Wednesday, April 7, 2010

The Art of the Ten-Minute Sermon

Since my motto is “Brevity is a virtue” I’ll spare you my long, well-reasoned spiel on why short sermons are better than long ones.

Here are the Highlights:

1. People have short attention spans and are more likely to take something from a short sermon away with them, and think about it even after they’re out of church

2. You have a better chance of enticing visitors to your church to come back a second time if you don’t bore them to death the first time.

The Art of the Ten-Minute Sermon (Part 2)

I notice certain common practices among preachers. They include:

1. Give at least 3 examples that illustrate the point you’re about to make, and/or
2. Repeat a catchphrase throughout the sermon, to drive the point home

The problem with giving 3 examples is that, if the examples are long, they drag out the sermon. And people think (at least I do), “OK, got it the first time.”

And the repeated catchphrase makes the pastor work too hard to work it into the sermon repeatedly, and the sermon sounds like a campaign speech and not spiritual guidance.

I heard two different sermons about the same topic. One took 5 minutes, was short and sincere, and I remember it 10 years later. The other employed an oft-repeated catchphrase, lasted 25 minutes, and made me think, “He could have said all this in 5 minutes!”

This Easter, a pastor at yet another church, under the pressure of impressing the twice-a-year attendees, gave a stagy, structured Easter sermon, repeating a catchphrase throughout. (Some day I’m going to take on a new career as Sermon Teacher at seminaries, because they clearly need a new playbook.) Anyway, I forget what it was about.

So on the way home, I gave my daughter a super-short sermon. I said, “Easter is a celebration of how Jesus died and rose again to take away our sins. So I think we should use it as a kind of New Year’s Day, to remind us of His teachings, and strengthen our resolutions to try and put His teachings into practice.”

She remembers it.

The Art of the Ten-Minute Sermon (Part 3)

Here is one (one!) example of a short sermon:

“Christianity is easier in theory than in practice. For instance, we all love one another (of course!), but we don’t want to slide over and make room in the pew.”

Think about that for while.

(I know it sounds like something Garrison Keillor might have said, but it's one I thought up and used myself.)

The Art of the Ten-Minute Sermon (Part 4)

If you really want tips on short but effective sermon-writing (and you should!) track down Pastor Charles S. Mueller, Sr., formerly of Trinity Lutheran Church in Roselle, Illinois. The man had it down to a science. Short, memorable, relevant, spiritual…He could pack it all into ten (or twelve) minutes.

No comments: