The inability to gather physically as a church body has plunged preachers, some with multimedia communications experience and others without, into a new paradigm. At best, most Southern Baptist pastors with a television ministry had become accustomed to addressing the gathered body as their primary audience during the sermon. But when there was no one in the building, they had to learn how to speak directly to their primary audience through the lens of a camera. Others had never ventured into multimedia sermon delivery, and connecting with people they could not physically see was more difficult than they imagined. If video streaming will be part of a church’s preaching strategy moving forward, the new paradigm will require meaningful engagement with those in the pews and those behind their screens—and both will want to feel as though the sermon is directed primarily to them.
The message has not changed for 2,000 years, but the way we deliver it shifts from generation to generation. While it will always be true it is special to gather a church locally, it is also true in our day that almost everyone your church hopes to evangelize and disciple is online. The preaching ministry of your church has a great gift in digital presentation. To not make the most of this gift in our generation would be to miss a timely Great Commission opportunity. Rethink delivery of your pulpit ministry to engage both in-person and online listeners. Rethink the length of your sermons, the position of your camera, and the frequency with which you look directly into the camera lens and address the online viewers.
Sermon illustrations will need to be packaged in a way with which both the gathered and the online attender can relate. Tangible props should be visible both in-house and through the camera. Names of businesses, schools, or community locations that anchor a sermon in a geographic context may need to be varied to engage a regional audience instead of a community-specific one. As you visualize your listener, you must not only imagine the one dressed nicely and sitting in a pew, but also the one wearing pajamas and reclining on the couch. A livestreamed and/or recorded sermon is accessible to everyone, anywhere. So if you once felt comfortable saying things from your pulpit that would not be made public, you will need to more carefully select your words to minimize misinterpretation.
For centuries, response to a sermon’s gospel appeal has looked like walking down an aisle or meeting with a counselor in the back of the sanctuary. But we know that what really mattered was the clearly communicated next step. Clearly communicated next steps for response will look different for your online sermon viewers. Videos can begin or end with a bumper clarifying connection points. Your appeal for response at the end of every sermon can call for a clear next step for both those in-house and those watching online. Use text-in numbers, private messaging platforms, or email accounts to drive the listener to an immediate next step. Test these response systems frequently. Clarify responsibilities and expectations for those church staff or church members who will follow up with decisions made online. It would be tragic for a viewer to feel the prompting of the Holy Spirit to respond to the gospel, but not know how or not be followed up with in a timely manner.
Don’t do this alone
Gather around you 2-3 trusted leaders inside the church, or 2-3 trusted fellow pastors, and allow them to speak into your preaching ministry. Meet with them weekly or monthly to help plan the preaching calendar, share ideas for illustration, and fine-tune delivery for maximized impact. More than ever before, now is the time to allow trusted advisors to speak into your preaching processes and practices, “as iron sharpens iron.”
Watch your recorded preaching videos
You don’t have to do this every week, but you should be watching your recorded videos at least a couple of times every month. Hopefully you will see delivery nuances you want to change, pick up on repeated filler words or phrases, and better understand how your listeners and viewers perceive your preaching style. Pick one or two things to work on, and get gradually better. Then pick one or two more.
Enlist a digital content manager
Whether this person is staff or non-staff, archiving your messages in a way that is easily navigable and invitingly appealing to online viewers is an important step for the future. You can have all the great content you want but without someone to manage, organize, and promote it, it will not reach its fullest potential. Find that man or woman who can do a great job at this, and hand over the reigns.
- How much time will I invest into becoming an effective communicator both to those in the building and those online?
- How can the response time be constructed to identify the work of the Lord in the lives of those online and in the building?
- What day will be set aside to watch and evaluate my sermon?
- What group of trusted people will I invite into my sermon feedback and writing process?
- Who can be trained to upload and manage sermon content on our website? If you have that done already, invest time into learning how to maximize the sermon through social media.
The Pastor|Church Relations Department of the SBTC exists to serve, support, connect, and encourage pastors and their wives by systematizing relational engagement, working through associational connections, developing helpful resources, and planning strategic events. We endeavor to enlarge the Great Commission impact of local churches through intentional relationship building and strengthening.