How To Write A Sermon Outline [Ultimate Guide + Examples]

Feeling overwhelmed by the prospect of writing your first sermon? A well-structured outline is your secret weapon.

Here is how to write a sermon outline:

  1. Choose your topic and scripture.
  2. Craft a compelling introduction.
  3. Develop your main points.
  4. Add supporting illustrations.
  5. Craft your transitions.
  6. Write a powerful conclusion.
  7. Refine and revising your outline.

In this ultimate guide, we’ll break down the key steps and explore different outline styles, empowering you to deliver impactful messages your audience will remember.

So, grab your pen and paper, and let’s dive in.

What Is a Sermon Outline?

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Think of a sermon outline as your roadmap to a captivating message.

It’s a structured overview of your key points, transitions, and supporting elements, ensuring clarity and flow.

Just like a building needs an architect’s blueprint, your sermon thrives with the foundation of a solid outline.

But there are more than one type of sermon outline (in fact, there are at least 10).

10 Types of Sermon Outlines to Explore

There are many different types of sermon outlines.

Let’s look at 10 of the most common kind of outlines for sermons:

  1. Three-Point Outline: The classic choice, offering clear structure with three main points and supporting sub-points.
  2. Narrative Outline: Weaves a story-like structure, engaging the audience and connecting with their emotions.
  3. Topical Outline: Explores different aspects of a single theme, providing a comprehensive understanding.
  4. Problem-Solution Outline: Presents a challenge, then offers practical steps for overcoming it.
  5. Chronological Outline: Guides the audience through a series of events in historical or logical order.
  6. Question-and-Answer Outline: Starts with engaging questions, then provides insightful answers and solutions.
  7. Illustration-Driven Outline: Employs powerful stories, analogies, and examples to reinforce your message.
  8. Quotation-Based Outline: Leverages impactful quotes from scripture, literature, or historical figures.
  9. Testimony-Infused Outline: Shares your personal experiences to connect with the audience on a deeper level.
  10. 1Combination Outline: Blends elements from various styles to create a unique and dynamic structure.

Remember, the “right” outline depends on your message, audience, and preaching style. Experiment and find what resonates with you!

Step-by-Step Guide to Writing Your Sermon Outline

Now, let’s go step-by-step through how to write a sermon outline.

I’ve used this approach many times over the years. I hope you find it helpful in your sermon prep.

1. Choose Your Topic and Scripture

Start by identifying the core message you want to convey.

Is it a specific scripture passage, a current event, or a theme relevant to your congregation? Once you have your topic, select scripture verses that support and enrich your message.

2. Craft a Compelling Introduction

Your introduction sets the tone and captures the audience’s attention.

Start with a thought-provoking question, a relevant anecdote, or a surprising statistic. Briefly introduce your topic and highlight its significance for your listeners.

3. Develop Your Main Points

The heart of your sermon lies in its main points.

Aim for 2-3 key ideas that are clear, concise, and directly related to your topic. Each point should support your overarching message and build upon one another.

4. Add Supporting Illustrations

Now it’s time to bring your points to life.

Use engaging stories, personal anecdotes, historical examples, or relevant quotes to illustrate and reinforce your message. Make sure your illustrations are relatable and resonate with your audience.

5. Craft Your Transitions

Smooth transitions are crucial for a cohesive flow.

Use transition words like “furthermore,” “however,” or “in conclusion” to guide your audience from one point to the next. Ensure logical progression and maintain clear connections between your ideas.

6. Write a Powerful Conclusion

Leave a lasting impression with a strong conclusion.

Summarize your main points, reiterate your central message, and offer a call to action. Challenge your audience to reflect, apply what they learned, or take a specific step forward.

7. Refine and Revise

Take a step back and review your outline objectively.

Does it flow smoothly? Are your points clear and well-supported? Make necessary adjustments, tighten up your language, and ensure your message resonates with your intended audience.

8. Remember

There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to sermon outlines.

Adapt these steps to your unique style, message, and preaching preferences. Don’t be afraid to experiment and find what works best for you!

Ready to put theory into practice? Let’s explore specific examples and resources to help you craft your unforgettable sermon!

Examples of How to Write Sermon Outlines

Here are three examples for how to write sermon outlines.

Example 1: Three-Point Outline (Topical – Forgiveness)

Introduction: Share a relatable story about a personal experience with forgiveness or the challenges of letting go.

Main Points:

  1. The Power of Forgiveness: Explore the scriptural basis for forgiveness and its transformative power on individuals and relationships. Use quotes from Jesus or other figures.
  2. Overcoming Obstacles to Forgiveness: Address common hurdles like anger, resentment, and lack of trust. Offer practical steps and biblical guidance for overcoming these barriers.
  3. Extending and Receiving Forgiveness: Emphasize the importance of both offering and receiving forgiveness. Share stories of reconciliation and the positive impact it can have on our lives.

