If you want to continue using the old site, you still can here.
  • Favorites
  • Print
  • Rate Me

preaching article What Distracts You While You're Preaching?

What Distracts You While You're Preaching?

based on 2 ratings
Aug 22, 2014

Most pastors preach or speak in a public forum 150 to 200 times a year. Many do more than that. Over time these preachers have the ability to discern if the congregation or audience is following them or if their minds are in another world.

Preachers are also too familiar with distractions. They're a way of life for someone who gets in front of people to speak, but they are no less annoying.

I asked a number of pastors to share with me the most frequent distractions they experience while preaching. Here are their responses in order of frequency. I also took a representative quote from one of the respondents for each item.

1. People walking around. “It happens every time someone walks in the service or leaves the service while I’m preaching. All heads turn to see the movement. I might as well be speaking an alien language while the person is moving. No one is paying attention to me.”

2. People talking to each other. “It’s obvious they’re not listening to me if they are talking to each other. And it really gets me when they put their hand in front of their mouths, as if they can cover up the fact that they are talking.”

3. People looking at their watches. “Yep, I know it’s been a bad or long sermon or both when people can’t wait to get out. The ‘watch watching’ is the key indicator.”

4. People yawning. “So I worked on this sermon 15 hours and this guy can’t stop yawning. Maybe he was up all night, but I would rather him stay home and sleep.”

5. People frowning. “I always wonder if they are ticked off at me or my sermon. Maybe they had a bad day with their spouse. Maybe their team lost last night, but I can’t help but take it personally.”

6. People sleeping. “There is a deacon in my church whose favorite nap time is while I’m preaching. It doesn’t help that his wife gives him the elbow about ten times each sermon.”

7. People texting. “You might be able to argue that they are taking electronic notes, but I know better. Some of the young people in our church can’t go ten minutes without texting someone.”

8. Cell phones ringing. “We ask for all phones to be silenced before the service begins, so it’s not as bad as it used to be. But I did a funeral one time and the deceased’s son’s phone rang. He actually started talking to his hunting buddy while I continued my message.”

Dishonorable mention (others noted by preachers): sneezing; coughing; clearing the throat; picking the nose; flatulence.

Thom Rainer is the president of LifeWay Christian Resources and the co-author of Transformational Church: Creating a New Scorecard for Congregations.

Talk about it...

