Someone asks me a question about holding the attention of the audience. I must admit that I do not always hold the attention of the audience. No preacher can do that 100% of the time. I upload this blog for my fellow preachers so that when next weekend comes and the sleep bug hits your audience, you’d be ready to win hearts and minds.
How then do we deal with sleepy heads? Here’re some tips that work for me.
First, do NOT call them out. People have dignity. Calling out sleepy heads probably will do more harm than good.
Second, do NOT assume that sleepy heads do not want to be in church. I know people who have to work night shifts but want to be faithful to attending services. With stressful jobs like on-call doctors or nurses, people can be challenged physiologically. Making sleepy heads our enemies is not the best way to go.
Third, DO try to speak directly to the sleepy head in our sermon. Of course, I do not mean for you to say, “Hey, sleepy head. Wake up! This passage is for you.” (See tip number one above.) Rather, use a gracious but firm tone as you preach the text at a certain section of the audience where the sleepy head sits. Now, this actually takes guts. Some preachers hate confrontation. So, they avoid the sleepy head section. The result is a deeper sleep for the sleepy head.
This is what I prefer to do. As soon as I go up to the pulpit, I scan the audience and look for troubled areas. I then strategically place my gaze on those areas early. Quite often, I can catch them before they fall into a slumber. Do not however get so frustrated by using a harsh tone that the guilty sleepy head feels that you’re attack him or her. We have to contain our emotions in such a case and try to be more pastoral.
In conclusion, two types of emotions must be avoided. The first emotion is fear to confront, causing the speaker to keep away from the sleepy section. The second emotion is anger, causing the speaker to attack the sleepy section. If you can’t contain your negative emotions on the pulpit, you really should not be preaching. Do I sound overly harsh? Maybe, but I rather be cautious than be sorry.