There are many different scenarios in which the name or title is important. We might base decisions on which books to read, movies to see, or possibly even which restaurant to eat based upon the name. Words can invoke feelings of curiosity, encouragement, or familiarity.
But what about sermon names? Could a sermon title, displayed on the church sign, be enough to make you step inside the church for the first time?
Or, is a sermon title just something that a pastor must come up with so that the church secretary has something to type in the bulletin? Perhaps you find sermon titles to be forgettable or corny.
I’d love to hear YOUR thoughts and experiences!
Can you remember a specific sermon title that really grabbed your attention?
If you are a pastor, what challenges or tips do you have in coming up with titles? Do you spend much time on this portion of preparing your sermon?
That's a good question and an interesting topic. I find that most of the time, a sermon title is something I have to "come up with so that the church secretary has something to type in the bulletin." I have to plan my sermons some months in advance, and it's more than a bit backwards to give a sermon a title before one has studied the text and meditated on its meaning for one's congregation. I often find that the title I came up with doesn't really fit the sermon that I later write and deliver. But I don't have a problem with changing it at the last minute, even if it doesn't match the bulletin. That's just the nature of preaching Sunday to Sunday. There are a few sermons where the title was right on and intriguing, but the majority have just been serviceable. I'm not sure any were alluring enough to bring in someone from the neighborhood on the strength of the title alone.
Interesting question; one I've enjoyed discussing with colleagues in a different setting. I dislike naming sermons. Many times I've been tempted to take a trick from painters and label a sermon "Untitled #4." A colleague refined that by suggesting, "Untitled #7 - from the author's 'blue period'."
However, I know that others appreciate having sermon titles. And I don't just mean the bulletin editor at noon on Fridays! Those who help select songs and those who give the children's message, REALLY like a good sermon title. It gives them some sense of where I'm planning to go with the sermon. Sometimes, as Randy wrote, the Word or Spirit leads the sermon in a different direction than I originally thought. I'm not going to sweat that.
Every once in a while, I hit on a great sermon title. Like any time you find an apt word or phrase, that's a delight.
For me the sermon title is the handle by which the congregation can "carry" home the basic thrust of the message. When I study a text I seek to find the context first, and then I seek to divide the text by its internal structure. After that, I look for "The Big Idea." The Big Idea is a term I borrow from Professor Haddon Robinson's book, Biblical Preaching. The Big Idea is the one single main thought that ties together all the smaller thoughts in the text. From this Big Idea I come up with the title for the sermon. The title may simply be the Big Idea of the text, or a shorter more concise version of the Big Idea. So, I really can't come up with the title until I've done most of the textual study of the passage. For that reason I recommend that pastors stay at least a week ahead of their bulletin deadlines.
Incidentally, when you come up with the Big Idea/Title of the passage well ahead of time, it gives the Praise Team, Worship Coordinator a very good idea where this sermon is heading, so that the worship service is well-coordinated.
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