Skip to content
Need some Easter Sermon inspiration? Check out our Easter Sermon Collection Learn more
Go back


How to Hold Their Attention When You Preach

Interesting sermons capture the interest of your listeners. That’s why I think it’s wrong to bore people with the Bible. When they hear a sermon that doesn’t engage them, they often think the message is boring—and they think God is too. 

As preachers, our message is too important to deliver in a take-it-or-leave-it attitude. 

Paul tells us in Colossians 4:5-6, “Be wise in the way you act toward those who are not believers, making good use of every opportunity you have. Your speech should always be pleasant and interesting, and you should know how to give the right answer to everyone” (GNT). You’re wise when you strive to be interesting when you preach.

So how do you keep your messages interesting and keep listeners engaged? There are two ways to do this:

Vary your delivery of the message.

The difference between a good sermon and a great sermon is delivery. I’ve preached the same message to multiple services and multiple audiences for years, and I’ve seen the difference my delivery has made. So, even though it may be the same material, how you share it determines whether you run to first base or knock it out of the park. 

Varying your delivery is about your speed, cadence, and volume. The average speaker speaks 150 words a minute; the average person can listen to 500 words a minute. Some preachers speak so fast they’re like auctioneers. Varying your rate and volume—fast, slow, loud, and soft—creates interest.

Some preachers are still copying Billy Sunday’s style from the 1930s. He yelled constantly because he didn’t have a microphone—but you do. 

Timing is important in preaching too. Sometimes silence, the dramatic pause, is the most important part of a sermon. It could be the difference between a home run and a foul ball. That’s why it’s important to listen to good preachers, not just read their books. 

Paint a picture in your main points and include humor where appropriate.

The quickest way to defuse a hostile audience is to talk about something funny that happened to you recently. When you do, it relaxes people—and your listeners will see you as one of them. 

It also makes a painful truth easier to digest. Think of it like this: Surgeons use anesthetics before they operate. As you allow God’s Word to do spiritual surgery on people, you’ll want to numb the sting a bit. Getting people to laugh is one of the most effective and quickest ways to get them to drop their barriers and be open to change. 

In fact, you can use humor to show that sin is stupid. It’s often illogical, irrational, and self-defeating. You simply need to expose it for what it is.

For example, I often need to preach on materialism in my Southern California context. I like to use humor to get people to laugh at the stupidity of thinking that a man’s life consists of an abundance of things. Stewardship messages are my funniest messages because I’m dealing with the most sensitive nerve in the human body—the one that goes from the heart to the wallet. 

Ecclesiastes 12:10 says, “For the Preacher was not only a wise man but a good teacher; he not only taught what he knew to the people, but taught them in an interesting manner” (TLB).

If you want to engage non-believers with the Good News about Jesus, don’t be afraid to make your sermons interesting—even entertaining. 

A sermon isn’t an act in a comedy club, but it also doesn’t need to be dry to be spiritual. I hear pastors proudly proclaim, “We’re not here to entertain.” And I just say, “Well, congratulations. Some Americans now think the most boring place to be is in church.” We’re doing a great job of not capturing or holding the attention of our audiences for significant periods of time. To the unchurched, dull preaching is unforgivable. 

You’re preaching the most important message in the history of the world. Vary your delivery and use humor to paint a picture so you can engage your audience with the living Word of God.

Related Posts

Subscribe to Rick Warren's Ministry Toolbox

Weekly Email for Pastors and Church Leaders

    We care about your data. Read our privacy policy.

    Pastor Rick Warren smiling