Let’s be honest. Public speaking is much less of a common mode of communication as it used to be. People are used to watching screens that have scene changes every few seconds. Just watch a sporting event and watch how often the production team switches between camera angles. This isn’t just to show how awesome they are and how great all their video angles are, it’s to keep you engaged. If you’re in a context where there is not a live video feed on screens in your worship center, then you don’t have the advantage of this tactic. You’ve gotta do it the old fashion way.
What’s at stake?
If you don’t become intentional about connecting with your congregation, you’ll end up leaving them at the train station without ever inviting them to join you on the train. It’s not enough to yell “all aboard” because not everyone at the train station is sure they want to get on the train. This is why it’s not enough to just open your message with “good morning, we’re going to open up to the book of Matthew this morning…” If that’s your approach, don’t be surprised when only a third of your congregation is tracking with you by the end of the message.
Making a solid connection with your congregation is vital not only in the first 5 minutes, but throughout the whole message. You will connect with whatever or whomever you focus on. If your focus is down and on your notes then you’ll end up doing a great job at connecting with your notes. If your focus is out and on the people whom sit before you, you’ll end up doing a great job at connecting with your congregation.
Last time I checked, your notes don’t need to hear the Gospel. They don’t need to hear about the love and grace of God, but your congregation absolutely does.
But how do you actually do this?
How to Connect With Your Congregation From the Pulpit
If you want to connect with your congregation on Sunday then you need to connect with what God wants to say through you throughout the week. Okay, I’ll wait as everyone reading this sounds the resounding DUH! Okay, now that we got that out of the way… It’s so easy to get behind on sermon preparation that by the time you begin to start writing out your message, you’re behind the 8-ball and racing against the clock just to get your message completed. If you’re apt to doing this, there are some changes that need to be made.
Some weeks the message God wants to speak through you is flowing out and the words are pouring onto your computer screen. Other weeks the message God wants to speak through you is plugged up behind all the other things in your mind. When you’re not feeling creative, try doing these 5 things.
One of the best ways to ensure that you’re where you need to be on any given day of the week is to have a weekly sermon preparation process. If you don’t have a set process, check out this article where 5 different pastors share their sermon prep process.
I highly recommend writing your message out in manuscript form. I also highly recommend that you boil that manuscript down to something much smaller to preach from. Once you’ve done this – you’ve developed a sermon prep process, you’ve written your message out, and you’ve boiled it down to an outline of some sorts – I highly recommend you actually go through your message. What I mean by this is taking the time to preach your message to the wall, the dog, the mirror, or the window. This will familiarize your mind with the message as a whole and you’ll be more acquainted with your notes so that you can better connect with your congregation on Sunday.
I actually go through my completed message 6 times. Once I write my manuscript out, I go through it 3 times and then boil it down to a usable outline. One I have that created, I go through it another 3 times. This has allowed me to depend much less on my notes because my notes are already in my mind and heart before I ever get on stage. For an example of what my notes look like, you can see the show notes of this podcast episode (where we talk about what to do when you’re done writing your sermon).
The Best Way to Connect With Your Congregation From the Pulpit
Now we get to the point of this whole article. If you want to connect with your congregation, make eye contact with them from the pulpit. When you look someone in the eye, they engage with what you’re saying. Don’t miss this. It’s the difference between making a connection, getting them on the train, or remaining disconnected and leaving them at the train station.
When you resolve to make eye contact with your congregation throughout your whole message, you will keep them engaged.
You can’t do this, though, unless you have internalized what God is wanting to say through you. It takes hard work throughout the week in order to connect with your congregation on Sunday. If you get good at following a process, your messages will improve and your congregation will more readily hear what God is saying through you.
Are you willing to do the work?
Do you make it a point to constantly make eye contact with the people you are preaching to?