Do you have any guidelines for preparing and giving a sermonette?


As we pointed out in a previous Q&A, discussing opening and closing prayers, the Church of the Eternal God in the USA and its corporate affiliates, the Global Church of God in the UK, and the Church of God, a Christian Fellowship in Canada, trace their roots to the Worldwide Church of God under the late Herbert W. Armstrong (who died in 1986). During his lifetime, Mr. Armstrong established the way in which Church of God services should be conducted, and we have substantially adopted these procedures. As a consequence, our weekly and annual Sabbath services include opening and closing prayers, a song service, announcements, occasional special music presentations (especially during the Feast of Tabernacles), and a sermonette and a sermon (sometimes, we may have two split sermons instead of a sermonette and a sermon, and we may on rare occasions dispense with a sermonette in lieu of a longer announcement session).

As pointed out in our previous Q&A, only baptized men are to give sermonettes and sermons.

We are presenting the following guidelines, which the Church has developed over the years, in regard to the preparation and presentation of sermonettes. This is not a rigid outline or formula, but it is meant to give valuable principles.

The purpose of the sermonette is to prepare the audience for the sermon, but it is not just a “general” or “ordinary” message, but it is supposed to be an inspired message from God. Normally, a sermonette should not be longer than 15 minutes, unless the presiding Pastor has given special prior permission for a longer message.

To give a sermonette is a privilege, not a right. Sermonettes provide opportunities for baptized men to teach—not to preach or correct. A sermonette speaker won’t be able to “fix” or “save” someone in a short message, anyway. Correction is the responsibility of the Pastor. Sermonette topics should be carefully selected. Topics which are corrective or overly broad or are “new” or speculative would be inappropriate. A topic which challenges Church teaching is absolutely forbidden.

Appropriate topics could be broken down into the following categories:

  1. an explanation of “difficult” or misapplied Scriptures in light of Church teaching (e.g., 1 Timothy 4:4 or Acts 10:12-13–do these passages justify eating unclean meats; or John 14:2–is heaven the reward of the saved?; or Luke 17:21–is the Kingdom of God in the hearts of men?);
  2. an explanation of two Scriptures, which apparently contradict each other (e.g., Acts 9:7 vs. Acts 22:9–did or didn’t those with Paul on the road to Damascus hear the voice of Christ?);
  3. a clarification of a particular Scriptural point (e.g., Mark 9:48–are there immortal worms?); and
  4. an explanation of how to apply Scripture and Church teaching in practice (e.g., how to use our second tithe; or how to dress for Sabbath services; or what is right conversation after services; or how to participate during the song service; or how to teach our children to rejoice at the Feast of Tabernacles; or what does it mean that our body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, as related to drugs, smoking, excessive drinking or tattoos). However, as mentioned, it should encourage the audience to do or not to do something; the purpose is NOT to correct the audience.

The sermonette speaker has to make sure, of course, that the explanations he is giving are the right ones! He is not to rely on what he might have heard someone say many years ago. He also has to make sure that the written source material he may be using is accurate and current. This is true for “worldly” commentaries and encyclopedias, but it can also include “old” Church articles which are by now outdated or which have been subsequently revised.

The Church of the Eternal God and its corporate affiliates have published a wealth of current information on biblical topics, including 33 booklets, over 500 weekly Updates (many of which include a Bible Study or Q&A and a Bible-oriented Editorial); over 100 member letters, as well as hundreds of posted sermons, split sermons and sermonettes. We have posted all of our literature and many of our audio and video-recorded messages on our websites (;;;; Many of our video-recorded messages can also be found on You Tube, and the Church of the Eternal God is now also featured on Facebook.

The sermonette speaker must be supportive and promote unity. The material he presents must be correct, and he must never publicly disagree with any Church teachings. If he has questions, he must check them out with the ministry. It is not wrong to have questions or a lack of understanding, but one must get them sorted out if one is to be a fully supportive member of the Church. If in doubt, it is always advisable to discuss the proposed sermonette with the local Pastor before giving it.

The sermonette speaker is not to use the sermonette time to air personal gripes or complaints about the Church, the organization, members of the local congregation, the ministry, or any other Church problem. He is not to take a personal problem of someone in the congregation and give a sermonette about it.

