Have you ever thought about how you title a sermon or a sermon series? I’m not talking about brainstorming ideas. I mean, have you thought on a deeper level about why we use sermon titles? I don’t think many pastors have.
Most churches title their sermons in a way that they think sounds cool. For example, here at some real sermon titles that I found today on church websites:
- “Fake News”
OK, now please look at this list and tell me what these sermons are about.
Ready, set, go. Can you do it? I can’t. These sermon titles tell us nothing about the message. But hey, they all have a custom-designed sermon graphic and video bumper that looks really, really cool! We have a problem.
What’s the point of a sermon series title? Is it just to sound cool? Is it just to give direction to awesome graphics for your website and the projector screens? I would argue that the primary goal of creating a series title should be to get people interested in listening to the sermon. Instead of just picking an artistic or trendy word, what if we wrote our sermon titles more like a magazine or website writes a headline.
The goal of a headline is to draw people in to read the article, just as the goal of a sermon title should be to draw people in to listen to the message.
It is the first impression. If it’s good, people will want to see more. If it’s bad, people will move on. I know from experience that a good headline on an article will get more clicks than a bad one. I’ve taken good articles that haven’t performed well, changed only the title, reposted them, and they suddenly succeed.
A good headline is compelling. So instead of just copying what every other big church is doing, trying to be just as cool as them, what if instead we measure the title of a sermon series based on how much it makes people want to listen?
5 WAYS TO WRITE BETTER SERMON TITLES
1. PROMISE A BENEFIT
The headline should communicate a benefit to the audience. What will they gain from listening? What is the benefit from your sermon? For example, the title of this post is “How to Write Sermon Titles People Will Want to Hear.” The benefit of this article is clear. You clicked on it because you wanted to learn how to write sermon titles that people want to hear.
So instead of just calling a sermon series on the book of Proverbs something like “Wisdom,” think about the benefits people will get from listening to your sermon. Maybe instead you could call it “Secrets to Living a Better Life.” That sounds more appealing because it promises that people will learn how to live a better life.
2. MEET A NEED
Meeting a need is like promising a benefit, but it takes it one step further. To meet a need, you must know your audience. You cannot just promise any benefit and think that people will be interested. You have to know the people you are speaking to.
You could promise people that you will teach them how to parse Greek verbs in the original manuscripts in the book of Jude, but most people won’t care because parsing Greek verbs in the book of Jude is not an immediate need.
Unless they are seminary students, there is no tension in their life over whether or not they can parse Greek verbs.
But if you talk about how to find peace in the storms of life, how to get out of debt by managing money God’s way, or how to stop caring about what other people think of you and only care about God’s opinion, you will find an audience that needs to hear it.
Get to know your audience. Find out what they need, and title your series to let them know that it will help them.
3. INSPIRE HOPE
Another way to make a title interesting is to give people hope. Many people spend their week in discouragement. Maybe they don’t like their jobs, their relationships are struggling, they lack a sense of purpose, they feel distant from God, or they’re stuck in a habitual pattern of sin.
Sermon titles that inspires hope are both encouraging and interesting. These titles can be short but powerful, such as “Experience Peace,” or “Discover Your Purpose in Life.” Titles like these may not be the most creative, but they inspire hope in a person that maybe they too can have peace. Maybe they too can find the reason they were put on this earth.
People are desperate for hope and encouragement. Write your titles in a way that lets them know that will find it at your church.
4. TELL A STORY
People love a good story. It’s why movies make big money. Using the title of a sermon series to tell a story can be powerful.
For example, if you are preaching on the life of David, maybe you call it: “David: the boy who killed a giant.” Now that sounds interesting. It’s a story I would want to hear.
Maybe you are preaching series about following Jesus and each week you are highlighting a testimony from a different person in your church. You could call it, “True Story: I found life when I gave it all away.”
When you let people know that you have a compelling story to tell them, they will be more interested than if you just called a series “Warrior,” or “True Story.”
5. BE TRUE
We’ve all clicked on click-bait headlines that promise something big and fail to deliver. You feel like you were tricked. You regret clicking the headline. In the same way, with your sermon titles, you need to make sure that it isn’t just click-bait.
If you make a promise, you need to deliver. The title should not be misleading in any way. A great title on a bad sermon is like frosting on a burnt cake. It looks good, but tastes bad. Make sure what they get is just as good as what’s advertised.
We need to think deeper about why we title sermons in the first place. If our mission is to reach people with the life-changing message of Jesus, then maybe we should title our sermons in a way makes people want to hear what we have to say.
We can still use trendy, one-word titles for our sermons if we want, but we should at least include a subtitle that explains the benefit, meets a need, inspires hope or tells a story, and, above all, is true.
This article originally appeared here.