Preaching Articles

Dear Communicator,

I really do enjoy listening to presentations, sermons, and speeches. In fact, every week I listen to dozens of them. I have a decent attention span, and if I have chosen to come and listen to you speak, I really do want to be engaged and be able to apply something new to my life.

Unfortunately, I was not engaged in your talk this time. It is not because I didn’t want to be. I genuinely wanted to be wrapped up in your content and presentation, but this time I checked out.

Why? Well, it’s likely because of one of these five reasons.

1. You did not grab my attention in the beginning.

I will make a judgment about you within the first 30 seconds of your talk.

I can’t help it. Like the rest of the audience, I’m wired that way. You will make a first impression, whether you are intentional about it or not. When you came out on the stage without a smile, with closed off body language and with no greeting…I began tuning you out.

2. You failed to reel me into the tension.

Even though I have chosen to be a part of the audience, that doesn’t mean I care about the problem that you are trying to solve.

As the communicator, your job is to put me on the edge of my seat and make me long for a solution to the problem you are dealing with. If you had helped me feel the tension of your message, I would have tracked with you until you gave me a solution.

3. You never communicated a compelling bottom line.

If I take the time to listen to what you have to say, then I want to be able to take your information with me.

I want to make changes to my life, work, and relationships. The problem is that you gave me too much information to apply and not a compelling point to internalize. If you had taken the same amount of time to craft a memorable point as you did to come up with all of those applications, I probably would have been able to take your talk with me.

4. You spoke at the same speed the entire talk.

You can deliver fantastic content, but if you speak at a rate that is too slow, too fast, or not varied, I cannot help but check out.

If you wanted to engage me throughout the entirety of your talk, I needed your rate of speech to vary depending on what you were saying. I needed to be drawn in. I needed you to communicate intensity. I needed to be surprised. All of these are affected by your ability to vary the rate of your speech.

5. You never engaged my heart.

At the end of the day, I am still an emotional being…at least at some level.

It is doubtful that I want to cry during your talk, but at the same time, I need to feel it to fully engage with it. Personal stories are a great way to connect my heart to your content, but you missed those opportunities at the beginning and at the end of your talk.

Questions: Have you checked out of an unengaging talk recently?  Why?  Leave a comment below.

Patrick Holden has served in student ministry for the past 7 years in both high school and middle school ministry contexts. He is currently the Middle School Pastor at Park West Church. Prior to that served in student ministry staff at North Cleveland Church of God while pursuing a Discipleship Ministries Degree from Lee University. Patrick frequently speaks to student ministries and church leaders and blogs on the topics of leadership, communication, and creativity at

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commented on Aug 9, 2012

Top reason for checking out of a sermon is the delivery. If the pastor becomes loud or starts shouting...I turn off. I can only concentrate on how loud the person is. I can understand occasionally raising the voice for emphasis on a point, otherwise, speak normally.

Theodore Payne

commented on Aug 9, 2012

Thanks for this vital information, i agree completely. I also feel if they are talking back to me, they are hearing, and this encourages me to put my best foot forward.

Craig Chestnut

commented on Aug 9, 2012

Are you going to hear the Word or listen to a man? The Bible says in I Cor. 1:21, " the FOOLISHNESS of preaching..." and in Isaiah 55:11, " shall not return unto me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I send it." Maybe your putting the importance in the wrong place!

Gordon Dorsey

commented on Aug 9, 2012

vSHALOM very good topic today.a lay member has to come to the service exspecting to receive .they must also understand that every message is not going to be a bombshell blow u out of the water message did u come exspecting to hear or did u come saying i hope he says something to excite me. everything is placed on the pastor but the bench member have to come exspecting.then he or she will recieve..example how is it some come every sunday and they say have recieved while other just seem to be there. is it the pastor or you? SHALOM PASTORDORSEY

Eleanor Allen

commented on Aug 9, 2012

Vocal delivery is certainly important. Using your voice to stress key points in your sermon helps engage your audience and get your message across. If you start being too loud, I will also focus more on your voice than the message. Timing is another biggie! You need to pause, make eye contact, and give people a chance to absorb what you are trying to teach. Keeping the topic clear, and not straying from the sermon topic is ultimate. Jesus gives us so many excellent examples on how effective his messages were and continue to be because he kept his focus. When he was talking about sowing seed, he did not stray from the topic and he did not complicate it. Plus, he left people with an underlying message that fed their spirits!

Charles Ingwe

commented on Aug 10, 2012

With due respect to the stated points I only wish to state that 30 seconds of analysing where one is going in the sermon must not be set as a forever stardand because that may lead to becoming over judgemental. Patience is a fruit of the spirit. Whilst the preacher must endeavor to be stable in delivery, error will be completely done with when christ takes the reigns finally. Let us be patient with one another and ever interceeding even in our sermon listening and not looking for whether it shall be well or not.

Michael Karpf

commented on Aug 13, 2012

On one end we need to be true to God's word, regardless of what our listeners think (2 Tim 4:1-5). On the other hand, if we are to be communicators of God's word, we need to exegete our text, pray over it, meditate on it, ask ourselves how this applies to our life, and make it relevant to our listeners. I believe if we are called to preach, God equips us to preach His word. Yet, I still have to ask myself, if I am preaching for man's approval, or God's approval. These are tensions I have to deal with every time I preach.

Derrick Tuper

commented on Aug 13, 2012

Good stuff. We are called to preach, not simply speak. We need to strive to be good communicators. Biblical accuracy first, delivery second. Right or wrong people's attention spans are limited. Do we really want to see all our hard study work go to waste because our delivery didn't keep people engaged? Granted, some people might tune out for their own immature and unspiritual reasons but if our delivery is poor it will be hard for the mature Christians to remain engaged and not have their minds wander. We can't expect our congregation to be passionate about our sermon if we don't come across that way. A lot needs to go into constructing a good, presentable sermon.

Zenaida Aguilar

commented on Aug 14, 2012

I can easily detect if the preacher is prepared or not. If i noticed that sermon is not well prepared I easily get turned off. Well prepared sermon has annointing by God. It gives encouragement and the most important is I can feel Gods touch and revelation.

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