4 Reasons Your Congregation is Disengaged from the Sermon
People in your congregation don’t think you can see them, but you know as well as anyone that you see everything they’re doing… all the time. And when eyes begin to wander about the room, thumbs twiddle, and for a few shameless congregants, phones light up their faces, what do you do?
Call them out publicly from the stage.
Kidding. Please don’t do that…
But it’s so tough as a pastor to see your congregation disengaged from the sermon! You have a responsibility to lead them, and you spend a lot of time preparing each week for your sermons. Seeing congregants’ eyes glazed over as you deliver a message from the pulpit can be discouraging, but the chances are that their visible disengagement is a symptom of something tangible that you can fix.
So, if you’re wondering why your congregation isn’t engaging with or staying focused on your sermons, these are a few reasons it may be happening:
1) Service Elements Aren’t Properly Balanced
Church services are made up of several different elements – worship, videos, announcements, a sermon, communion, tithing, etc. And properly balancing the placement of all those is incredibly important.
Pay attention to when your congregation seems to glaze over or get antsy during your sermons. If it’s towards the last ten minutes of your sermon, it may be time to switch up the elements in your service. Rather than having the band lead 3 songs up front, maybe have them move one song to the end of the service during the offering.
Balancing a service isn’t even about changing time chunks – your sermon may be the exact same length. But varying the placement of worship, videos, and other elements has a massive impact on people’s attention spans and engagement.
2) Your Sermon is Too Long
Any pastor will tell you they struggle with refraining from rambling or digressing during their sermons. And that’s nothing to be ashamed of! Truthfully, if you’re beginning to ramble or digress, it’s probably because you’re incredibly passionate about the topic, have researched it, and have a lot to say! That’s great.
But leading your congregation isn’t about giving them as much information as possible – it’s about being as effective as possible with your words, and rambling rarely leads people to be more focused.
But cutting down a sermon length is hard. Pastors will often try to just “hurry along” when preaching each week to keep the sermon time down, but that rarely works. If you’re going to take an effective step towards cutting down your sermon length, it needs to be intentional and planned – not something you try to do in the moment.
If you’ve preached a ton of sermons, you know your flow and what your patterns are for structuring a sermon. Use that to your advantage! Find chunks in the sermon or specific patterns that you can try cutting out of the routine this month and see how much you can comfortably trim down your message.
3) You Don’t Deliver Enough Biblical Substance
Believe it or not, diving deep with your message does not bore people – it makes them more engaged with the sermon.
Pastors will often avoid getting too theological or diving too deep into any one topic. They keep their messages “surface-y” so as to not lose people. However, this often triggers an opposite effect.
A really “surface-y” message is easy for people to ignore. The reaction is often one of “I already know this” or “this isn’t anything new.” But filling your sermons with Biblical substance and enriching it with helpful thoughts will rarely leave your congregation disengaged or bored.
4) You Don’t Connect Practical Application to Biblical Teaching
All the rich theological dialogue is intriguing, but it’s rarely helpful if it’s not tied to a tangible, practical application for your congregation. They want to know how to apply what they are learning! And a failure to do that will often result in losing their attention on Sunday mornings.
Wisdom isn’t meant to be kept in the realm of contemplation – it’s meant to permeate the way we view the world and encourage us to change our behavior and decisions. And diving into Biblical concepts shouldn’t be any different.
Connect what you’re teaching from scripture – whether theological concepts or Biblical stories – to your congregants’ every day lives. Reflect on how the sermon should impact your own life and use that as a base to preach instruction over your own attenders. It will lead to a more effective message and a more engaged congregation!
About the Author
Chris Fleming is a professional musician from Minneapolis, MN who has played with artists such as Big Daddy Weave and Jason Gray. He is actively involved with the CCM worship scene and has contributed as a drummer, music director, song writer, and producer for various worship artists and churches locally and nationally. Chris serves as the Creative Director at Motion Worship, helping to write various blog posts and tutorials on production, stage, Ableton, music, design, and tons of other topics.