Know Your Audience: 22 Life Situations to Keep in Mind When Preaching

Every other industry knows it. You know it intuitively. You have to know your audience when preaching. Simple enough, right? Well, not so fast. If you serve in a church of more than 100 people, you know you don’t know everyone in the audience – at least not well. If you serve in a church of less than 100 people, you may think you know everyone (or most) in the audience, but odds are you don’t know them as well as you think.Know Your Audience: 22 Life Situations to Keep in Mind When Preaching

It’s for this reason that you must keep these congregation sweeping life situations in mind when preaching. When you do this, your listeners (no matter the size of the room) begin to think you’re talking directly to them about their immediate situation. They begin to think you know exactly what happened yesterday. Keeping these things in mind PLUS the overwhelming and awe-inspiring power of the Holy Spirit moving and working in the congregation during the sermon create a powerful recipe.

Know Your Audience

Here’s the key in this before we get to the list of life situations: you don’t have to know everyone deeply, however, you should still take time to know your congregation (no matter the size). Set aside time in your schedule to meet with people in your congregation (this is a must no matter if you’re leading a mega church or a tiny church). If your evenings are consumed by committee meetings and elder meetings, then set aside time for breakfast or lunch with people in your church.

In other words, don’t lean so heavily on what I’m going to outline that you don’t spend real time with the people who make up the local church in which you serve. Got it? Good. Let’s dive in…

22 Life Situations to Keep in Mind When Preaching

For each life situation, I will give you a description of one aspect of their life that may be true along with an example of how you can speak to them.

1. Student and Not Working

Know Your Audience: 22 Life Situations to Keep in Mind When Preaching

Students who are not working are typically engaged with a number of extra-curricular activities throughout their week. They likely have a lot of things going on, they’re just not getting a paycheck for it. They’re likely still a dependent (pre-teen, teenager, college student), but can also include adults who are going back to school. Many are dealing with temptation on a constant basis that must be resisted. With time on their hands, they may find that their struggles are magnified.

Example: When you are speaking to things like using the influence available to preach Christ to unbelievers, be sure to include students and not just talk about c0-workers. Let them know you understand their situation.

2. Student and Working

Students who are working are typically still engaged with some extra-curricular activities throughout their week in addition to school and working. Their schedules are jam-packed and they value the time they give to other things. They may be a bit harder to get to commit to a consistent serving schedule, but they still do want to serve.

Example: When you are speaking on using your gifts to serve Christ, keep in mind that students who are working have a limited availability. Speak to that struggle and let them know that they can structure their weeks around their priorities. Let them know that you get their struggle and want to offer a solution.

3. Young Adult – Single

Young adults who are single are typically trying to get their careers off the ground. They like to have fun with friends. The majority of them desire a relationship (maybe not marriage at this point). They are interested in community, but are uninterested in artificial community. They are apt to serve if they can see the why behind what they are doing.

Example: When you are thinking about a series on relationships, don’t forget to include the biblical teaching on singleness. Many of them will feel the pressure from all sides to get married, but that may not be their best option… Maybe.

4. Young Adult – Married

Young adults who are married are also likely getting their careers off the ground. They are cause-driven and want to make a real difference in the world. They likely either have kids or are a few years away from having kids. They enjoy learning from older couples and are dedicated to breaking any familial trends of divorce (when applicable).

Example: When you are speaking on discipleship, be sure to point out the biblical model of older people guiding younger people. Then put together pathways to connect the two. You’ll likely see that there is a large interest for the young adults in your congregation.

5. Married With Kids at Home

Kids change everything. They will change a couple’s activities, budget, priorities, and schedule. Parenting and doing it well are a big concern for those who are married with kids at home. I know it is for myself and my wife.

Example: When you are speaking on community/small groups, be sure to keep in mind that many people will need childcare of some kind if they are going to commit to consistent, weekly meetings. Will the church cover the costs or cover the provider? Work that out before you speak on the topic.

6. Married With No Kids

There are many couples who are over the age of 25 and don’t have kids. They have each other and are very active with their schedule. They likely have more disposable income than their with kids counterparts. Depending on their jobs, they may have the time to handle large responsibility roles within the church. They likely get together with friends often and are very much involved in the community.

