After our recent move, my family began to visit a variety of local churches in our new community and I began to rediscover that age-old nemesis of the preacher: sleeping parishioners. The most terrible things is that I was the culprit!
I haven’t actually fallen into a full-fledged, sawing-logs, off to dreamland kind of sleep in any of the services we’ve attended. I tend to catch myself just as I’m about to drift into slumber — or Laura catches me, usually with a swift elbow to the side.
It’s not that the preachers we’ve been hearing aren’t good, either. Some of them are quite gifted, in fact. It’s just that a combination of long work hours combined with a persistent virus means that every time I sit still for long, I’m in danger of drifting off.
That’s why I’ve developed a series of helpful and practical activities to assist the sleep-challenged churchgoer. (Feel free to share these ideas with selected deacons or elders in your own congregation.)
1. The Sermon Critique Sheet. Student preachers are used to receiving these in preaching classes — they stand before the class and face a sea of pens at the ready, filling out forms detailing the student’s delivery, content and style. I decided I’d just move the concept into the sanctuary. After all, I’ve never fallen asleep during a student sermon — not that I wasn’t tempted.
So now when the preacher steps into the pulpit, I pull out my form and begin grading (on a 10-point scale, of course) all manner of things, such as:
– Does he use any illustrations younger than I am?
– Does his delivery remind me of:
A. Billy Graham
B. Peter Jennings
C. Don Rickles
And so on. Filling out the form keeps me alert, and I’m sure the pastors appreciate all my insights on their preaching style!
2. The Preaching Puzzle. This is a tough one, because it requires connecting the introduction, the central idea, the points of the outline, and the conclusion — and making all these things fit together! It’s usually not too hard to take any two or three of these items and link them neatly (although there are sermons where even that is a trick). But it’s not easy to make all of these fit together — even the outline itself. For example, one sermon outline, based on John 3:16, appeared to be:
I. God loves everybody
II. Jesus died for everybody
III. Now a few words about baptism …
3. The Matching Game. This is easier to do when you know the people in the congregation, but also more dangerous. The Matching Game involves taking the various sins described in a sermon, and matching those with the individuals in the church that morning. Imagine the challenge of seeking out the “lust-filled individuals” or the “greedy people” the preacher just described. If they’d just preach more about the sins of sleeping in church and wearing bad hairpieces, this game would be a snap.
All of this reminds me of the time I dreamed I was preaching. Then I woke up and discovered I was!

Share This On:

About The Author

Michael Duduit is the founding publisher and editor of Preaching magazine. He is also the founding Dean of the new College of Christian Studies and Professor of Christian Ministry at Anderson University in Anderson, South Carolina. Michael is author and editor of several books, including the Handbook of Contemporary Preaching (Broadman & Holman Press), Joy in Ministry (Baker Books), Preaching With Power (Baker) and Communicate With Power (Baker). From 1996 until 2000 he served as editor of the Abingdon Preaching Annual series. His email newsletter, PreachingNow, is read each week by more than 40,000 pastors and church leaders in the U.S. and around the world. He is founder and director of the National Conference on Preaching and the International Congress on Preaching, which has been held in 1997 at Westminster Chapel in London, 2002 at the University of Edinburgh, Scotland, and 2007at Cambridge. He has been a pastor and associate pastor, has served a number of churches as interim pastor, and speaks regularly for churches, colleges and conferences.

Related Posts