Pastors will disagree on just about anything except their common desire to grow a church. Even the humblest of pastors secretly wants to see more people in worship. And what’s wrong with that? More people in worship means more people hearing the gospel. While reading books and attending church growth conferences are helpful, there is something you can do immediately that will help grow your church and it won’t cost you or your church a nickel: change your approach to preaching. Here are 9 preaching strategies that will grow your church:
Do a Provocative Sermon Series
I know. I know. This is an easy one. Nothing original here. But let me ask you: have you ever done a provocative sermon series? Have your sermons ever addressed homosexuality, evolution, the death penalty, biblical inerrancy, or some other hot topic? Aggressively promote such a series (especially at Christmas and Easter) and I can almost guarantee you will see an increase in worship attendance at your church.
Stop Reading from a Manuscript
I know I will take a few hits for this one but here goes. With few exceptions, thriving churches are not led by manuscript preachers. By “manuscript preacher” I don’t mean a preacher who prepares a manuscript. I mean a preacher who reads a manuscript when preaching. It takes a very special preacher to read a manuscript effectively in the pulpit. For the rest of us it is virtually impossible to engage and inspire our listeners if our noses are buried in a manuscript. Find a way to preach without being tied to your notes or script and your listeners will thank you. You may also find more people showing up for worship.
Begin with a Problem
How often do your sermons address and answer a common problem or struggle? That’s how you become relevant to your listeners. More people will come to worship if they feel the sermons help them cope and overcome their problems. Right off the bat promise your listeners that your sermon will address a problem they can’t solve like unanswered prayer, marital conflict, or fear. You will be hard pressed to find a more effective way to begin a sermon.
Use More Stories
The human mind is wired for stories. When someone says, “Once upon a time,” we are all ears. As kids we begged our parents to tell us one more story at bedtime. We never grow out of our love for stories. There is so much we want to express in our sermons but the truth is our listeners will not remember much of what we say unless it is connected to an image or story. That’s just how the mind works. Stories also capture and hold the attention of listeners so be on the look out for good anecdotes and stories.
Cut Back on the Lectionary and Preach More Topical Sermons
Now I know I will get flack for this one! Yes, following the lectionary has its benefits but the reality is I don’t know of a growing and thriving church that is led by a pure lectionary preacher. I am sure there are exceptions but I don’t know of any. Most listeners are drawn to sermons that address relevant topics. Many of your listeners are not dying to hear what the Bible has to say. You have to work harder than that. Create a desire in listeners to hear what the Bible has to say about a topic they care about and then they will want to know more about the Bible. It’s not rocket science, but it is amazing how many preachers refuse to be topical.
Do a “You Asked for It” Series and Poll Your Congregation for Sermon Topics
Once again, nothing original here. However, very few pastors I know actually follow through with doing it. Use your sermon time to answer questions from the congregation. Early in the service ask them to write down a question and put it in the offering plate. During the offertory or another praise song pick out the ones you want to answer and then read and answer them during your sermon time. Also poll your church for what they would like hear a sermon on and then put a “You Asked for It” series together based on their responses.
Don’t Just Teach, Preach!
What’s the difference between teaching and preaching? Conviction. You find your conviction by finding your why. If you can’t express why your sermon is important to you, your sermon will die an ugly death. However, when you preach from your why you find the sweet spot of preaching. You find your voice, your delivery comes naturally and people are captured by your genuine conviction.
Add 2 Hours of Practice Time to Sermon Prep
More preachers would improve their preaching if they spent more time practicing their sermons. If we expect our praise bands and choirs to rehearse before worship, why should we as preachers be exempt from rehearsing our sermons? Start getting up earlier on Sunday mornings (or whenever you worship) and rehearsing your sermons and you will be amazed how much more effective you are in the pulpit. The more effective you are in the pulpit the more people will show up for worship. Right or wrong that’s the way church life works.
Post and Boost Your Sermons on Facebook
If you are not posting your sermon videos on Facebook you are missing a great opportunity to reach more people. When you preach a sermon that really resonates with people be sure to boost the video and encourage people to comment and share. You may also want to try posting a quote or paragraph of your sermon on Facebook and ask people to respond and share. If your church doesn’t have a Facebook page, get one! Today a Facebook page is just as important as a website.
To learn more ways to improve your preaching grab a copy of my new book That’ll Preach! 5 Simple Steps to Your Best Sermon Ever (Abingdon Press).