Effective preaching is both an art and a skill and we’ve all heard (and some of us delivered) sermons that seemed to lack both. They are not interesting, lack substance, seem to go on forever (when in reality only last <15mins), and leave us feeling disconnected. While engaging one’s audience is the goal of all public speaking, here are 4 ways to make preaching more engaging…
A good laugh never hurts. Humor is a way in which the listeners are invited in, allowing them to let down their defenses and relax for a bit. A shared laugh is not only a great example of engagement, it creates the opportunity for more shared experiences. With that being said, don’t force humor because then it’s not funny. Stick to your style. If you’re sarcastic, find appropriate ways to use that to make your listeners laugh. If you’re witty, be witty and let them laugh. Laughing at your own stuff can be funny…sometimes.
Pronouns Create Conversation
The pronouns we use can make all the difference for our listeners. Using “you,” both in the singular and plural, means you are telling your listeners what they should or shouldn’t do. Pronouns like “he,” “she,” and “you” build a wall between you and your listeners. It means you are talking about “them” instead of about “us.” Conversation is more likely to happen when “we” do it together, not as something you’re telling “them” “they” need to do. It’s how a certain topic or passage impacts “us” together, not just “them.”
Be real. Be genuine. Be you. When you’re not, your listeners will know. Demonstrate an appropriate level of vulnerability. Be honest about passages you’re wrestling with. This combined with pronouns like “we” and “us” means real engagement can take place. Your listeners want to hear how the Holy Spirit is moving and working in your heart and the places where you and God wrestle. Inviting your listeners into your journey of faith not only creates engagement but encourages them to think about their own journey as well.
Ask More Questions
Focus less on solving problems and providing answers and instead challenge your listeners to critically think through things together. Learning is a much more engaging thing than simply being told the correct response or action. Give your listeners the opportunity to wrestle with difficult, thoughtful, and relevant questions, resisting the need to provide an answer. There are ways to leave your listeners with open-ended questions which force engagement without creating a sense of doubt or fear. Ask more questions.
What are your thoughts on these or other ways you’ve found to make preaching more engaging?