The sermonette speaker should pray about his sermonette and begin to prepare the message early—not just the night before or the very same day when he is to speak. When preparing and delivering the message, the sermonette speaker has to keep in mind proper and clear pronunciation and grammar; as well as vocal variety and quality. Inappropriate language is to be avoided. The pulpit is not the place to describe explicitly the sins of mankind. Paul and the other apostles do mention certain types of sin, but they do not describe them in detail. The same goes for slang bordering on bad language.

When giving his message, the sermonette speaker needs to maintain eye contact with the audience, which prohibits just reading from many notes or a transcript. As we pointed out in a previous Q&A, “This is not to say that we should not prepare our messages and reduce our thoughts to writing and that we should not have any notes when delivering a sermonette or a sermon, but it is to say that speakers must not be too ‘note-bound’ when they deliver their message. Rather, they should and must allow God to inspire them, while speaking.”

In addition, a sermonette speaker needs to be well groomed; and he needs to smile and be warm and friendly, without being overly jocular or just plain silly. Remember, we are appearing in front of GOD during the entire Sabbath service.

Each sermonette should follow the usual Outline of a powerful introduction, a clear and precise Specific Purpose Statement (SPS), a body or main contents of the message, and a gripping and memorable conclusion. (But before beginning with the introduction, it is important that the speaker recognizes and welcomes the audience. A warm short greeting with a smiling face will be much appreciated by the audience. Just jumping into the message without first addressing the audience would be inappropriate.)

The Introduction must grab the audience’s attention. It must give the audience a reason why they should listen; why it is important for them to know. It could present a challenge; give some startling facts; or ask a question. A sermonette speaker should not begin with, “Let’s turn with me to….”; or, “I would like to explain the apparent contradiction….” All of this is lifeless and somewhat boring. Instead, a powerful introduction could perhaps be, “How can you be sure that you don’t go to heaven when you die?” Or: “How would you explain to someone that we don’t vote in governmental elections?” It is of course necessary that the introduction relates to the rest of the sermonette. It must lead into the Specific Purpose Statement (SPS).

The Specific Purpose Statement (SPS) makes clear what the sermonette speaker is going to cover in the course of the sermonette. It tells the audience what he is seeking to achieve. It introduces the ONE point which the sermonette will discuss. The introduction and the SPS of the sermonette do not necessarily have to be presented distinctly and separately. The sermonette’s opening comments may be a combination of these two functions.

The Body or main contents of the sermonette must of course respond and relate to, and deliver what was stated in the introduction and the SPS. It must fulfill what was set out to achieve, without containing new or unrelated material. The points within the body should flow in logical sequence (chronologically, historically, etc.), but there should not be too many points. A sermonette is to have ONE main point; it can of course have a few sub-points which all relate to the main point.

A sermonette is not to have too many Scriptures, either. The Church has suggested at times that a sermonette should have no more than three or four Scriptures. This is a sound guideline, but not an iron-clad rule. Some sermonettes can be very effective, even though they may include more than four Scriptures, while other sermonettes with three Scriptures may not be that effective. But it is most certainly not good to load the message with Scripture after Scripture where most of the time is taken up reading them and little time is left to comment on them or give supporting material.

The Conclusion of the sermonette is vitally important. The last words will stay the longest with the audience. Common mistakes are to just stop speaking almost without warning at the end of the body of the speech; to give a conclusion which is not related to the rest of the sermonette; or to introduce new material. The conclusion must be memorized and should not be read, and the speaker should NOT end his message with, “Thank you.” Rather, the conclusion must be effective. It could emphasize the ONE point that was made in the sermonette. It might include some catchy phrase related to the sermonette, or leave the audience with a challenge to apply what has been said.

Since giving a sermonette is an opportunity for a non-ministerial speaker to receive training in leadership and effective public speaking, as well as in serving the congregation, he should expect and welcome constructive criticism and an evaluation of his sermonette from his minister. Being asked to give a sermonette is a wonderful opportunity and responsibility, which must not be taken lightly. A sermonette speaker should carefully and prayerfully review and apply these guidelines, so that he may deliver a God-pleasing and Godly inspired message, which will be helpful to the audience.

Lead Writer: Norbert Link

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