What Preachers Can Learn From Comedians

Remember, your audience doesn’t owe you anything.

When’s the last time you listened to a stand up comedian and laughed at their joke because you felt like you owed it to them? Probably never (minus the times your kids share their nonsensical knock-knock jokes). When you go to a comedy show, you expect to get your money’s worth. It was a good show if you laughed, better if you cried.

It’s the same when your audience walks into church on any given Sunday. They don’t owe you anything.


Sure, you and I could say that Jesus never expected us to measure ourselves against a standup comedy routine, but he does expect us to hold the attention of our audience. We have to be more engaging then their phones, then their grumbling stomachs, even more engaging then their wandering minds.

So how in the world do we compete with that? Takes some cues from the comedians.

Become a better story teller.

A great comedian can keep you engaged just by telling you a story. It might be personal, pulling back the curtain on their own life or it may be telling someone else's story. Help your audience understand the characters. Engage them in a bigger story.

Study some of the greats. Shoot, when is the last time you read fiction? When you hear a great story, what makes it a great story? Is the the level of detail? Is the anticipation of what comes next? How much is too much? What can kill a good story? Become a student of storytelling.

Help you audience relate.

Think of your favorite stand up comedian. Are they just funny? Or are they funny because “they get you”?

This is why it’s imperative that you understand your audience. How are they dealing with the issue your message is addressing? You have to know where they’re coming from if you want to help them move beyond it. It’s all about teaching to the gap.  (See "The Most Under Recognized Ingredient in a Powerful Message")

Make it interactive.

Make your Sundays feel more like a workshop and less like a lecture.

Ask your audience self assessing questions. Help your audience internalize the problem. If you’re talking about money, ask them to identify with a feeling that comes to mind when they think about money. You could even provide some choices. This gives you the perfect opportunity to teach to those choices providing a far more relatable and interactive experience for your audience. Not to mention it validates your audience and honors where they are coming from.

Standing on stage and commanding attention means you’ve got to deliver. You owe your audience a relevant and engaging experience. 

Your audience owes you nothing, it’s you that owes them everything.

Question: Outside of preachers, who keeps you most engaged? 

One Simple Way to Find Stories In Your Church

As communicators we are always looking for great stories to help highlight the lives being changed in your audience. Real stories highlight show your audience that there are people just like them in your church. They “reward” people for living out their faith and they are far more compelling then statistics or generic stories you found online. But where do you find them? 

You just have to know how to ask. 


1. Call to Action

Finding great stories starts with a call to action. At the conclusion to each sermon great communicators help their audience identify their next step. They help them apply what they’ve been teaching to the lives of their audience. If you’re really thinking ahead, you ask them to commit to taking that next step and to tell you that they are doing so. Many churches use some form of follow up card to have their audience indicate how they are going to put the lesson into action. 

2. Follow Up

If your audience has indicated they are taking a next step, follow up mid week with some additional tools or encouragement to follow through on their next step. 

3. Go Back and Ask

If you’ve been tracking those next steps, go back and ask the list of people who committed to take a specific next step how it went. Invite them to share their story. 

The stories are there, you just have to know who to ask. 

The stories are there, you just have to know who to ask.

Not only is sharing a community members story powerful, it’s rewarding, for you, your audience and your “sharer”. Look for opportunities to collect those stories. File them away (in Evernote) and look for the perfect opportunity to share them.  

Question of the day: What’s the "close to home" life change story you’ve yet to share with your audience? 

4 Key Employee Engagement Questions with Marcus Buckingham

Annual reviews have always seemed like a waste time. For all the time and effort it takes to deliver an annual review, not only do we get bad data, it feels like we are having a disciplinary discussion about ancient history.

Marcus Buckingham, in a recent interview with the Harvard Business Review, outlined 4 questions, asked quarterly, that replace the outdated annual review. 

See more of this interview at here or visit The Marcus Buckingham Company website.