Do sermon titles make a difference? Does it really matter what you call it if the content is all the same?
I think it does. The title of the sermon is what people quickly scan to decide whether or not it is worth looking into. It is just like the headline of a magazine article. Good titles grab your attention.
It seems like the trend for sermon titles today is to use one or two words that sound edgy and a little mysterious.
Common Sermon Titles
For example, here at some of the sermon series titles I found while scrolling through the podcasts of preachers I listen to:
- “The End”
- “The Fighter”
Sermon titles like these are common. They sound cool. But what do they mean?
Seriously, think about it. If an unchurched person were handed a flyer with just ones of these titles on it, would they know what the message was about? Of they got a postcard in the mail with this sermon title on it, would they care?
Honestly… probably not.
This is a problem, isn’t it? I don’t know why churches started giving sermons “cool” titles like these. But what is it doing for us?
This observation begs the question: Why aren’t our sermon titles were more self-explanatory?
Better Sermon Titles
If the goal is to draw people to hear the message, wouldn’t a better title for a sermon be more like these:
- “How to improve your marriage.”
- “Find your purpose in your life.”
- “Why forgiveness is the only way to freedom.”
- “What to do when life falls apart.”
These titles aren’t cool. They aren’t sexy. But there is no hiding what the sermon is about.
If a person knows nothing about your church at least they would be able to understand what the message will be about. And if their marriage was falling apart, they might think, “Maybe I should check this out. Maybe it will help. Nothing else has worked. Maybe God has the answers.”
You might be pushing back on this idea, because we love our edgy sermon titles. It feels more creative. And that is OK. Just add a subtitle.
For example, “Epic: How to live a story worth telling.”
Do you see the difference this makes?
If you preach through books of the Bible, you can do this too. Just use the common theme of the book.
For example, Mars Hill Church did a long series through the book of Luke and titled it “Luke’s Gospel: Investigating the man who is God.”
Whether you are a fan of Mark Driscoll or not, you have to admit that this title lets you know exactly what you are getting into. The message will investigates the life of Jesus in the book of Luke.
4 Questions to Evaluate Your Sermon Titles
A while back I read an article by Rick Warren about the 4 questions he uses to evaluate his sermon titles.
- Will this title capture the attention of people?
- Is the title clear? Will it stand on its own – without additional explanation?
- Is the title good news?
- Does the title relate to everyday life?
Ask these questions about your current sermon title. If you answer “no” to any of them, you may be missing out. Before solidifying your next sermon title, write or rewrite until you can say “yes” to all four questions.
Try it out. See if it works. What do you have to lose?
Your church could be wasting a huge opportunity because your sermon titles are too vague.
The secret to a great sermon title is to advertise the benefit. Why would someone want to listen to this? Why should they care? What is the benefit? What problem will this solve? How will it help them?