5 Helpful Strategies For Preaching More Engaging Sermons

preaching Nov 17, 2023

There’s two types of sermons:

  1. Sermons that happen in the pulpit
  2. Sermons that invade the entire room

Which one do you want to preach?

It’s obvious, isn’t it? The sermon that invades the room.

But in order to preach that kind of sermon, you’ve got to engage your people in very real, practical ways.

So in this article, I’m going to show you 5 helpful strategies for preaching more engaging sermons so that when you preach, everyone leans in.

5 Helpful Strategies For Preaching More Engaging Sermons

1. Look people in the eye

There’s nothing that can breed more connection when you preach than eye contact. 

When the preacher looks down, looks up, looks at the back wall, and stares at their notes, people wonder if the preacher truly cares.

But when the preacher makes it a point to look them in the eye, people sense the care, authenticity, and pastoral heart that is present in the preacher.

Strive to make more eye contact with people when you preach. People will be far more engaged with your message when you do.

2. Let them finish a sentence

If you want to preach a more engaging sermon, then what’s the easiest way to engage people with your sermon?

Include them in it.

Get them on the inside.

Let them help you get the message across. 

We’re all in this… [together]. 

Let them finish the sentence.

As you preach longer and longer to the same local body of believers and you preach sticky sermons week in and week out, you can go back to some of your best bottom lines and let people finish the sentence.

But remember, God’s always… [working].

We might not know what the future holds, but we know [who holds the future].

You can do this with quotes many people know and with a Bible verse you just read.

God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son so that whoever believes in Him would not perish but would have [eternal life].

But how do you do this? How will people know you’re inviting them to finish the sentence?

It takes some congregational training through repetition but your people will pick up on it.

Simply say the sentence in a regular to quick cadence and rhythm and when you get to the spot you want them to finish, stop talking, and gesture your hands toward them.

If they don’t catch on, don’t sweat it. You can try again later in the sermon. Finish that sentence, keep moving, and give it another try with the same sentence.

They’ll pick up on it and they’ll be more engaged because of it.

3. Let them answer a question

Similar to the strategy we just covered, let them answer a question. And I really do mean audibly answer a question that you ask.

Like a good teacher in a classroom, ask the congregation a question and move toward them and let them give you an answer or two or three.

If people look like they’re hesitating, encourage them, I’m really asking. This isn’t a trick question. And then give it a couple seconds to let them answer your question.

So often, preachers will ask questions in their sermons, but they’re rhetorical only. They don’t expect nor are they truly inviting people to answer. And while I don’t mind rhetorical questions at all, I believe there’s something far more beneficial to asking a question and letting your people audibly answer.

If they’re answering, they’re engaging.

4. Take a poll

This is a fun way to get the congregation not only engaging with you—the preacher—but engaging with each other too. Take a poll by a show of hands.

Any time you can do this and instead of only presenting a yes/no option but present two sides of an issue, it can be fun.

Now remember, do this mainly for trivial matters. We’re not trying to start an actual fight.

But when there’s an opportunity to take a poll by a show of hands in your sermon, do it.

A funny poll I’ve taken in a sermon is asking how people pronounce the State Park that is in our town. I made it funny by pointing out that those who choose the French pronunciation of the park are all judging those who don’t (after both groups responded to the poll). Because… it’s kind of true. They are.

Or when it’s time for the NFL’s big game, I’ve taken a poll to see who is rooting for who. 

Or when two colleges are playing a game against each other that are popular among my church, I’ve taken a poll on who believes who is going to win.

And many other trivial, sometimes silly things. Because…

When people start engaging their bodies in response to the sermon, they’ll keep engaging with what you say next.

Obvious, I know. But it’s effective.

5. Get them to laugh

Outside of looking people in the eye, there may be no more powerful way to preach a more engaging sermon than to have moments when you get people to laugh.

Laughter is contagious. And when a group of people are laughing together, it not only engages them deeply with you—the preacher—but it engages them with each other. Because they see that they’re all in on it. They all get it. They all shared a moment together.

Humor is powerful. 

When people give themselves over to laughter, they are lowering their defenses. Their whole body engages in their response.

And when you get people to laugh, you build a deeper connection with them. 

This life can be rough and tough. When you give people an opportunity to laugh, you’re helping them let go of some of the weight they’re carrying.

In fact, laughter is good for people. This is what a couple doctors point out:  

Laughter strengthens your immune system, boosts mood, diminishes pain, and protects you from the damaging effects of stress. Nothing works faster or more dependably to bring your mind and body back into balance than a good laugh. Humor lightens your burdens, inspires hope, connects you to others, and keeps you grounded, focused, and alert. It also helps you release anger and forgive sooner.

When you get them to laugh, you’re getting them to engage. And when they’re engaged, you can deliver the truth and be confident that it’ll get to the destination—their hearts. 

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