I do not envy pastors in the slightest.
I like my pastor as much as the next guy, but I am glad I am not one. A pastor’s work is never done. They don’t get to clock in and out. They often speak in front of others (which is not a favored pastime of mine). And they are constantly under scrutiny for every decision that they make.
It’s a tough job. One I’m glad they take on (someone’s gotta do it).
I have the utmost respect for you, pastors, and because I do, I’m going to share just a few things your church members may be thinking about your sermons. Nothing to take too seriously, just something to think about.
1. What is with your “on stage” voice?
We all have those people in our lives. Maybe you catch someone speaking to someone they’re close with and when you walk up and start talking to them, their whole tone and body language changes. It makes them seem artificial. Fake.
If I was just talking about my weekend to you, as my pastor, for 10 minutes and you got on stage and started talking in a different voice than I was just speaking to you in… I’m either going to think you're being insincere or I’m going to be weirded out.
Either way, it’s not good and people can see right through it. Just be normal. Be yourself. You don’t have to use your “preacher voice” to get people to listen to you. People listen to people who are genuine.
2. Say “in closing,” please say “in closing.”
That’s a second shorter than a goldfish’s attention span.
It’s not that what you’re saying is so monotonously painful that we can’t make it through your sermon, but there are few people in this world who can stay engaged for a sermon (lecture, lesson, etc.) longer than 30 minutes. Heck, my limit is 15-20 minutes.
Think about non-Christians too. If you’re just trying to fill the time, they’re going to know. Use a shorter amount of time wisely. Say more with less.
If it’s longer than a TV show, start shaving some stuff off.
3. There's no way I'm going to remember all of that.
Have you ever been given really elaborate directions? Or read a multiple page long recipe? Or sat through a lecture that was 52 slides long?
That’s how it feels when pastors come up with about 8-10 different points in their sermons.
My hand hurts trying to take notes, I can't follow any of these points — wait can you go back to the last slide?
Maybe if you’re in a multiple day conference you can pull it off, but even then, most of the speakers stick to some sort of theme and their points are pretty in sync/somewhat repetitive.
If you want to introduce a bunch of ideas, I’d highly encourage you to write a book (seriously, books make the world go round). BUT – if you only have 20-30 minutes with people, give them one thing to go home with.
The sermons I remember most are when my pastor would say “if you heard nothing else I said today, please hear this…”. There is humility and urgency behind that.
4. I love it when you tell stories.
This is not just the English major in me speaking. Most of us would agree that stories are engaging.
Jesus told parables when he was trying to explain things. We read books, watch movies, and watch TV Shows to get away. Everybody loves a good story. Stories make us relatable to other people and help us to understand each other (even if we’re not similar). Stories connect us.
Telling a story takes you off the stage and makes you seem like a real person to me. You’re just a normal, every day person like me and I am instantly compelled to listen to you. Pastors that focus on being more relational than trying to get a point across are the pastors I end up learning more from anyway.
I attended a church once with my 13-year-old, football-loving loving brother. He listened to the pastor share his story of how football was his everything and once he lost it he was devastated, but that's when he finally understood and developed a relationship with Christ. It wasn't a come-to-Jesus moment for my brother, but he had certainly never listened to a pastor before like he did that day.
5. So…what do I do with all of that?
You’ve just given an inspiring speech about abiding with God and the importance of why we must do this and how amazing it feels and it’s hard, but you must abide with God because God is good.
What. In. The. Sweet. Heavens. Does. That. Mean?
Context is important. It’s important to know verses, to know the significance of things, to know why we do things, and what God calls us to do. But the reason most people are coming to church (besides the fact that God calls us to) is because they don’t know how to do life on their own. They may have the Lord in their lives (for those that are Christ followers), but now they want to know how to have a deeper relationship with him. They are coming to learn more.
They need specifics.
Be clear. Be practical. And whenever you’re writing up your sermons (or points) always always ALWAYS make sure you’re answering the how.
6. Stop making food references in your sermons.
It's just cruel 😉
So What's Next?
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