Recently Pew Research Center reported that folks looking for a church home value good preaching most of all. I just had a conversation with a millennial that backs this up. He told me that while good coffee, edgy technology, and flashy worship services are nice, if he doesn’t hear authentic, engaging and inspiring messages he will not come back to the church.
The lesson is clear: if we want to attract people to our churches we must make preaching our number one priority. Visitors love sharing with friends and loved ones how helpful and inspiring a sermon was to them. If you are looking for a strategy to grow your church, there it is.
Let’s face it. People are people and people talk! What do you want visitors to say about your preaching? Here are 9 things you hope visitors never say after you preach a sermon.
What was the sermon about again?
A colleague of mine once asked a group of parishioners what they found most frustrating about listening to sermons. Their response? “So many sermons are complicated, confusing and difficult to understand.” Most of us are not preaching to preachers or seminary professors each week, so stop lecturing. Be sure your sermons are clear and easy to understand.
Look, I finished my grocery list!
The great preacher J. Wallace Hamilton once said, “If people aren’t interested, they are not listening.” If you are not framing your messages in a way that captivate your listeners, they will check out.
What did that long story have to do with the sermon?
We have all been there. We hear a good story or joke that we know will be a “crowd pleaser.” We can’t wait to tell it so we try to force it into our next sermon even though we know it doesn’t fit. The result? Listeners get confused and our message is lost.
That was a great sermon series!
Many preachers try to cover too much ground in one sermon. Listeners can’t process a bunch of information very well. Stick to one point or main idea and save the rest for other sermons.
He must have put that sermon together last night
There is no excuse for poor preparation. I don’t care how good you are on your feet, “if you fail to prepare, prepare to fail.” Listeners are used to watching well crafted Ted talks and slick presentations on television. Don’t wait until Saturday night to work on your sermon.
She got those jokes from the internet
The internet can be very helpful in sermon preparation, but it also can diminish our effectiveness. Don’t share corny jokes that have been forwarded, posted, emailed and shared a million times. The best you’ll get is a courtesy laugh and the worst you’ll get is the rolling of eyes from listeners.
Isn’t a sermon supposed to have scripture in it?
It is very tempting to turn our sermons into fun after dinner speeches. Some preachers tell a few stories, sprinkle them with a Bible verse and call it a sermon. That is not a sermon. If you are not interpreting and proclaiming the word of God, you are not preaching.
I thought he’d never finish!
Most preachers would improve their preaching immensely if they shortened their sermons. Rarely are longer sermons more effective. Shorter sermons are clearer, direct and without fluff. When preparing your sermon think, “All killer, no filler.”
What church are we going to try next week?
Don’t get so busy and distracted by the demands of ministry that you forget your role as a preacher. Preaching engaging and inspiring sermons is the most important thing you can do for the health and growth of your congregation.