How to Create A Sermon

Tony Myles —  November 25, 2013 — 2 Comments

sermonA pastor was working on his weekly sermon one day while his son watched.

“Dad,” the boy asked, “how do you know what to say every week?”

“God tells me,” he answered, writing some more thoughts on his sketch pad.

The boy watched for a few minutes more and asked, “Are you sure it’s God?”

“Absolutely,” the dad replied.

Finally, the boy asked what he’d been wondering the whole time. “Then why do you keep crossing things out?”

I’m curious… how do you go about creating your messages?

I approach my process differently every time, but I did write down some common things I tend to do. Here are the first five:

  • Write down the themes of the past sermons your congregation has heard over the past 6 to 12 months. List the strengths and weaknesses of each message to determine how the people received or rejected what was shared. Pray and seek discernment regarding how your congregation needs to most be challenged by your next sermon in order to grow spiritually.
  • Expose yourself to an assortment of books, magazine articles, videos and other media that offer a variety of perspectives on your potential sermon theme. Evaluate the materials for insights and illustrations, then use a word processor to type and save what you’ve identified as relevant to your sermon.
  • Search the Bible for stories and verses that speak to your sermon theme. Use resources like to type in keywords in a variety of translations, then save the most relevant results in your file.
  • Dialogue with trusted members of the congregation or church leadership about the direction of your sermon. Ask for their input and any stories from their lives that may complement what you will be preaching on. Interact with other people you regularly encounter in your week, asking what their thoughts and questions are on the theme you’re exploring.
  • Write down a list of any thoughts or questions you have from all of your research. Refer to this list as you read the Bible passages you’ve previously identified while looking for the specific texts that you are most drawn to for your sermon. Deepen your understanding of these passages through the commentaries, word studies, maps and historical background provided for on Pray that God will help you understand His truth before you share it with others.

There are a number of other things I do after that, including how I approach actually writing out my sermon. (You can read the rest of the article here.)

What does your process look like? What’s working for you, and what could you do differently?

The Thread Of Your Message

Chuck Bomar —  November 8, 2013 — 3 Comments

Screen shot 2013-11-07 at 1.35.00 PMWhen I teach at Colossae, I use something I call a “Thread.”

The thread is the main point of the passage we are teaching, boiled down into a phrase or a very short sentence. On a fantastic week, if we’re honest about it, people will (maybe) embrace 1 thing they heard us say in our message. So, my thought is…why not make the entire message about the one thing you want them to walk away with?

That’s where the “thread” comes in. I really wrestle with the wording with our staff.  It can take up to an hour sometimes. But it’s really important to make sure we are clearly articulating the biblical authors’ point.  We want to word the writers point in a fresh, boiled down and consumable way – but certainly in an accurate way.

Then, as I prepare my notes, I make sure everything I say somehow points people toward understanding and embracing the thread.

  • If I share information about the historical background of the passage, I want to only share that info that would help people wrap their minds around the thread.
  • If I want to unpack the meaning of a specific word or grammar of a sentence, I want to only unpack the that which will be beneficial for people to to better understand the thread.

There is a phrase that people sometimes use that goes something like this: If you can’t say it in a sentence, you can’t say it in 30 minutes.

I believe that. It keeps the message simple, but not shallow. It keeps the message clear, but you can dive into the depth of it.

Do you use a “thread” or something that helps you keep your messages clear and on point?

Tell me your thoughts!



When I was 16 years old, I had my first opportunity to preach in a church service. I was nervous as could be. I could feel my heart pounding in my chest. For some strange reason, my youth pastor felt it was worthwhile to put me in front of an auditorium full of people and be the main speaker for “Youth Sunday.” The rest, as they say, is history.

Equipping our students to become preachers of the Word not only impacts their future in ministry, but can be a great encouragement to their peers, the youth group and the church as a whole. Most of Jesus’ disciples were teenagers. He believed they could do the work of ministry, so should we.

How do we go about equipping our students to do this facet of the work of ministry?

1. Look for those who may have a calling to full-time ministry.
Guard against just investing in the popular students or those who are in student government at school. Passion for Jesus trumps popularity every time. Plus, you would be surprised how many “diamonds in the rough” are in your church waiting to be discovered. I happened to be the geeky-nerd-hyperactive kid. Pray and ask God to open your eyes to see those students whom you could potentially invite to preach.

