HOW TO RETAIN VISITORS PT. 3 (SERMONS)
So we are wrapping up this blog series on “HOW TO RETAIN VISITORS” and you can check out the previous 2 posts on 1st Impressions & Kids. Today we are going to tackle the sermon. A recent study by Pew Research on the top reasons why someone chooses a church and the #1 pick at 83% of the people was the quality of the sermons. Now if that doesn’t speak to the importance of being a good communicator I don’t know what will. Today I just want to hit 7 keys to delivering an effective sermon at your church.
1. Speak on Relevant Topics.
This seems like a no brainer right?!? Speak on topics people want to hear, but you would be surprised at how many speakers just speak on whatever they feel like. Every great communicator knows you are not a great communicator if you ignore the very needs of the people you are speaking to. Paul said it best in terms of connecting with his audience “When I am with those who are weak, I share their weakness, for I want to bring the weak to Christ. Yes, I try to find common ground with everyone, doing everything I can to save some. I do everything to spread the Good News and share in its blessings.” 1 Corinthians 9:22-23
So how do you know who you are speaking to and to discover their needs?
- Get your staff involved. I love bringing my staff into our calendar planning and we discuss what topics are important to our church. This allows us to expand our reach within our community as each staff member has weekly interactions with so many of our members through serving and Life groups which in return hits a wide demographic.
- Send out a survey. I also like to get direct feedback from our people and to do so we will have a survey card we ask everyone to fill out once a year. The survey card actually hits many important areas of our church, but one part of the survey is a list of topics that they would like us to speak on. This helps us specifically identify the needs in our church.
- Have a strong prayer life. I feel like every year God speaks a theme into my heart for our church. 2017 the theme is #TheYearofGrowth as we are going to continue to grow physically, but most importantly grow spiritually as our roots get deeper. In 2016 we saw over 600 people give their hearts to Jesus and I was really seeking God on developing all these people that are new to the faith in prayer He spoke that theme in my heart. Seek God and I know he will speak directly into your church.
2. Add a Personal Touch.
Evangelism isn’t telling people what they need to do as much as it is telling them what God has done in you. You have to share yourself with your people. Being open with what God has done in your life builds trust with your listener and trust is what drops guards to allow them to receive what you are saying. As much as I wish people came up to me raving about how smart I am as I dropped some Greek or Hebrew knowledge on them it never really happens that way, but every time I share personally how I struggled or doubted and God moved someone is impacted. Personal stories take it from a far fetched lecture to the real experience that can also take place in their lives.
3. Add Humor.
This is probably the hardest thing to build into a message, but it so extremely necessary because laughter allows people to relax and get engaged. Now the better you know your audience the more you feel comfortable in this space. A few things to think about is first you are not a standup comedian that needs to have an elaborate joke with a punchline so don’t put that pressure on yourself, secondly don’t take yourself to seriously but be willing to laugh at yourself, thirdly thinking of a funny story or exaggerated examples that go with your topic truly helps, and lastly the more comfortable and relaxed you are on stage the funnier you are.
4. Add Applicable Points.
I like to build into every message either a “Take Home” or “Action Steps” which are practical points people can apply to their life. It is one thing to give someone spiritual goosebumps and get them all amped on your fiery message, but it’s a whole new ball game when they actually start applying what you speak on. Many people want to apply the messages, but we use such broad strokes in our messages that they don’t seem practical. So what I do is give them something physical to walk out the service to do in the week… Everything from joining a LifeGroup, to going on a date with your spouse, to writing out goals, to set a specific devotion time, etc… We have to put action towards our faith.
5. Let Your Message Breathe.
Great messages unfold over time. To many pastors throw their messages together at the last moment and in doing so haven’t given the message enough time to breathe. I like to have my messaged outlined earlier in the week and finished no later than Thursday. This gives me several days to tweak the outline and then two whole days to polish the finished message. You will find humor is easier to develop after you have gone over the message many times, your transitions become smoother as work through them over and over again, and you are able to remove material that isn’t really necessary. Don’t wait until the last minute to write your message, but you have to build into your calendar planning and writing moments for your message every week.
6. Speak with Pace.
The pace is one of the most important factors to keep people’s attention. Most speakers speak at a slower pace because they don’t truly know their material and so they are constantly going back to their notes. I am a big advocate of speaking without any notes and I don’t even have a pulpit on stage. I have a confidence monitor set up in front of me that has my main points and scriptures. This allows me to have an effective pace and flow in my messages. The key is not memorizing your messages, but knowing your message. When you truly understand the content of each point and have gone over your material enough you will be able to deliver what I believe is a more personal message. No longer is your head down hiding behind a pulpit, but you are out front engaging your audience.
7. End EVERY Message with a Salvation Opportunity.
I have seen so many Pastors deliver powerful messages where you could sense people were ready to commit their lives to Jesus in the room, but the speaker just ends the service with no opportunity to accept Jesus. I am convinced many searching people to leave Sundays still searching because as Pastors we didn’t communicate with them their first step. We live in a generation that wasn’t raised in the church and to assume people know the sinner’s prayer is a mistake. I cannot tell you the number of people that have attended our church that doesn’t know what worship is, offerings are, who Matthew Mark Luke or John are let alone accepting Jesus’ free gift of salvation. Every Sunday is an opportunity to expand the Kingdom of God and nothing is more energizing to a Church body than knowing they are part of a Great Commission church!
Let’s be communicators that speak the life, the truth, and the hope of Jesus in ways that connect with our people week in and week out as we see more people come and then become involved in our church communities!