Sermons are powerful. They encourage people to Christ-likeness and help them to grow spiritually. Sometimes, the sermon is the main event of the church service. It’s a high point of Sunday morning, and most of Sunday’s programs revolve around it.
But, sermons can’t solve every problem. Sermons are a passive experience without reciprocity. One person “does something” and a lot of people “do nothing.” All spiritual growth doesn’t happen when people “sit and get.” Your church may have systems problems or organizational disparity that can’t be fixed by a Sunday morning sermon. Reciprocal relationships foster creativity and help solve problems.
Listen: Some problems can only be fixed by listening. Ministry leaders need to listen to people. Sometimes, the information revealed provides the answers leaders are looking for. Reading the map is just as important as pressing the gas pedal when you’re on a journey.
Question: Jesus preached the most inspiring and life changing messages in history, but he also asked people great questions and listened to their responses. People engaged Jesus because he engaged them.
In real life.
Suppose your church is running thin on volunteers: A series of messages structured around the value of serving may make a difference, but asking people questions might reveal the real problem. Maybe, your people value serving but are not connecting with the service projects promoted in your church. They may have a strong desire to feed the hungry, but little interest in serving in kid’s ministry. Don’t try and shove them behind a changing table. Help them find ways to feed the hungry. A different project could excite them and give them a chance to serve God and others in ways that are meaningful to them.
Suppose your elders are having a problem making your Saturday morning elder’s meetings: A sermon on faithfulness and sacrifice always helps, but listening to your elders may be more effective. Maybe, the problem isn’t their level of faithfulness or lack of sacrifice. Maybe, they are all busy coaching little league teams and an evening during the week would work better.
Suppose your congregation is not engaged in worship: A sermon on the wonders of God and power of worship could make a difference, but something else might work better. Maybe, the problem isn’t indifference to God or an incomplete understanding of worship. If you listened, and questioned you might find that their style of music that your worship team loves doesn’t connect with your people. They may prefer a more traditional or contemporary style.
Suppose your church’s finances have fallen: A sermon on tithing might increase giving, but maybe if you observed your congregation’s purchasing habits you’d realize that your people would be more faithful givers if they could give in the same ways they buy things. You could offer the option of allowing people to use their debit cards for giving. Churches that provide these options through products like Realm, see more consistent giving over time.
Suppose your church doesn’t have many visitors: A message on reaching the lost might inspire a few to bring their friends, but if you spent time asking people why they don’t bring their friends to church you might find the real problem. Maybe, they have a passion for the lost, but they don’t bring their friends because they feel your church’s style of ministry would be counterproductive. Or, they might not have any “lost” friends. Maybe, they need to develop relationships with their neighbors and coworkers in non-church spaces which the Holy Spirit can use reach them.
You will lose nothing from listening and questioning. At a minimum you’ll know you’re people better and connect with them more.