Is your audience boring?
Do they respond to your preaching? Do they laugh at jokes? Do they say “Amen.” Do they ever clap their hands? Are they leaning in to listen? Are they taking notes?
You may think the problem is your people, but I want to propose something different here: If your audience is dull, maybe the problem isn’t your audience. Maybe, the problem is how you have engaged with them.
Audience engagement starts with the speaker. People will do what they are taught., Many pastors just don’t encourage engagement.
In my opinion, good preaching sits somewhere in between monologue and dialogue (a lecture and a conversation). The preacher does the talking, but the audience is engaged and gives feedback with their body language and occasional with their mouths.
So how do you help build audience engagement? Here are five ways I have found helpful.
But first, I need to make 3 important disclaimers:
- Just because people says “Amen” or clap a lot doesn’t make you a better preacher. There is such a thing as too much engagement.
- Audience engagement will vary by church tradition. I am not saying that any one tradition is better than another. This advice is only if you want to encourage more engagement from a dull or difficult crowd.
- There is no better way to engage an audience than a great message. All the tips below on a bad sermon are wasted. If your content is bad, boring, or unbiblical, this advice won’t help.
1. Ask questions
When you only speak at people, they will either tune you out or only listen. By asking questions (even though they are often rhetorical), you engage people’s minds and invite them to think for themselves instead of letting you do all the thinking for them.
Questions invite people to participate in the sermon. Questions ask people to think with you.
Don’t just tell people the truth; Lead them to discovering the truth themselves by asking questions and getting them thinking.
2. Tell them how to respond
If you want people to respond a certain way to your sermon, tell them to. This may feel strange at first, but people will do what they are asked to do.
Here are a few examples:
- “Raise your hands if…”
- “Nod your head if you agree that…”
- “Tell the person next to you…”
- “Look at this…”
- “Give a round of applause for…”
- “Look at me, because this is important…”
- “Stand up if…”
- “Repeat after me…”
People will do what you ask them to do. Be clear about what you want them to do and they will do it.
3. Use Visual Illustrations
Give people something to look at.
People are visual beings. Visuals catch our eyes and engage our brains.
We could all learn a valuable lesson from kindergarten, you have to show and tell.
Many pastors just tell.
Turn analogies and metaphors into visual illustrations.
If you have a major point you are trying to get across, ask yourself, “How can I show and tell this?”
This may not work in every message, but I guarantee people will be better engaged when it does.
4. Add Humor
Humor immediately draws people in. It also disarms a tough crowd.
Laughter creates engagement. You cannot laugh at something and not be engaged. It’s impossible.
Laughter is also contagious. Have you ever noticed that watching a funny movie is always better with a crowd? We feed off the laughter of others.
Warning: This doesn’t mean tell a bunch of corny preacher jokes that you find on the internet. It means use your natural sense of humor when appropriate.
5. Tell Stories
We love stories. We live in one of the most story-centered cultures of all time. Movies, TV, books, talk shows, music, magazines… all of them tell stories.
People naturally engage with good stories.
If your audience is drifting, tell a good story and they will immediately snap back.
I often find that people will actually remember stories I tell years later, even after they have long forgotten the sermons.
I even hear Jesus told a story or two himself. There just may be something to this.
How do you help your audience engagement with your sermons?
photo credit: pennstatenews