Tangible Ways to Engage Your Congregation when Preaching
The monologue is no longer accepted as the best form of preaching. In general, preaching is becoming more dialogical in nature. The question that remains is: how can you engage your audience in tangible ways?
Breakout of Traditional Church Structures
How do you structure your time when you gather for worship? Let's say that you have roughly an hour: how much of that time is spent in preaching? I'd guess that its anywhere from about 20 minutes to forty minutes. What would happen if you spent less time in preaching and more time working together? For instance, rather than preaching for thirty minutes on the power of prayer why not break into groups to actually practice what you are preaching? Maybe you are preaching on acts of charity and instead of explaining what charity looks like you create an opportunity for your congregation to leave church early (risky I know) and serve in your community. Here's the truth: if you are struggling to engage with your audience your structure may be holding you back. Change, though hard, breeds engagement.
Make Testimony a Crucial Part of Your Sermons
God is alive and at work in our communities. If you are preaching, I'd be willing to bet you believe in God's active power. You give yourself passionately to the sharing of the gospel each week and in doing so you promote God's goodness. This is amazing but may also be limiting the opportunities for engaging your congregation. God is alive in each member of your community and if given the chance, we could all be inspired and touched by God's work throughout your community. Make space for others share the good news of what God is doing and what God has done and it will inspire your congregation.
Create Space For Dialogue
What would it look like if you gave people the chance to respond to your sermons in the context of your weekly gathering? It would be terrifying and risky but it would also open the door for engagement. Too often we think about church in the context of leadership and try to control the outcomes of every experience. What would it mean to let people express their feelings and concerns? Even if this doesn't happen in the context of worship you can always create a new space for engagement following your worship. If you are wondering why people aren't engaging with your sermons it may be that there just isn't any space for engaging.
Groups are powerful. Sharing and listening is a natural part of everyone's day. The last fifty years of church ministry has seen a turn to small groups that has been a powerful part of discipleship and community. But these groups are not the only way of encouraging groups. One of my favourite things to do when preaching is to ask a critical question and then ask people to turn to their neighbour to share their answer. These are usually not the deep questions or things that would be hard to share. For example, when trying to get people to think about gifts you could ask people to share the best gift they ever got. Setting aside a few minutes for people to talk to each other challenges people to connect their own thoughts to what you are talking about and in doing so encourages engagement.