Are you looking for sermon illustrations? Most pastors are always looking for new illustrations that preach well.
If you Google sermon illustrations, you will find thousands of them. But, lets be honest, most of these illustrations are crap. They are old, outdated, and probably won’t connect with your audience.
So what is a pastor to do? Well, what if I told you that I could show you how to get access to thousands of the best illustrations for you to preach for absolutely free. Are you interested?
As I wrote about earlier, the best illustrations, connect with both you and your audiences lived experiences. Preacher stories and canned illustrations just don’t work as well as a personal story that your audience can relate to.
The best way to get free sermon illustrations is to pull them from your own life. Yes, I know, life-changing huh?
But seriously, take a long trip down memory lane and write down every memorable experience and story you can possibly think of. This is free, but it does takes a little work.
The best way I have found to do this is through creating a personal illustration mind map. Here is how it works:
THE BIG PICTURE
First, draw a stick figure in the center. This is you. And might I add, you are looking good.
Now, start labeling every different time periods or category from your life that you can think of –childhood, Middle school, High school, college, marriage… you get the idea.
You can go as broad or as detailed as you like. For example, you could say high school or make a category for each grade. I went general for the example, but the more specific you get, the better.
FIND STORIES THAT COULD BE SERMON ILLUSTRATIONS
Do you have all your categories? Great. Now go further in depth under each category. Walk through each time period of your memory and write down anything from your life that comes to mind. Don’t over think it, just write everything that pops into your head.
Be on the lookout for anything that makes a good story – embarrassing moments, defining moments, turning points, regrets, funny stories, and life lessons. Think about sports teams you played on, your first crush, your 2nd grade teacher, the death of a favorite pet, getting grounded, awkward dates, family vacations, dumb decisions, and so on.
Take your time with this. You don’t want to miss anything.
Here is one brief example from my life in middle school:
I went to some really awkward school dances, was cut from the basketball team, had some bullies picking on me, and made many other great memories. This illustration is very general, you will want to go deeper than this if you can. Like I said, the more specific the better.
Congratulations, you now have a list of hundreds if not thousands of stories from your life! But you aren’t done yet.
Get detailed with it. Quickly write down some bullet points from each story of important details you remember. Don’t write the story word for word yet. That would take too long. You can do that when you decide to preach it. Just capture the main points.
For example, I was cut from the basketball team in 7th grade.
It was one of the worst feeling in my life. But I worked hard and made the team in 8th grade. I even started my first game, but when I got the ball I panicked. I threw up a wild half-court shot. The coach benched me for the rest of the year after that. My old high school friends still joke with me about it every time I see them.
Now, before you think you are done, quickly write down every theme that you could preach from this story. This is critically important for helping you easily find these stories later.
For example, I would label my basketball story under regret, failure, perseverance, determination, success, embarrassment, middle school, friends, and sports.
Here is where this can get really fun. You don’t have to do all of this alone. Have you ever sat around with old friends and told stories? A lot of the time they remember things and bring up stories that you haven’t thought about in forever. But as soon as they start talking, all the details come back to you like it happened yesterday.
Use this to your advantage. Get together with a some old friends. Tell them you are gathering stories from your life. Ask them about funny, embarrassing, or life-changing stories they remember from your life together. Write it all down.
But don’t just stop with your friends. Sit down with your wife and stroll down memory lane together. Do the same thing with your parents, sibling, relatives, and co-workers.
An absolutely amazing source is your kids. They will remember all sorts of hilarious things that you have done, messy parenting moments, or crazy things that they did when you weren’t paying attention.
Have fun with this, and capture every story that comes up.
FILE THEM AWAY
After doing the work, you better make sure you have an organized system for filing these gems. I use Evernote, because it is easy to organize and search in seconds (I have written more about my Evernote sermon illustration database previously). You want a system that allows you to easily retrieve your illustrations the next time you are preaching on topic in that category.
If you really take your time and do all this, you will walk away with thousands of amazing real-life stories that will connect with your audience.
DO THE WORK
Personal stories will make your preaching more relatable, memorable, authentic and interesting. The payoff for having hundreds or even thousands of these stories at your disposal is huge.
So this is the point of the article where you nod your head, think to yourself that this is a good idea you should try sometime, and then forget about it and never do anything.
Do this. Do it now. Fire up that brain of yours and walk slowly through the dusty archives of your life. You won’t regret it. The stories you capture will be gold, and your preaching will be better because of it.