Since rather inadvertently becoming an interactive preacher (and then intentionally doing my doctoral research on the subject), almost every week, I have both taught and learned from the congregation.
One thing I have especially learned is that interactive preaching disciples better than a monologue. Research bears me out. It’s commonly said that we remember as little as 5 percent of what we hear but up to 90 percent of what we do. My research found that only 25 percent of people who listened to monologue preaching felt able to tell someone else what they learned, while 75 percent of those who attended interactive sessions felt they could share what they learned.
What is interactive preaching? It’s many things, but the basic idea is a dialog with church attenders. It can be a discussion, a Q and A, hands-on experiments, a few ideas tossed on a whiteboard, and many other things.
Considering interaction can be daunting. Pastors, leaders, and congregations who are used to a monologue might fear such a drastic change. We can, however, start with small steps. Here are a few ideas to jump-start the process.
1. Create questions instead of statements
Where you might usually make a statement about what the Scripture is saying, frame it as a question instead. Try this a couple of times in a sermon, then add more in time.
To compare, in a monologue, you might say, “God offers us green pastures and water in Psalm 23.” In interactive preaching, you might ask, “What does rest look like in Psalm 23? What does it feel, sound, taste like?”
2. Get people researching
Recently, I preached on what Scripture teaches us about community, focusing on the “one another” statements in the Bible. I could have said, “There are 59 statements about how to treat one another in the New Testament.” Instead, I tried this:
“Get out your phones. Ask Google how many times the phrase “one another” appears in the New Testament. Yell one verse out.” We then decided the action commanded in that verse and wrote it on a whiteboard.
3. Invite people to ask questions
We can invite people to ask questions in real time, via text, or by soliciting questions ahead of time. What doubts does someone have? What questions have they always wanted to ask? What confuses them about the Bible? What doctrines do they not understand? The pastor can still mostly monologue an answer, but people have the chance to have input. During the sermon, we can ask a few clarifying questions. Does that make sense? Does that answer the question? Does anyone have anything to ask or add? Also—it’s OK to say, “I don’t know. Let’s find out.”
4. Make it hands-on
Sometimes, we get our hands dirty. When we talked about fostering creativity as a means to return to normal after the pandemic, I wanted people to understand that God’s first act in the Bible was one of creation. That makes creativity important! So, we created. We grabbed play dough and created shapes others had to guess. Another time, we got out giant sheets of paper and designed something useful for ministry: a mural song, garden, robot—whatever. We have planted seeds to learn about the parable of the sower and made marble slides to learn why we need clear, uncluttered paths in our relationship with God.
5. Set aside interaction time with God
Encourage quiet without having to fill space. We are uncomfortable with silence, so we think we need to speak when a hush falls. We don’t. In fact, we should be making time for quiet.
Set aside time for people to pray, think, write down goals, or read. Normalize silence. Our greatest time of interaction should be with our God.
Learn and remember
How can you help your members walk out of church feeling closer to the Lord and more apt to remember what they learned? May these examples give you some great ideas on how to expand your repertoire and help your church learn creatively.