Example: Not every married couple has kids so don’t equate being married with having kids. You’ll isolate them and they’ll feel a bit invisible. Be sure to acknowledge their situation and speak to their ability to serve Christ together, now.

7. Married and Empty Nesters

Empty nesters are likely headed into their highest earning years in their careers. On top of that, they have less expenses, for their kiddos have moved out and are on their own. They also make great candidates for being primary leaders (elders and deacons). Beyond that, they are now trying to discover what it’s like to have more time for each other again. They are likely giving new attention (whether they admit it or not) to personal hobbies as well as their walk with God.

Example: When speaking on spiritual disciplines, encourage these couples to try some together. They have the ability to enjoy peace and quiet and they should take advantage of it often. Encourage them (when speaking on marriage) to find a hobby that they can do together to grow closer together.

8. Grandparents

Know Your Audience: 22 Life Situations to Keep in Mind When PreachingTheir kids have moved into the realm of young adults with kids and they can’t be more excited. Their new found interest in the children’s ministry has been kindled and they are prime candidates to serve there and they are likely to have a voice in the direction of that ministry.

Example: When speaking on legacy, be sure to remind them that they still have a great opportunity to do legacy well by investing into the lives of their grandkids. Stress the little things and the importance of focus when with others.

9. Great-Grandparents

They are (how do I say this?) progressing in years. Their life experience is growing and they are likely retired or have been retired for some time now. They may be finding it a bit hard to find a meaningful place to serve and the church should be aware of the value they can certainly add. They are ideal candidates to be mentors to young leaders who are just getting into the world.

Example: When speaking on discipleship, encourage them to take a young adult under their wings. They have a TON to add to others and they can share that wisdom through leading groups, teaching, or 1 on 1 mentorship. Call the servant out in them. They’re not done, but their role may be shifting a bit.

10. Divorced With Kids

They have been through difficulty. They are young and old alike. Their kids are likely splitting time between mom’s house and dad’s house. I can speak from experience that that dynamic is the hardest. Households become vastly different and it’s hard to have a semblance of stability – especially on the weekends. Their kids may be with them only half the time at church on Sundays.

Example: Divorced people need to be reminded that their guilt and shame were nailed to the cross of Christ. Their past doesn’t define them, but God does. They are children of the King. They want to make sure they do the best they can for their kids and often times will create unreachable expectations for themselves and their kids. Remind them that it’s the little things that matter most.

11. Divorced With no Kids

They have been through difficulty, pain, and shame. Their marriage didn’t last, but they don’t have kids together to where they are keeping them in touch and connected. Some may be looking to remarry and others may be looking to stay single. They are likely still dealing with pain in their heart whether they admit it or not.

Example: Divorced people need to be reminded that their guilt and shame were nailed to the cross of Christ. Their past doesn’t define them, but God does. They are children of the King.

12. Remarried With Kids

This is probably the most complicated of household situations. The blended family. This used to be an anomaly, but now it has become a normality. Essentially you have multiple households being combined into one. Many times the kids have a hard time getting along and the parents have a hard time not showing favoritism to their own biological kids. It’s complicated.

Example: Those who are here are not interested in fluff, they are interested in what works and what is right. They don’t have the time nor the energy for fluff in a message. Speak the truth to them with grace and love. Difficulties are likely present, but help them focus first on God and allow everything to flow from that.

13. Remarried With No Kids

The dynamics are less complicated, but the complications are not extinct. They are discovering what it’s like to have a new normal beyond any of the prior life situations (1-11). If you are married and have never divorced and remarried just imagine what it would be like to have everything that is normal to you be shaken and turned into something completely different. Scary, huh?!

Example: Speak the truth to them with grace and love. Difficulties are likely present, but help them focus first on God and allow everything to flow from that.

14. Adult – Single With Kids

Up until I was in second grade, my mom fell into this category. She was taking care of my brother and I by herself. The kids in this situation likely spend a lot of time at babysitters or with family. The single parent has to work in order to support his/her kids.

Example: Help single adults with kids slow down and spend focused time with his/her kids. Guilt can easily be present toward their situation, but remind them whose they are – their Heavenly Father’s child.

15. Adult – Single With No Kids

Unlike their young adult single counterparts, they are likely to have their career off the ground at this point. They likely have disposable income and are active throughout the week with different activities. They likely have a group of friends they spend time with and are willing to serve if they know they can make a difference.

