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How to end your sermon well

This post is part of the series on Preaching for Youth. In my experience, ending a sermon well is almost as hard as finding the right introduction. I’ve seen many a preacher stumble through fifteen minutes of trying to end their sermon, with me cringing in the audience.

As George Sweazy (former preaching professor at Princeton Theological Seminary) once wrote: “The conclusion of the sermon is burdened with two handicaps. The minister prepares it when he is the most tired and the congregation hears it when they are the most tired.”(1)

Considering young people and their somewhat shorter attention span, keeping their attention right till the very end is a challenge. But it can be done. Here’s my advice on how to end your sermon well.

Some sermon ends are like a never ending road...every time you think the speaker is finished, he or she just keeps on going

Prepare your ending

My first advice is crucial: do not forget to prepare the ending of your sermon. Don’t think you’ll be able to ‘wing this’ or that it will go automatically some way once you’re on that stage. Believe me, it won’t. You need to think about your ending as much as about any part of your sermon, because a bad ending can wipe out most of the effect of a good sermon.

We had a speaker once who had delivered a message in a youth service. While his key message was great, it didn’t have the impact it could have had because of his lack of organization and structure. But he really undid any impact when he ended with: “Yeah, I guess that’s it…that’s about what I wanted to say about this. Hope you’ve all listened. Take care.”

Keep it short

When it’s time to end, get to it. How do you know when it’s time to end? When you have said everything you needed to say.  Your sermon should not be any longer than it needs to be to get your message across. That’s another reason why it’s important to prepare the ending, otherwise you’ll be tempted to include all kinds of funny stories, anecdotes, wise clichés and whatnot…and bore your audience to death.

Come full circle

When you prepare a sermon, everything should come together to support your key message. Your introduction and your ending should therefore in some way be connected. You can do that by using the same story or quote in both introduction and end, or by coming back to something you started out with. Either way, how you end has to be connected to the introduction and the body of your sermon. In a next post in this series I’ll share some powerful ways to end your sermon and come full circle.

Don’t summarize

This is the number one mistake I think, preachers who feel the need to summarize their whole sermon at the end…and then drag on for another fifteen minutes. If the students didn’t understand you or hear you the first time, they’re really not going to listen to you now. Don’t summarize, it’s absolutely pointless. Okay, the only way a summary works is when you summarize the points you’ve made…in one sentence. Anything more than that is repeating yourself, which should be avoided at all costs.

And just to state something obvious: when you end your sermon with prayer (which can be a very powerful way of ending a sermon), don’t include a summary in your prayer either (you know, something like: ‘Lord, you have shown us this morning that….’ and then you state your points again). God has heard every word, so you really don’t need to tell Him what you’ve said and youth recognizes this as a ‘fake’ prayer, trust me.

Avoid ‘fake endings’

Be careful not to signal the end of your sermon before it’s actually there. When you start using words like ‘finally’ or ‘to sum it up’, your audience will conclude the end is near. Don’t cheat them. The same goes with certain quotes, oratorical effects or emotional stories. When preparing your sermon, make sure it’s well-paced, both your words and the accompanying emotions. Otherwise you will build toward a ‘climax’ too soon and people will feel cheated when you actually need another twenty minutes after that.

Do you find it hard to end your sermons well? How do you usually end?
(1) George Sweazy: Preaching the good news (Englewood Cliffs, N.J. 1976, p 100)
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0 thoughts on “How to end your sermon well

  1. Sometimes I nail the ending, but too sometimes I just coast down that endless road. It’s the difference between hitting a homerun and a 400 foot foul ball. I definitely want to improve. Thanks for the input.

    1. You’re very welcome Seth…and I know what you mean. Even though I always prepare my ending well, I still find myself struggling every now and then to actually get there…The urge to keep talking is sometimes simply too strong 🙂

  2. […] Always prepare for your sermons. Know your audience, know your central message, know your ending. Personally, I still write all my sermons out, because it helps me to think about beginnings, […]

  3. […] a personal story of about a minute. Then go straight for the key message and close off with an ending of about one or two minutes. You may be tempted especially to skip the opening, but you’ll need […]

  4. Well i can agree but the way i look at it ia the lord will fill me up and end me when he done i dont right my messages i go by what the lord allows me to say you have to obey the lord and not a sheet of paper that you wrote or typed not sayong its wrong tp right notes but your message should always come from God himself

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