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10 ways to make your sermon more memorable

“Doing something” with new information helps people remember better. Discover 10 ways to preach more memorable sermons by inviting action and staying confident in the gospel.
by Madeline Burbank | September 9, 2019

We remember things better when we do something with new information and important messages, which resonates with our Christian identity, living out the gospel. Engaging action, preparing with confidence, and keeping the gospel as a foundation will bolster your sermons as memorable and enjoyable experiences, more than words.

Such experiences will be finely polished at this year’s Craft of Preaching Conference, October 7-9 in St. Paul. You can find more info here and woven into these “10 ways to make your sermon more memorable.”

#1· Hold on to your hertzpunkt 

German for “Heart-Point,’ the word hertzpunkt was used by Martin Luther to describe the kernel of the gospel. Liturgy Editor-in-Chief Melinda Quivik is offering a Craft of Preaching workshop on the topic, ready to help you find the grounding image that brings together the Sunday texts, and tie them all together.

#2· Go ahead and register for the Craft of Preaching conference

Everything on this list will be an opportunity at the conference, and you can join the fun October 7-9 after you get more info and register online.

#3· Hone your sense of timing

French composer Claude Debussy noted that music is not in the notes themselves, but the space between. Whether eight minutes or eighty, go beyond monitoring the length of your sermon and familiarize yourself with when you pause, stretch words out, or deliver them in rapid fire to correlate with tension in the story. The space between words makes room for music, room for relationships and memories to be made.

#4· Get feedback from peers

Anyone can have preaching expertise, but average audience members’ feedback typically pivots between bland encouragement (lacking analysis) and biting critique (lacking constructive support). Clergy, lay preachers, and other peers who are deep in the preaching game will be more familiar with sermon analysis, eager to uplift each other in mutual learning and respect. Get vulnerable, and open that door to peer support, echoing the Holy Spirit.

#5· Model mindfulness for others

Practices of Non-Violent Communication and mindfulness can enliven your sermon when people feel numb to the volatility of the world. Learn to demonstrate a prophetic presence, and how observing emotions and describing feelings builds rapport when specific positions divide. Consider “Mindful Preaching in Volatile Times,” presented by Rev. Dr. Theresa F. Latini at Craft of Preaching.

#6· Make it a full sensory experience

Cool baptismal waters trickling over open hands. The rushing sound of air as the entire congregation breathes out their troubles in unison. A scene from scripture painted in-time with the sermon, both visual and performance art. With so many senses to engage, sharpen your focus with tips from Luther Seminary Pastor Rev. Jeni Grangaard, “Preaching Through the Senses,” at the conference.

#7· Be confident in the apocalypse

You might find yourself “in the apocalypse” while you’re in the pulpit, whether preaching on the topic or in a localized moment of revelation, the uncovering of things not previously known. Familiarizing yourself with biblical genres will help you be more confident. It is also memorable to witness someone navigate the unknown, comfortable not knowing, inviting the audience to wonder together. As you gather resources, check out the Craft of Preaching conference and Dr. Michael Chan’s “Pulling Back the Veil” workshop, which can help you build your confidence with the finer points of difficult-to-interpret apocalyptic texts.

#8· Engage lectio divina

The traditional steps of lectio divina (read, meditate, pray, contemplate) can be endlessly riffed on and expanded. Solitary practice, group text study, lectio divina accompanied by movie night, inviting vocal reflection on scripture during worship; whether you engage the practice as preparation or part of the main event, experiment with how it stirs inspiration and memory.

#9· Embrace foolishness

The wordplay in scripture is so ripe, it’s pungent. Utilizing the Bible’s humor and permission for mistakes, echoing the laughter Jesus shared with his friends, embodying Ruth’s willingness to be bold and disrupt propriety; there is so much to be gained when embracing the possibility of foolishness with humility. Try character voices, move around on stage, tell personal stories; there are so many ways to be memorable in moments of vulnerability and experimentation once you let go of the idea of “getting it right.”

#10· Challenge yourself with new styles

Making an effort to embrace foolishness invites the courage to try new styles. Getting feedback from peers, and experiencing their sermons in return, will give you fresh ideas. And as our Craft of Preaching featured preaching experts (Karoline Lewis, Joy Moore, Shauna Hanna, & Matthew Skinner) can attest, sometimes a Masterclass can grease the wheels as you fine-tune your craft of preaching.

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