This post is part of the series on Preaching for youth. As stated in an earlier post, ending a sermon well can be quite a challenge. Even if you have managed to keep the youth’s attention all through your sermon, you’ll need to work hard to keep it right till the last words. But the beautiful thing is that with the right ending, you can not only hold their attention, but bring home your key message in a powerful way. Here are six ways to do that:
1. End with a story
Example: last Easter I spoke on 1 Cor 15:51-57. My sermon was titled ‘The Lord is risen indeed’ and my key point was that we do not fear death anymore because Christ has conquered death. I ended with an illustration about a Russian priest who defied a government official who had just claimed Jesus to be a fabrication, by having his entire congregation stand up and state: The Lord is risen indeed. It was a story that perfectly symbolized my message.
2. End with an action
If you can think of a symbolic action people could take which would reinforce you key message, do it. It can be anything from lighting a candle, to writing something down, shaking their neighbor’s hand or standing up. When prepared and executed well, this can become one of those special moments in which people truly encounter God.
Example: In a youth Christmas service I preached the gospel and spoke about Christ’s birth bringing light into the darkness. I invited everyone who believed Christ to be the light of the world to light a candle in the front. It was an intimate moment when youth came forward to light candles and confirm their belief in Christ.
3. End with an appeal
Depending on your topic, ending with an appeal to make a certain decision is a perfectly good way to end your sermon. The best known appeal is of course the decision to commit to Christ, for the first time or again. No matter how ‘routine’ this may seem, it is one appeal that you should never skip if it fits the key message. If you have just preached the gospel, invite people to respond to God’s call.
But it can also be an appeal for something else, like forgiving someone for how they have hurt you, an appeal to invite a friend to the next service, or to decide to start thanking God for His blessings every day. Whatever your appeal is, make sure it fits your key message and make it easy and practical. People need to know exactly what you want them to know, to feel, or to do. If you do an ‘altar call’ of any kind, make it simple.
Example: after a message on the Gospel, we invited people who had never accepted Christ to come to a large wooden cross in the corner of the church, while others could worship with the band. Leaders were standing there to pray with anyone coming.
4. End with prayer
Ending your sermon with prayer can be a beautiful ending, as long as your prayer is going somewhere so to speak and fits the central theme. Just don’t make it a routine, because then it will lose its impact. And can I be so bold as to suggest you also prepare your prayer in some way? It would be rather disappointing if you had been eloquent and powerful all throughout your message, and then lacked the words at praying. And I’m not saying your prayer needs to be perfect for God to hear it, I’m just saying you think about it in advance.
You can also combine prayer with an appeal, like asking youth who wants to commit to Christ to raise their hands during the prayer. Once again: make it simple so everyone understands what they need to do.
5. End with the ‘refrain’
This is one of my favorite ‘techniques’. I often use certain refrains in my sermons, short statements I let come back a few times. ‘The Lord has risen indeed’ is one such an example, I’ve used this phrase about ten times in that sermon, making it a powerful refrain.
When you have used such a refrain, see if you can find a way to end with it, literally make it the last sentence. It will linger in youth’s minds and have a powerful impact on them.
Example: In a youth service I preached on John 21:15-22 and the key message that we shouldn’t look at what others do, how God uses them, we just need to follow Jesus. The refrain I used was this: “Stay out of it, you just follow Jesus”. This is how I ended: ‘God wants to use you, just as you are. And what He does with others, how he uses them? Stay out of it, you just follow Jesus’.
6. End with Scripture
The last sentence you say in a sermon often has authority, when we use Scripture to end with, that’s even more the case. If you have a short verse that perfectly sums it all up, or makes an appeal, use it. Resist the temptation to explain it, just read it and make that the end.
Example: I was asked to give a short message in a praise service which was themed ‘He reigns’. I made a point about being a subject in God’s Kingdom and honoring Christ as King. I ended with these words from Revelation 19:6,7a: “Then I heard what sounded like a crowd, like the sound of a roaring waterfall, like loud peals of thunder. I heard them say, “Praise God! For the Lord, our Almighty God, is King! Let us rejoice and be glad; let us praise his greatness!” (Good News Bible)
What are great endings to sermons in your opinion? Do you have a favorite way to end?