Internal Distractions. These exist inside your head. Your mind goes a million miles an hour while you preach. You think about a lot of things in the moment:
-you wonder how your message is coming across
-you’re not sure if you’ve adequately made your point
-you realize you’re not actually living out what you’re preaching
-you think about the argument you had that morning with your wife
-you’re concerned someone might be thinking you’re preaching about them
-you realized you’ve talked yourself into a corner
-you wonder if everyone is boredAll of this goes on in your head while words are coming out of your mouth. It makes it difficult to stay focused on your message. These internal distractions come at you from your own thoughts. No one knows they’re happening except you. But there’s another type of distraction that is just as disruptive.
External Distractions. These distractions come from something other than you, and they are largely out of your control. They vary from a crying baby to someone leaving during your message to someone coming in late to someone with an insidious cough.
What can you do about distractions when you preach? Whether they are internal or external, is there a way to overcome distractions? While some distractions can’t be avoided, they can be managed. Here’s five ways to overcome preaching distractions.
1. Expect distractions, but do your best to eliminate them.
You will face distractions so you should just expect them. But you may be able to do something about them. While you can’t remove every distraction, you can work to prevent them:
-If you are facing the same screaming baby every Sunday you could consider making the nursing mother rooms better, or highlight how safe and clean your nursery is (provided it’s actually safe and clean).
-If people constantly get up and leave you could consider putting a bouncer at the door (not really, but maybe?)
-If you finding your mind wandering to things you’re worried about try to clear your mind before you preach.
You should expect distractions, but you don’t have to resign yourself to them. Work to eliminate the ones you have control over.
2. Be well prepared.
Knowing distractions will come your way makes it even more vitally important to prepare well. The better prepared you are for your sermon the easier it will be to deal with distractions. If you are having to think about what you’re going to say next you will be weak against even minimal distractions. I’ve written several articles on how to be well prepared for your sermons.
3. Keep preaching through just about anything.
When I was learning how to preach we did an exercise where four of us preached a sermon all at the same time. I had to preach my sermon while three other people were preaching theirs. It was a great way to learn how to push through distractions. Practice the skill of continuing to preach even when you are distracted. Learn to push it out of your mind and focus on what you’re doing. This is a learned skill. Get creative and practice preaching through distractions.
4. Don’t be so tied to your plan that you miss an opportunity.
Some distractions are an opportunity to answer a question or address an issue. Some distractions can also be an opportunity for humor. Acknowledging a distraction can be a great way to relieve the tension and lighten the mood. It can be incredibly uncomfortable to carry on as if a disruptive thing isn’t happening when everyone in the room sees it and hears it. So while you should keep preaching through just about anything, there is a time and place to make mention of a distraction. You just have to use your judgment and go with your gut.
But you don’t ever come across angry about it. This will make everyone even more uncomfortable. As the communicator you set the tone. If you’re rattled and angry you will set everyone on edge. Keep your calm, use humor, and be light-hearted.
And a word to the wise… leave babies alone – you’ll make a lot of enemies by telling a mom to make her baby stop crying.
Prayer works in these situations. Sometimes you can’t get rid of the distraction. You can’t get the thought out of your head. But the sermon must go on. Pray in the moment and ask God to work. He will. He does.
How do you overcome preaching distractions? What are some of your most common distractions?