Don’t short change the conclusion

One element of sermon preparation that tends to get less attention than it deserves is the conclusion. One preacher said, “My sermons are like chickens with their heads cut off – once you think the sermon is done, it just jumps back up and runs in another direction!”

A couple of suggestions to avoid short-changing the sermon:

1 – Write a rough conclusion early. Obviously, you have to study the passage and start work on the sermon before you can write any conclusion. However, once you are considering the purpose of the sermon, write a rough conclusion to reflect that purpose. This will help your sermon preparation, as you will know where you are heading. This will also help your conclusion since it will have time to percolate in your heart and mind.

2 – Write your conclusion out in full. I advocate writing a full manuscript, but I don’t always achieve it. The pressures of time and ministry may not allow it. Nevertheless, it is worth writing out the conclusion, and editing it, and reading it aloud, and praying though it. Put in some effort on the specific wording of the conclusion. Give it some good attention, otherwise it is likely to rise up and run some more when it should have been laid to rest!

3 thoughts on “Don’t short change the conclusion

  1. Increasingly, Peter, I’m realising the importance of the conclusion, though I’m sad to say I’ve often ‘ran out of time’ to prepare a decent finale. One thing I’ve been doing recently is trying to memorise both the introduction and conclusion as much as possible. On Sunday night, I was even able to shut my bible and just talk eye ball to eye ball with the congregation, because I had the final thoughts firmly in my head.

  2. Another important component of the sermon. You might be interested in the literature coming from the African American preaching tradition. Some, in that tradition agree totally with you, they would argue, as you did, that you should know how you conclude even before you preach the sermon.

    The conclusion, in that thought, is a celebration of the truth of the gospel that was presented in the sermon. You can see information on this also on my website at this link: http://www.soulpreaching.com/homiletic-term-celebration/.

  3. Having become a regular preacher after a long time as a university lecturer, I found reaching an appropriate conclusion among the hardest aspect of sermon technique in which to become reasonably proficient. Having to conclude sermons made me realize just how often I was able to conclude lectures snappily with a simple ‘I will have to stop there’ or ‘We will carry on with this next time’. But it took me a long time to identify the problem and to cut out over-long, flabby sermon endings groping for a place to finish. I think I have become better now, though not of course perfect.

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