Why You Might Need to Expand Your Sermon Illustration Pool

Do you have a go-to set of illustrations you default to?

Why You Might Need to Expand Your Sermon Illustration Pool

I remember walking into the church office one day and one of our pastors was visibly frustrated. She looked at me and said, “If I read one more sports illustration in this book, I’m going to lose my mind.” (She was reading a popular book on leadership.) Lately, I’ve been listening to a very well-known preacher and enjoying the way he unfolds Scripture. As I’ve listened, I’ve begun to realize that his illustration default is C.S. Lewis. He can quote him three to four times in one message. (Can I still go to heaven if I’m not a great lover of Narnia?) Another pastor whose church I often visit while on vacation has personal illustrations as his “go to.” These are not criticisms just observations.

Sermon illustrations are windows in a message, and for me the more windows the better. Just like it is important to have more than just one move on the basketball court it’s important to have more than just one move with your illustrations. If not, you limit your ability to reach your audience. For instance, I love history and I need to be careful not to get caught in the weeds with biblical archaeology/history in my messages. Otherwise, what can add seasoning to a message will actually ruin it.

Preacher! Please Expand Your Illustration Pool

Joe Hoagland, in his post “Where Do I Find Sermon Illustrations,” gives us six types of sermon illustrations.

  • News/Current Events
  • Literature
  • Other Preachers
  • My Life
  • History
  • The Lives of Others Around Me

To this list, you could add biblical stories, science, social media, etc. The point is, there are a myriad of sources to draw from and we do a disservice to our people by sticking to just one of two. So here’s your homework: Randomly pick 10 of your sermons and list the types of illustrations you use and how many of each one.

I was afraid to do this, but I did and here are the results.

My top three were:

  • Stories
  • Personal Life
  • Quotes

These three did not surprise me and they were fairly even in number so that is a good thing. But as you can see, I need more variety, and using biblical illustrations was sorely missing which I do not like.

How about you? How did you do?  Are you like an orchestra with a variety of sounds, or a guitar player who only knows how to play three chords?

Please understand I’m not saying that we should have seven types of illustrations in every message. However, expanding your illustration pool has no downside. It will cause you to read and think outside the box and when you write your book no one will feel like throwing it against the wall because you’re a one trick pony.

What Were Your Top Three Illustration Types?

This article originally appeared here.

Peter Walters
Peter is Connections & Pastor Care Pastor at Brooklin Village Church, just outside Toronto, Canada. He has been married to his wonderful wife Sarah for 25 years and they have two children.