The 1 Question You Forget To Ask Before You Preach

When writing any message there are a number of questions that need to be answered. What do you want your audience to know? What do you want them to feel? What do you want them to do? What scripture do they need to understand? What problem are you highlighting? What theme are you developing? ...just to name a few.

But the most important question, the most overlooked question, must be answered first. And the answer to that question will change how you approach every other facet of your message. 

The question is this: Who are you speaking to?

The answer to that question isn’t a simple one and the more detail you can provide, the more personalized your message can become.

If we were to jump on the phone and I asked you that simple question, how would you answer?

(I encourage you to write the answers to these questions down every time you begin your message prep. In fact, grab a piece of paper and follow along right now.)

Let's unpack that simple question with some detail. 

How old are they?

This makes a difference. Their stage of life changes how they view your topic. Their life experience impacts their perspective and their reaction.

For example, if you speak about parenting, are there only young parents in the room? What if there are grandparents present? What about teens? How does what you’re saying impact them?

What gender are they?

How does your message apply to men? Does it apply differently to women?

Where are they in their faith journey?

This question is incredibly important and how you answer this question will eventually describe the audience you attract. If you decide that your audience consists of maturing believers and you speak only to how they can apply what you’re teaching, you will eventually only be speaking to maturing believers. People exploring faith will feel out of place and likely decide that what you are speaking about is out of reach.

On the contrary, if you only speak about issues that people exploring faith are dealing with, your maturing believers will eventually loose interest assuming that what you are saying doesn’t apply to them.

Understand that everyone is at a different part of their faith journey and speak to each one.

What socioeconomic factors are they dealing with?

Socioeconomics can effect the points of pain your audience feels. If you only use examples from one group it can be hard for another to relate. You might be dealing with the same core issue, but how it manifests itself may be different.

What is their family life/home life like?

Family and home life create the context for most people’s lives. Are they coming from a broken home? Are they coming from a stable home? Who’s working? Is it just mom, dad and the kids at home? Are their other parties involved (grandparents, roommates, etc)?

Where do they fit in the family?

How does your message apply to Dads? Does it apply differently to their children? And what if they are sitting next to each other…which they most likely are. Are you speaking to them individually or as a family unit?

This list is by no means exhaustive, but it’s a valuable place to start. Most importantly, understanding your audience is the difference between speaking to the group and speaking to the individual.

Understanding your audience is the difference between speaking to the group and speaking to the individual.
— StevenJBarker

Applying this to your message prep:

Before you write any message, clarify who your audience is. Understand them in detail and write it downl. Do this before you begin your message prep. Then jump in to your regular routine. 

When you get to your final product, review it through the eyes of your audience. As you rehearse, imagine you are speaking to specific individuals representing the "list" you created prior to your prep. Then make the necessary adjustments as you go. 

Answering that "most important question" will help create a message that will meet them where they are and help each member of your audience taking own spiritual next step. And that's what it's all about. 

Question of the day: What other questions do you ask to better understand your audience makeup?