Brad Brought avatar
Brad Brought
0 days ago
Great article. This is the one that always seems to get me: "5. People frowning. ?I always wonder if they are ticked off at me or my sermon. Maybe they had a bad day with their spouse. Maybe their team lost last night, but I can?t help but take it personally.?' I am by nature a "face-reader". Being a face reader and being blessed / cursed with the gift of discernment permits my mind to wander while I am preaching and see a scowling or frowning face. I automatically start thinking back over what I have just said, all the while trying to keep my focus on the remainder of the sermon. Being a relatively new pastor; I would be so grateful to you seasoned pastors for advice regarding this dilemma. Thank you!
Lloyd Vorderstrasse avatar
Lloyd Vorderstrasse
0 days ago
Brother Brad, yes, this is a great article. I have been preaching to audiences of various sizes and ages for 25 years. One thing that helps me preach is to make eye contact with/look at those people who are tracking with me and really listening and looking to hear the word of God. We may all have a frowner in the crowd but I also believe you have people present who are hungering to hear from the Lord. Let them be an encouragement to you while you preach. God bless you Brad. Keep preaching the word God gives you.
Amos Aramburo avatar
Amos Aramburo
0 days ago
i look to those who are talking while i preach and telling them in my eyes to stop and pay attention.
Jeff Glenn avatar
Jeff Glenn
0 days ago
Oddly enough, I am NOT distracted by a crying baby (and in a small church this is noticeable), but when a mother takes the child out, usually ALL EYES in the congregation "move" with the movement of the child and mother, as they watch mother and child exit, that's what distracts me. Then ALL EYES watch as mother and enter again.
James Hamilton avatar
James Hamilton
0 days ago
I guess I am unusual, maybe even strange but there is little that distracts me; maybe sudden loud music or a gunshot (that hasn't happened but I am sure it would distract me). In the Navy I was a Naval Leadership instructor and often spoke to large numbers of people, many of whom were senior to me. Perhaps that training ground prepared me for the pulpit. The times I do get distracted is in counseling when two people try to talk over one another.
Keith Roberts avatar
Keith Roberts
0 days ago
Several years ago when I was speaking in Sudbury, Ontario I noticed one man frowning through my entire message. After services I caught up to him and asked him if I had said something to offend him. He explained that he had a headache since he woke up that morning. Now, if everyone is frowning, I'm probably in trouble but if only a few are grimacing, I'm not too concerned.
Rudy  Watson avatar
Rudy Watson
0 days ago
My own phone rang once while I was preaching. I never take it into church any more. Also, last Sunday someone got a call, answered it and talked to the caller for about five minutes while sitting in the Sanctuary where all could hear! Rudy Watson Glen Julia UMC, Mt. Pleasant, Fla.
Rudy  Watson avatar
Rudy Watson
0 days ago
I have had every one of these distractions and a couple more. Emergency vehicle sireenes, person shaking watch.Rudy Watson
Joseph  Johnson avatar
Joseph Johnson
0 days ago
35 years ago our church sound system would pick up CB radio. And every once in awhile the person on the CB would be cursing up a storm. It made for an interesting service.
Tim Johnson avatar
Tim Johnson
0 days ago
Yikes! I hope you had someone with lightning fast hands on the sound system!
Tim Johnson avatar
Tim Johnson
0 days ago
I have an unusual situation. My church is on a busy corner of a small tourist town. My distractions are usually someone walking by the church talking; emergency vehicles (at least once every 6 sermons); and loud radios in cars going by. If I see that people are distracted, I take a short pause with them, then go on. As far as in-house distractions, I focus on the ones who are obviously tracking with me. That way I hardly notice the ones who are not.
Jeff Hagan avatar
Jeff Hagan
0 days ago
I've been in ministry just over 22 years and I found this article fun and entertaining. I couldn't help but think though that "pastors/preachers" need to develop thicker skin. The only one of these that I have found actually bothers me personally is the ringing of the cell phone. You cannot take all the others personally. What a miserable "job" it must be if one worries about all those trivial things while speaking. Here's a tip though with the cell phone, make them own it. When it happens I'll often stop and say something like, "Go ahead. We'll wait for you to finish." Or something similar. It gets a chuckle and people become much more aware of whether their ringers are on or not. :-) Just a thought.
Charles Gentry avatar
Charles Gentry
0 days ago
BABIES CRYING and the parents refuse to take them out of the service. I wonder how many people will be in Hell because a baby was distracting them at the critical moment. Nursery? Ah, yes! but so many think they need to keep their squalling kid in church. Why? They can't hear and neither can anyone else. The upside? at least we have babies...a future for our church!
Tony Bland avatar
Tony Bland
0 days ago
I get up to preach and i hear a baby crying I say to the church. to the parent of the children that are crying please dont take them out. I have a mic to you who don;t want to hear that child i have a mic.
Bill Williams avatar
Bill Williams
0 days ago
"I wonder how many people will be in Hell because a baby was distracting them at the critical moment." Answer: none. I'm afraid your God is much too small if you think a crying baby can keep him from saving a lost sinner. "The upside? at least we have babies...a future for our church!" That is, until they become teenagers and walk away from a church that has been complaining about them since they were crying babies. Be careful not to take the future of our church for granted. It is not determined by how many crying babies there are in the church, but rather on how we treat those crying babies!
Richard Rodriguez avatar
Richard Rodriguez
0 days ago
Thick skin is the solution I have a thirty three-year old saint who is autistic and makes noises. He has been asked not to return at several churches. We are delighted to have him in our congregation as I am sure Father is. God's people precious don't appreciate them He can send them elsewhere. I wonder how many times we ignored, fallen asleep, or taken a call when He was trying to speak to us ministers?
Bill Williams avatar
Bill Williams
0 days ago
Shouting multitudes, women reaching out for his clothes, arguing Pharisees, cripples being let down from the roof...our Lord seemed to be fine with the distractions that came with everyday life. In fact, he often used these distractions as opportunities to reveal the Gospel. It would be well for those of us who follow his preaching and teaching ministry to do likewise.
Richard Scotland avatar
Richard Scotland
0 days ago
Good point,well made! I am assuming this is a light hearted article and it made me chuckle as I can tick off at least one of these almost every week I preach. We have people in our church family who have issues and so walkers and talkers are common place. Regulars can now mostly ignore those distractions but visitors struggle. The first ever frowner I "confronted" afterwards, was having indigestion and realising it was not personal to me was great, though at the time it was not. I am not there as a crowd pleaser so I am fully aware now that there will be frowners - it means that they are listening if nothing else. Texters do not bother me. I chatted with some and they had various versions of the Bible of their devices and so I can happily assume that they all have and are reading them! I cannot and do not want to imagine flatulence as a problem that is so bad it would distract me - either the noise or the smell would be so gross that the perpetrator would be mortified!
Richard Rodriguez avatar
Richard Rodriguez
0 days ago
Excellent point Bill, we should be as wise as our Lord to realize the situation and make the most of it. In the end they are God's people not ours, our congregation, not our Church, and certainly not our ministry. According to scripture they are God's people, Christ's Church, and Holy Spirit's ministryon earth. I am honored to be a facilitator of His purposes until His return. When we take ownership of what is His we then become totally responsible for it, we are not called or are able to bear such a yoke. Keep it in His hands and watch Him take care of all that belongs to Him. I realize this sounds overly simplistic but His yoke is supposed to be especially easy. Lol
Richard Scotland avatar
Richard Scotland
0 days ago
I would (jokingly) add people dying, or more commonly, fainting.
James Lee avatar
James Lee
0 days ago
I have to laugh when I think of the number of people who will call me or text me in the middle of the service to let me know that they will be late or sick and not coming. "The service started 20 minutes ago and I noticed your seat was empty." I take my phone out of my pocket now.
Festus Nchenesi avatar
Festus Nchenesi
0 days ago
Great and very true observations. I concentrate on faces that inspire me to go on as for those that decide to speak while the sermon is on I'll ask them if they have something the would love to share,it usually shuts them up cause 99 of the times they have nothing to share, if i notice someone dozing,i'll simply say dont allow the Devil to steal the word from your neighbour wake them up,some will doze again but it always helps. I"ve found this to be one way of keeping in touch with the crowd.

So, what did you think?


Thank you.