Conclusion: End with a call to action encouraging the audience to practice forgiveness in their own lives, offering a prayer or closing thought for reflection.


  • Books: “Radical Forgiveness” by Desmond Tutu, “Forgive for Good” by Fred Luskin
  • Websites: Bible study guides on forgiveness, articles on reconciliation and healing

Example 2: Narrative Outline (Chronological – The Prodigal Son)

Introduction: Briefly introduce the parable of the Prodigal Son, highlighting its relevance to modern audiences.


  • Tell the parable in your own words, weaving in emotions and imagery to engage the audience.
  • Discuss the motivations of the son, the father’s response, and the impact on both characters.
  • Use storytelling techniques like dialogue, character description, and figurative language to bring the parable to life.


  • Draw parallels between the parable and everyday situations of choices, consequences, and redemption.
  • Offer insights into themes like forgiveness, love, and reconciliation.
  • Encourage the audience to reflect on their own journeys and relationships with God and others.

Conclusion: Conclude with a call to action based on the lessons learned, challenging the audience to examine their own actions and seek forgiveness or reconciliation where needed.


  • Books: Commentaries on the parable, devotional readings, contemporary retellings
  • Websites: Sermons and articles analyzing the parable’s meaning and application

Remember, these are just starting points! Feel free to adapt and personalize the outlines to fit your unique message and style.

How to Write a Sermon Outline in 1 Hour

Feeling the time crunch for your next sermon? No worries!

Here’s your secret weapon: crafting a solid outline in just 60 minutes.

Time-Saving Tips:

  1. Focus on Core Message: Don’t get lost in the weeds. Identify your central theme early and tailor your outline around it.
  2. Leverage Existing Resources: Utilize commentaries, study guides, or even past sermons on similar topics to jumpstart your research and outline points.
  3. Prioritize and Streamline: Choose 2-3 main points for maximum impact and avoid overloading your audience with details.
  4. Repurpose Existing Content: If this sermon belongs to a series, consider incorporating key points or illustrations from previous messages to create continuity.
  5. Embrace Quick Wins: Use bullet points, keywords, and simple transitions to capture your ideas swiftly. Don’t worry about full sentences at this stage.

Remember: This is a condensed outline, not a full script. Leave room for improvisation and personal flourishes during your delivery.

How to Write a Sermon Outline for a Sermon Series

Planning a cohesive sermon series requires extra attention to your outlines.

Here’s how to ensure each message builds upon the others:

Series-Wide Vision

  1. Define Your Overall Theme: What overarching message do you want to convey across the series? This will guide your individual sermon topics and ensure thematic coherence.
  2. Plan the Narrative Arc: Consider how each sermon contributes to the overall story you’re weaving. Does it introduce a new concept, expand on a previous one, or offer a culminating conclusion?
  3. Connect the Dots: Ensure a clear progression between sermons. Use consistent terminology, reference previous messages, and foreshadow upcoming topics to create a unified listening experience.

Crafting Individual Outlines

  1. Align with Series Theme: Each sermon should support the overarching message while offering its own unique contribution.
  2. Maintain Continuity: Refer back to key points from previous sermons, building upon the knowledge base your audience is developing.
  3. Anticipate Future Connections: Briefly tease upcoming topics or tie current points to future messages to pique interest and maintain engagement.

How to Get Better at Writing Sermon Outlines

Here are some tips to help you enhance your ability to craft compelling sermon outlines:

  1. Understand Your Audience: Knowing your congregation’s needs, interests, and challenges allows you to tailor your messages in a way that speaks directly to them. Consider their age, cultural background, and spiritual maturity when choosing your topics and illustrations.
  2. Start with a Clear Objective: Every sermon should have a clear goal. What do you want your audience to know, feel, or do as a result of your sermon? Having a defined objective guides your research and helps you stay focused on the main message.
  3. Structure Your Sermon: A well-structured outline is crucial for clarity and flow. Begin with an introduction that grabs attention; follow with a body that breaks down your main points, supported by scriptures, illustrations, and personal stories; and conclude with a practical application and call to action.
  4. Use a Theme or Series: Developing a theme or sermon series can provide continuity and depth to your messages. It allows you to explore a topic comprehensively over several weeks, giving your congregation time to absorb and reflect on the teachings.
  5. Practice and Feedback: Writing great sermon outlines is a skill that improves with practice. Seek feedback from trusted mentors or peers, and be open to constructive criticism. Revisiting and revising your outlines based on feedback can significantly improve your writing over time.

Before you go, check out this video that will help you write and use a simple sermon outline:

YoutTube Video by Evan Doyle Thinks – How to Write a Sermon Outline

Final Thoughts: How To Write A Sermon Outline

Don’t let writer’s block hold you back.

With this guide and your own unique spark, you’re ready to ignite hearts and minds with messages that inspire and uplift.

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