate your preparedness.

The act of saying the words out loud will reveal so many things to you –– ways you can improve your message. On a broader level, it will help you grow into a better communicator.

As you go through the motions of practicing, take notes and tweak your message as needed. Find better ways to say something that maybe doesn’t sound quite right or isn’t as effective when you say it out loud as you thought it would be.

If others are listening, gather their feedback and take into consideration how another person’s perspective offers ideas or opinions from an angle you’ve likely never considered.

A great way to practice is to use the Sermonary app in podium mode and use a countdown limit. This lets you practice your sermon with a timer to see if your sermon fits within the allotted time. The app will tell you just how far under or over the limit your message runs.

By practicing your sermon, you will notice any rough areas that may exist and discover where you can cut down or elaborate on your message.

You don’t even have to be in the office to run through it. Simply take 30-45 minutes wherever you can get away to on Saturday. Then say your message – alone or to a small group – and then tweak it to fit the allotted time.

Working on your message all week alleviates the stress of trying to throw together a message on Saturday and allows you to be fully prepared for when it’s time to preach on Sunday morning.

Now you are ready for your final step in the 7 day sermon writing plan.

 

 

Day 7: Speak the Message

Sermon Writing Plan Day 7
Day 7 of Writing a Sermon in 7 Days: Speak the Message

Day 7 is here and it’s the day you’ve been preparing for all week. It’s time to preach the message you’ve been studying, writing, and practicing all week.

And because you’ve taken the time to study, prepare, practice, and assess, you are now ready to preach. You aren’t cramming to remember your notes or points and you have a solidified and prepared outline that you can pull up easily on the Sermonary app and preach right from the stage using Podium Mode.

Podium Mode is just one of many great features offered by Sermonary to help you write, plan, and preach your message. You can even export your notes from Sermonary into a PowerPoint or ProPresenter presentation!

Simply mark the blocks you want to have on screen, send the presentation to your team, and you’re ready to speak.

Now that you’ve prepped your team and done everything you need to do to deliver a powerful sermon, take a few moments to review your notes and relax into your presentation.

You will find that your messages become more effective because you have taken the time to dig into God’s Word, prayed through your message, and thought about what God wants you to say versus throwing a message together on Saturday evening.

If you haven’t already signed up for Sermonary, click this link to try it now. We think this 7 Day Sermon Writing Plan is a great tool – and you can also download the PDF of this 7 Day Sermon Writing Plan so you can work through the steps on your own.

 

 

Writing Your Weekly Sermon Doesn’t Have to Be a Burden

As fellow pastors, we understand the stress of sermon writing. When you are leading a church, there are lives at stake and the weight of that responsibility doesn’t ever go away.

But you have been called to carry out the work of God by delivering His message of love and hope. It’s easy to get caught up in the details of executing this great calling and lose sight of the call itself, which is why it is so important to set yourself up for success.

The 7 Day Sermon Writing Plan is meant to equip you with necessary resources so that you can fulfill your calling to the best of your ability. We believe it’s important for you to take care of yourself so you can better take care of those God has entrusted to you.

Be encouraged that the work you are doing is kingdom work and it is making a big impact. Don’t lose sight of your calling and get back to feeling inspired to write and prepared to preach every sermon from here on out.