Pastor, you have two audiences now.

How can you reach them both?

Audience #1: In Person

Audience #1  has gathered in a church building to hear you speak. The environment is designed to minimize distractions. You have an attention monopoly: you are the only person talking. Your sermon is the most interesting thing happening in the room.

Audience #1 sits obediently, listening to everything you say. Even if your sermon goes long or loses their attention, Audience #1 remains seated until you’re done speaking, because it’s considered rude to get up and walk out of a church service.

Audience #2: Online

Audience #2 is watching you on a screen. There may be a dozen distractions vying for their attention (their phone, the kids, the dog, etc.) Your message is a part of the attention economy: one of a billion different things your viewers could be watching online.

Audience #2 will stay as long as your sermon is engaging. But if your message fails to connect, they can leave the room anonymously, with a flick of a finger.

TV remote 2

How can one sermon reach both audiences?

Simple. Preach with audience #2 in mind.

Obviously, Audience #2 is the tougher crowd. You must fight for their attention.

But here’s the truth: If your sermon is interesting online, it will be an absolute smash hit in person. 

The principle: if it works online, it works in person. But reverse is not necessarily true.

Three ways to make your sermons more engaging —

both online and in person

1. Hook your audience in the first 30 seconds

Many sermons start out with announcements, welcomes, historical background on the text and scripture readings. This is fine if you have an attention monopoly and a captive audience. But your online viewers will quickly abandon your message if you don’t immediately give them a reason to keep watching.

Start every message with a hook. A hook is: 1) a compelling story; 2) an attention-grabbing visual, or 3) an intriguing metaphor. The very first thing out of your mouth should be the hook.

For example, if you’re preaching on James Chapter 3, start your message by lighting a match. Tell the story of a destructive fire that was started by a single match. Then transition to James 3:6 – The tongue is a fire.

2. Show — Don’t Tell

The more visuals you can put into your message, the better. Still images, video clips and objects (like flaming matches) are especially important online, because you’re competing in a visual, storytelling medium. (Visuals also help Audience #1 stay engaged).

3. Build your entire message upon a single hook

A wise pastor keeps going back to the same hook. Keep lighting matches throughout your message. Build your points around fire metaphors:

  • How to deal with a “relationship arsonist”
  • Quenching the white-hot flames of an untrue or unkind word
  • How to rebuild after you’ve been burned

Are you ready to improve your online preaching?

Let me be your coach

Sign up for my free online mini course The Nine Commandments of Great Online Preaching. In less than an hour I will teach you how to make your sermons more watchable, memorable and shareable.

Go ahead. It’s free.

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Published On: January 14, 2022 / Categories: Church, Church growth, Online Preaching /

David Murrow, The Online Preaching Coach, is the author of Why Men Hate Going to Church and many other bestselling books. David is an award winning television producer whose work has been seen on ABC, NBC, PBS, CBS, Discovery Networks, BBC World Service and dozens more. His Online Preaching Cohort trains pastors in the art of on-screen communication.

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