2. Invest in them relationally.
Before you just throw them behind a pulpit, spend some time letting them see your heart and passion for Jesus and helping them continue to grow in theirs. Maybe lead a small group Bible study with all the “potential candidates.”

3. Stick with them during each step of the preparation process.
As the student begins to prepare a message to share with your youth group or church, be sure to stay along side them through each step of the process ( This is a crucial part of their equipping. The last thing you want to do is just throw them in the deep end and see if they can swim.

4. Celebrate with them after their message.
Take the time afterward to not only review how they did, but celebrate what God did through them. Students typically need extra affirmation and encouragement – especially after getting up in front of people and communicating the Word of God.

As with any mentoring and equipping that you do with students, remember the age-old equipping process:

  1. I preach.
  2. I preach with you watching the process.
  3. You preach with me alongside you in the process.
  4. You preach.
  5. You equip someone else to preach.

PRACTICAL TIP:  Attempt to schedule having your students take the lead in speaking/teaching/preaching in your youth group or church at least one series per calendar year. This could be in the form of a “Youth Sunday” or a “You Own the Weekend” series annually.

Matt Maiberger has been involved in full-time student ministry for over 16 years. He and his family are currently in the process of moving to Fort Collins, CO where he will become the Associate Pastor of Life Church. Matt is also the founder of Youth Speaker’s Coach committed to the resourcing of youth pastors, youth workers, and youth speakers to help them become better communicators for the post-modern students represented in youth ministries today.

What I love about youth ministry is how you can get away with some things that you could never do in adult worship.  When you fail or mess up teens will be a little more forgiving especially if they see that you are trying.  While youth ministry has it’s uniqueness it has it’s dangers if it is totally isolated from the movement of the adult congregation.  If not connected to the flow and movement of adult ministry and worship it can be an obstacle to the entire church.  One of our responsibilities as youth ministers is to make sure that we are IN UNISON WITH “BIG CHURCH”.

The reason you need to build synergy between teens and adults is because it:

  • Encourages Conversation Between Parent’s and Kids
  • Enables Outside The Box Thinking
  • Equips a Vibrant Generation to Take Ownership

When the church is in unison it becomes a movement and it’s relevancy increases.  Unfortunately, there are road blocks that stand in the way that will cause friction.  To remove that friction and synergy between youth and adults you need to:

Make Your Relationship With Leadership A Priority: Not always the easiest thing to do; however, it has the biggest payoff.  When you can communicate to the pastor your needs and your situation he can serve as an advocate on your behalf.  If this is something that’s impossible you might need to reconsider where you are working. (Click here to learn more on leading up)

Preach On Similar Topics: If you can be ONE CHURCH ONE MESSAGE then you give families a common ground for their conversations.  While it’s not always appropriate to talk about the exact same topics as the adults you can pull from similar themes and readings.  If your church teaches in message series consider following along.  Fuel the conversation at home.

Encourage Teens To Serve Alongside Adults: Building intergenerational relationships are essential in building your capacity as a leader.  When you empower teens to serve alongside of adults you give them role models in faith.  It gives the teens an opportunity to be influenced and encouraged by an adult who sees the importance of serving the Lord.

While there is power and benefit to creating unique opportunities for teenagers, it’s important not to lose sight of how they are connected to the local church.  Work on the relationships you have with coworkers, invest yourself in what the adult ministry is doing and strive to be one church of many generations.

How do you work to be in unison with “Big Church”?

Chris Wesley (@chrisrwesley)

For the better part of 2012, I met on and off with 3 other youth pastors to plan a huge New Year’s Eve party for the teens in our area. All of our ministries are mostly relational and relatively low “flash”, but we wanted to pull all the stops out on this one. Live DJ. Giveaways. The band ‘We As Human’ in concert. Midnight balloon drop. The works. I can’t tell you how many times I cast the vision to others in the community: “We want to start of 2013 focused on Christ”, “No one else is doing anything like this around here”, or even “I know where I was on New Year’s Eve when I was 17 and I don’t want our teens there either!”


Overall, the consensus among everyone involved was that it was a rousing success. Some things turned out better than expected and some worse…BUT, one thing stuck out to me as the defining moment of the night. And it wasn’t the band, DJ, or even the moment the clock struck twelve. After the band finished, I took about 5 minutes and shared the Gospel. I knew many of the kids there were saved and members of the various youth groups in attendance, but we always felt that this was a perfect time to share Christ with someone who may never set foot in our churches otherwise.


