4 Questions for Your Sermon Outline

You have worked in the text, and worked on the message. You have a main idea, and an outline. Now take the opportunity to evaluate the outline.

Remember, the outline is for you, not for the listeners. You are not an educator seeking to transmit an outline to their notes or their memory. You are a preacher and the outline is an overview of your strategy for communicating the biblical idea relevantly to the hearts of your listeners.

Here are four questions to interrogate your outline and strengthen your sermon:

1. Does this message have unity? Considering all the elements – the points or movements – is the whole idea covered, supported and developed? Is the whole biblical text sufficiently covered in the message? Do the points of your message cohere? Is anything missing, or is anything present that doesn’t seem to fit?

2. Does the message order make sense? The elements of your outline should advance in a logical order. Typically, although not always, this will be the order of the text.

3. Do the sections of the outline feel proportional? It is tempting to just look for a rough balance in the number of verses covered by each point, but that is a bit lazy. You really need to know the passage well to answer this question. Do the points of the sermon carry the freight proportional to their relative weight in the passage? And from the listener perspective, will each point feel like an achievable step in the progression of the sermon?

4. Does the sermon progress? Each point should generate forward movement. Listeners don’t feel comfortable circling forever, or going backwards, or standing still. The order has to make sense. The progress has to be felt.

The outline is an important overview of your sermon. Personally I wouldn’t generally suggest it is helpful to give the outline to your listeners, or even to take it with you into the pulpit. However, it is important in your preparation to be able to evaluate the message before you progress to preaching it through.

One thought on “4 Questions for Your Sermon Outline

  1. Interesting perspective Peter. In the first question, you mentioned about having unity and a cohesive flow. One tip I learned during seminary was called, “transitional statements.” In other words, after you make your first point, try to come up with a statement that transitions smoothly from idea to idea. Thanks again for your insight. Blessings to you!

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