3 Points and a Poem

"3 points and a poem" has become a satirical way to refer to the typical way many sermons are structured. The preacher introduces a sermon, tells listeners he has 3 points, and then closes that sermon with a nice poem. We like to poke fun at that style of preaching because it seems overused and outdated. That may be true. It can be predictable. 

With that being said, it is possible that using the structure of 3 points and a poem could greatly benefit many preachers, maybe even you. Before you think this blog is worthless for such advice, consider this. Many preachers would be taking a huge step forward, not backward, by using a basic format such as having 3 explicit points to structure their sermons. Many congregations might find 3 explicit points and a closing poem (or story) to be a huge relief. 

Having 3 points and a poem is a huge step forward for some preachers and a huge relief to some congregations because many use no explicit structure at all when preaching. This does not mean they do not have a structure in their own mind and pulpit notes to follow. It means listeners are not given any road map to arrange the sermon, a road map such as, "First point...second point...last point." When no structure or map is given to follow, listeners have to arrange content themselves, determine a main theme, and guess where the sermon is going.

It may sound odd, but preachers with communication skills may be more tempted to preach sermons with no clear structure for listeners to follow. The temptation is common to preachers: once you know how to understand a biblical text, grasp how to talk about it, and plug in a few illustrations, you think your sermon is ready to be preached. Clear communicators know they will not come up short for words, so a few main talking points with illustrations will suffice. The problem is listeners will be lost without some kind of structure to track.    

Movie directors cannot begin shooting even if they have a plot, great actors, state of the art equipment and a shooting location. They need a detailed script, a word-for-word script. They need a scene-by-scene story board. They need to know exactly where cameras will be placed, where actors will move, what they will say, and what the scenery around them will be. This does not mean preachers need a manuscript. It means a sermon needs to be thought through in detail, down to how a transition will be stated.

One of the easiest ways a preacher can begin detailing his delivery is by creating a point-based structure (3 points is a good start). Let's say you study your biblical text for your sermon. You find that the text's main theme is that God's love is unconditional. Within that text there are about 7 ideas that build the main theme. On the one hand, you could just blow through the text, hit the 7 truths, and hope listeners connected it all in their minds to get to the big idea. This method can make a sermon frustrating to listen to and leaves listeners no way to arrange content mentally.

Consider this instead: could those 7 ideas be turned into structured points? Maybe 4 of them are really 3 main-points and the other 3 ideas are really supporting sub-points. If there is too much there for one clear sermon, could you break it all into 2 sermons? Arranging a sermon's delivery to have a clear structure and movement means listeners will track the sermon, beginning to end. Listeners will be thinking, "I get where the preacher is going and I get why he is going there."

There is more than one way to structure a sermon. 3 points and a poem is not the only way, but it could be a great improvement to your preaching. We will cover different ways to structure sermons in the future. For now, start helping listeners understand what you understand, where your sermon is going and why. 3 points and a poem might not be so bad for your church after all.