How to Deliver a Sermon

Church pastor giving sermon

Though writing a sermon might seem like the most difficult step, delivering it can often be quite overwhelming for many. Whether you have tackled this task before or it is your first time approaching the pulpit, there are likely some concerns that you have swirling around in both your mind and your gut. Connecting with an audience is not easy, which is why so many people worry about public speaking. Still, there are plenty of ways to deliver your sermon and do justice to the words you’ve committed to the page.

Know Thy Audience

Any good writer knows that the absolute key to success is knowing one’s audience. Writing for a group of small children, for example, is going to be quite a different experience than writing for a crowd of distinguished lecturers. The same is true of anything you write and especially of anything you plan on presenting to an audience verbally. The easiest way to think about your audience at first is the size of the congregation. Are you delivering this message to a handful of individuals or a large crowd?

While you should feel free to speak for as long as is necessary, a larger audience might require a shorter sermon. Speaking for long periods of time in a crowded room can make a congregation irritable and ready for the entire experience to end. As a rule of thumb, you should always be ready to cut a sermon short when you feel like you’ve started to lose your audience. Outside of size, think about how the age of those in your audience might impact how your message is received.

Choose Your Words Carefully

The words you select will play a huge part in how your overall message is received by a congregation. Here are some considerations to keep in mind:

  • More often than not, you want to avoid talking “at” a crowd. This can be avoided by selecting the most appropriate words. Using “we” and “us” in your sermon instead of “you” can be a perfect way to cultivate a bond with your audience during a sermon. Including yourself in the message helps to show that you and the congregation are one and the same and the message is for everyone.
  • While inclusion is a fantastic angle to focus on when writing a sermon, you also need to know what to exclude. If someone in your congregation came to you with a problem and you wish to share the lesson with the crowd, then you need to make sure you remove all information that could identify this parishioner.
  • If someone confides in you, do not give any hints as to age, gender, or relationship to you, as this might make the person feel uncomfortable if he or she is in the crowd. You should also run the idea by the individual in advance.

Practice in the Space if Possible

The environment will also have an impact on the way your sermon is received by an audience. If you’re delivering a wedding sermon in a large room, for example, then there is a good chance your voice will get swallowed by the acoustics. If you don’t have any equipment meant to amplify your voice or control your volume, then you will be on your own when it comes to ensuring everyone in the room can hear you in a clear and crisp way. Thankfully, there are a few easy ways to tackle this.

The best option is to practice in the space if possible. Projecting your voice is all about using your diaphragm to speak to the farthest point in a room. You’re not shouting, of course. You’re simply raising your voice to a level that allows you to comfortably reach everyone present. Get a feel for the space, how your voice sounds when it bounces off of walls or ceiling arches, and what you need to do to make yourself heard. If you know someone who specializes in singing or performing on stage, this individual can definitely offer you some insight.

Don’t Be Afraid To Go Back and Rework Things

If you tested your sermon out on someone you trust or have read it out loud for yourself, you may run into a scenario where the message is falling short of your intention. Don’t be too hard on yourself if this is the case. On paper, words can look fantastic. Sadly, you won’t know how they impact someone until they are heard out loud. When you run into this problem, go back and work through the areas that seem problematic. Dedicating yourself to this task can make a huge difference in the sermon’s reception.

Writing an effective sermon takes time. Once you’ve gotten your ideas down on paper, it is crucial to test out the speech before you deliver it to an audience. Consider how your audience and the environment can change the texture of your words. Focus on how you project your voice and the way you engage with your congregation and it can make a huge difference in the way that your sermon is received.