Summary: How to begin a sermon well.
How often have we heard a preacher start a sermon with a long and complicated story or a boring series of irrelevant jokes that made us wonder where the sermon was going? It happens! How can we avoid making the same mistake and week after week deliver consistently good introductions?
This lesson will encourage us to start our sermons well.
This lesson proposes to persuade us as to the importance of introductions, how to prepare excellent introductions, principles of good introductions, finding ideas, when to prepare the introduction, how to change an introduction on the spot when necessary and gives an example sermon outline.
Why are Intros Important?
An introduction is the opportunity to grab people's attention for what we are about to say. It can be like a verbal lasso, an appetizer, a teaser and an advertisement for what's next. It should build anticipation and eagerness for what we have to say. It should answer the question, "Why should anyone bother listening?" It gives parents time to settle their kids down and focus on what we have to say. It gives sleepy, overworked farmers, corporate executives and mothers a reason to try and stay awake. It gives switched off teenagers and non-member spouses a reason to turn off their phones and listen up. If we don't catch people during our introduction, we may have lost them for the entire sermon.
How do We Prepare?
A good introduction is like everything else in sermon preparation, prepared ahead of time. However, there is the an exception, where we may have to change our prepared introduction so as to be a bridge between last minute events and the sermon we had prepared. Examples of last minute events may be news of a death of someone in the church, a blessed event such as a baby being born, news of a major world event, something that was said by a speaker before the sermon and so on.
What are Principles of Good Intros?
Good introductions can be mastered if a few simple rules are followed. However, just like many things in life, the rules are simple but it takes a lifetime to master.
A good introduction is like a verbal lasso, grabbing attention, compelling people to want to hear more.
The introduction must relate to the topic. Don’t tell a favorite joke and then speak about a totally unrelated topic. Save the good joke for the relevant sermon.
Use one thought. The introduction must be simple and focused. Don’t give a scatterbrained smorgasbord to launch a presentation.
Don’t exaggerate or promise more than the sermon will deliver. Sensationalism and pretense cheapen a sermon, making it more like a circus side show than an honest presentation.
Don’t use the same kind of predictable introduction each week.
Don’t use long and tiresome introductions.
Carefully prepare the introduction. Put a lot of thought into it, but be ready to change it if on the day of the sermon, circumstances dictate.
Where do We Find Ideas?
Ideas don't come easy to everyone. Some preachers keep a special idea file for newspaper clippings, witty sayings, jokes, stories and are constantly on the look out for ideas for future use. The following are some sources for ideas for introductions.
The text may contain a thread of an idea. Be relevant to the text.
Be pertinent to the theme. Don’t discuss one topic in the introduction when the body contains another.
Connect to the season or reason for the meeting.
The introduction must be applicable to any problem addressed in the sermon.
Our introduction must be relevant to the purpose for the sermon.
If a related news item is relevant, it may be fitting.
If the text is part of a bigger context, make the introduction relevant to the story behind the text.
Tell a striking statement
Don’t exaggerate or be silly. Be factual in any stunning introduction.
Be innovative but neither heretical nor offensive.
When do We Prepare the Intro?
In time order, the intro is usually the last thing we prepare, but we ought to spend enough time on it to make it an attention-grabbing intro.
Preparing the outro before the intro, helps us connect the two together. For instance, it is no good promising solutions to marriage problems in the intro and then telling us to remember the poor in the outro. We need to end up where we agreed to go in the intro.
Last minute intros are sometimes necessary. We may be able to save parts of our original intro or use it completely at another time. If last minute events necessitate a change of intro, use imagination. How can we make a bridge between the event and the sermon topic? Don't make it contrived. If there is no natural bridge, just mention the event in the first sentence or so, and then move on to the prepared intro. However, if we can find a natural bridge, so much the better.