Listening to the Listeners

Preachers need an organized program of feedback to determine whether they have hit their target.
—Haddon Robinson

What do you think of sermons?" the Institute for Advanced Pastoral Studies asked churchgoers—and got an earful. Sample responses:

"Too much analysis and too little answer."

"Too impersonal, too propositional—they relate nothing to life."

"Most sermons resemble hovercrafts skimming over the water on blasts of hot air, never landing anyplace!"

No wonder sermons are occasionally mocked as "the fine art of talking in someone else's sleep." Communication experts dismiss them as "religious monologues." Communication flows best on two-way streets, they argue, while preaching moves in only one direction. And because congregations can't talk back to register doubts, disagreements, or opinions, many sermons hit dead ends.

But that's not the only hit sermons take.

Content overload

A second rap is that most ministers overcommunicate. They load new concepts and duties on their congregations before ...

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