The next day, as I was sifting through the response cards, I found one in particular from a girl who had earlier sought me out to tell me she accepted Christ that night. This is what the card said:

Her simple response totally re-calibrated how I evaluated that night. Even though I fought it the whole way, near the end I got lost in the logistics of throwing a bash like this and was rating it’s success on technical execution and attendance. As I reread her words, I felt God whisper a reminder into my gut: Our first priority is sharing the love of Jesus as effectively as we know how. Quite frankly, the rest can be swept up with the streamers.
Ben Suggs is the Minister to Teens at Freedom Family Church in Liberty, NC and you can follow him on Twitter here

I hear it all the time.

“Keep your message short” - “Teenagers only have a 15-minute attention span” - “Attention spans are shorter than they used to be”

Have you ever heard similar advice?

I’m going to go ahead and call bull. I’m not saying that getting the attention of an ADHD junior high kid isn’t difficult. But I have made a few observations over the years. Teenagers will sit easily for at least an hour to watch their favorite TV show. They will listen intently to a stand up comedian for an hour. They will sit for 2 or 3 hours to watch a new movie. They have even been known to play the same video game for 3 hours or more on end.

I don’t buy the short attention span myth.

Think about it. TV show are actually getting longer! Most prime-time shows are now an hour long. Big season premieres and finales may even run up to two hours.

Here is the point: We don’t have to preach shorter; we have to preach better. The bar has been raised. Their standards are high, because they are surrounded by high quality entertainment 24/7. They can spot boring quick. We have to be more engaging.

Tell stories (Jesus did). Use humor. Ask questions. Draw them in.Don’t sell out. Don’t think you have to just play a lot of games and sneak in a quick surface-level message before they notice.The short attention span myth is a cop-out for putting in the hard work to creating messages that resonate with students and create a lasting impression.

Now, don’t go overboard. They don’t need to hear you ramble for over an hour on the sacrificial system of the old covenant. But don’t sell yourself short. There is power in the preaching of God’s Word.

Engage your students. Get excited about the message. Make the Bible come alive for them. Keep working. Keep improving. Don’t give up!

Put in the work and you just might be surprised how long they will listen.

Brandon Hilgemann has been working in Youth Ministry for years in churches across the country from church plants to megachurches. He has been on a personal mission for the last 9 years to become the best speaker he can be. For more of his thoughts on preaching, check out his website right here.


I really like learning things, but NOT learning them the hard way and this is something that I have learned the hard way through my own actions and from the challenges it has brought up with some of our students. We have all been there, preaching to our students about something we are passionate about, something we know that many students are struggling with, you’re feeling it and take it off script and then…. It happens……

You throw down a absolute / blanket statement. You might not have noticed it happened, it might have been a throw away comment but the students heard it and they are thinking about it, reflecting on it and deciding if its true.

This is such a dangerous move; even if by accident, because when we say it, our students are going to assume its true and may act accordingly. A great example is a student named Mike that was in my small group for several years. He was solid, growing in his faith, making great choices, loving Jesus and didn’t struggle with much. We took our youth group to a local youth conference and the main session speaker came out with this uppercut:

“ I know that ALL of you guys are struggling with looking at pornography”

Fact: Mike had never been tempted by pornography in his life……. Until he heard that everyone was.

I have made absolute statements about guys and their intentions in dating that were hurtful, and I owned the comment, apologized the next week and wished I had never done it. But it was not fair to the guys and not fair to the girls who trusted that I was telling them the truth, the guys had ill intentions. I know of at least one student who has not come back since that night and that hurts

Absolute statements are rarely true, often hurtful and always dangerous and not worth it. Be careful, your flippant comment can have devastating consequences for the spiritual journey of a student who is trusting that the information you are bringing is true. Don’t learn the hard way like I have.

GS  (Twitter)

My first time preaching was like hanging out with death. I was absolutely scared. After it was all said and done, I preached for about 55 minutes! My original target was 20 minutes. I was all over the place. Not only did I speak FOREVER (I was 17), but I came around my small church and SAT down on the communion table. At the time, the communion table was in the center of the worship center (what we call the Sanctuary in East Tennessee). I walked in front of it and plopped down with legs swinging. I’ll never forget the gasp coming from the congregation that night and nearly killing that one old lady in the back. Ok, I didn’t almostkill anyone, but I might as well have.