Example: When you are thinking about a series on relationships, don’t forget to include the biblical teaching on singleness. Many of them will feel the pressure from all sides to get married, but that may not be their best option… Maybe.

16. Adult – Unemployed

This is no easy situation to be in. They are likely dealing with feelings of inadequacy and hopelessness. They absolutely need community to support them in times like these. They need to be loved and lifted up by people who care about them. 

Example: When you are speaking to them, speak on hope and perseverance. Their struggle is real and their future is in question. Encourage them to take bold leaps of faith and trust God in the midst of their difficult situation.

17. Believer – Going Through Difficulty

Christ followers are to deal with difficulty through a different lens than those who do not follow Jesus. We know that through difficulty or suffering, there is a positive effect that results. In other words, their pain has a purpose. Acknowledge the realness of their difficulty, but don’t leave it there. 

Example: When you are speaking to them, be sure to focus on the positive result that their difficulty will have on their life. Help them look forward as opposed to directly in front of themselves.

18. Unbeliever – Going Through Difficulty

Those who do not follow Christ are not going to be as interested in the positive result of their pain (Christians probably aren’t that much either). They are, instead, interested in the opposite of what they are feeling. In other words, they want peace.

Example: Speak on the hope they have in Jesus Christ – the Prince of Peace. They can have true peace no matter their situation through Christ the King. The Gospel has deep roots when someone is going through difficulty.

19. Believer – Coming Out of a Difficulty

Know Your Audience: 22 Life Situations to Keep in Mind When Preaching

A Christ follower who has been through some hardship and is now on the other side of the valley is now beginning to enjoy the result of that hardship. They can take joy in the simple things in life. They are likely to get plugged into serving opportunities because they made it through a difficulty. Their faith was grown and they want to help others.

Example: Rainbows are always more enjoyable than violent storms. This is the place they are at – enjoying the rainbow. Speak to God’s faithfulness and the fact that He can use whatever we go through for His glory.

20. Unbeliever – Coming Out of a Difficulty

Many people who do not profess faith in Christ have a hard time believing that God is loving. Remind them that they are still here and that God is not done with them yet. Many also have a hard time in the fact that they easily believe that their difficulty was a God-caused thing. 

Example: Help them see that the difficulty they just came out of is, in fact, past them, but also that they were likely the cause of their difficulty. Either that or another person was. They need not blame God for the difficulties in life, especially when they never acknowledge His goodness through the good things in their life.

21. Believer – Things Are Good

This person seems to have everything going well for them. They don’t have any apparent sins they are living in, their relationships are intact, their job is good, and they are serving God through His church. It is in this situation that people can easily fall into a rut spiritually. 

Example: Help them see that Christ is not only interested in them when they are hurting, but all the time. Help them see that to be a disciple of Jesus is to allow every area of their life to be conformed to His image. Help them to not forget God just because they don’t feel like they need Him as much. They do, there’s no doubt about that.

22. Unbeliever – Things Are Good

This person may not have the best soil to hear the Gospel, but preach it you must. The truth is, many people come to Christ out of a season of pain and desperation. Not everyone, though. 

Example: Help them see that their life is fleeting and that even the wisest and wealthiest man of his time – Solomon – discovered that the only thing worth anything in life is to serve God and keep His commandments. No amount of success will be enough. 

What Else?

It’s vital for us to know the people we are speaking to. We may not know everyone personally, but it is highly likely that they fall into one of these life situations. You don’t need to feel as though you need to speak to each and every one of these every sermon, but it would be good to be aware of them as you prepare and craft what you will say (and how you say it).

So what else would you add? What did I miss? I’d love to hear from you. Leave a comment below or on social media (Facebook Group | Facebook Page | Twitter).

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Written by Brandon Kelley

Brandon Kelley is the co-founder of Rookie Preacher and the author of Preaching Sticky Sermons and Crucified to Life. He serves as the Spiritual Development Pastor at a fast growing church in Batavia, Ohio, called The Crossing. Among the many things he does at The Crossing, serving on the teaching team is one of them. He also writes at BrandonKelley.org. You can follow him @BrandonKelley_. Watch his sermons here.