As leaders, it’s our job and joy to find future leaders and invest into them. As a pastor, sometimes I’ll have a guy come up to me and explain how he wants to preach a message. What we do next shows how we truly approach discipleship. For me, that was meeting with the youth pastor once and giving him my rough outline. He left the topic up to me. I had no idea what I wanted to preach on much less how write a sermon. Looking back, I believe that he offered the best advice that he could, but I can’t help but think that as pastors we need to be more intentional.

For those students that do approach us, we should give them the opportunity to preach. We cannot stop there–that lets us off the hook.

As intentional leaders, we must search for new preachers/leaders.

More times than not, I will approach a student and ask them to preach. They typically freak out and say no. I’ll then use that opportunity to tell them that I’ve been observing them and believe that God could use them proclaim his goodness. I promise that I’ll be there every step of the way. I won’t leave them alone and they won’t look stupid.

Here is my process for teaching a student how to preach. It’s not the gospel of preaching, but it’s been very effective at training young men to preach.

1. Set up a meeting
Please meet with your student preacher. Nothing says, “I don’t really care about you” than scheduling someone to preach and then communicating everything over email/text. Schedule a time to meet with them. I promise it’ll help them! It’ll also give you an idea of where they are at in the process.

2. Give them a topic
As a kid, I hated selecting topics. How on earth did I know what I was going to preach on? Even though I’ve had students approach me with a topic they want to preach about, I’ll typically tell them no for their first message. Why do I do that? I want to get their agenda out of the way and teach them that preaching is more than about picking a topic you want to rant on. What I find helpful is to pick a topic in advance. I’ll typically pick something that already fits in with our scheduled teaching calendar. This will stretch them because they’ll have to prepare and throw out everything they were wanting to “tell everyone about.” Do them a favor…give them a topic!

3. Help them research
The worst thing that we can do in training potential pastors is give them a topic and then expect them to do all the work. Sit down with your student and teach them how to research. Go over how you prepare for a message and then show them the websites you visit. I useLogos Bible Software, so I’ll typically print a package of material for them on their topic.

4. Give them the opportunity to sketch a rough outline
Allow them to formulate an outline and then go back over that with them. I never give a student, who’s just starting to preach, the option to form the sermon in a vacuum.

5. Meet with them again
At this meeting, you need to see a copy of their message. I would suggest not teaching them to manuscript. From my experience, students who manuscript a message will READ it instead of preach. Have them show you their final outline and write out any statements that they are going to make that are doctrine related or controversial. It’s important for you to “vet” their message.

6. Practice the message
This is the biggest single key in successfully teaching a student how to preach. The Friday before a message, I’ll reserve our student center for the student, me, and our preaching interns. I set the stage, lights, and sound exactly the way it’ll be Sunday morning/night. I want them to see the environment that they’ll be preaching in. I also wire them up with the microphone. I want the student to be as comfortable as possible when they actually preach. I want their minds to be clear of everything except their message. We practice coming up on stage (even bringing their stand up, holding their Bible, reading Scripture, etc), the introduction, the entire message, and the conclusion. It’s our time to break down the message and to see what works. Like I said before, this is when students learn not to read a manuscript, but preach a message.

I also use this time to find their “thing.” I believe that each person has a specific thing that they do. Most of the time, we’re not aware of it. Practicing the message in a “live” format always reveals the quirk. I’ve had students who drag one leg while walking, jump up and down as their preach, speak in the “preacher voice,” have Ricky Bobby hands, etc. I don’t make fun of them, but I will reenact what they are doing to show them. Sometimes I’ll even record their quirk on my iPhone and then play the message. Doing all of this keeps them from looking like a newb. I promise, they’ll love you for this. Do everything in love.

7. Pray. Pray. Pray with them!
Lay hands on them. Pray with them.

8. Take a picture for memory
Mom and dad will want a memory so take a good “action” shot. I always post it on Facebook so everyone can tell them that they are proud.

9. Schedule a follow-up meeting
It’s easy to forget this last step, but it’s important to their learning process. Go over ways they can communicate better, use hand gestures better, etc. Whatever you do… encourage them!

By the age of 30, Nick has served as a missionary, creative arts director, student pastor, graphic design, and photographer. I’m married to an amazing woman and have one daughter. I’ve never looked back since my first mac and am a closet Star Trek fan. He regularly blogs at