10 Simple Ways to Listen to a Sermon Better

I struggle listening to sermons for three reasons. First, I’m so accustomed to being the preacher that I never like not preaching. Second, I just get antsy when I’m sitting for very long. Third, I tend to want to critique rather than learn. Recognizing these issues, I have to fight hard to listen well. Maybe these strategies that help me will help you: 

  1. Pray regularly (at least weekly) for your pastor. When you pray for your pastor, you will be more inclined to listen to a sermon as a word from the Lord.
  2. Get sufficient rest on Saturday night. Weariness always makes it hard to sit and listen well.
  3. Pray just before the sermon, “Lord, keep my attentive, and help me to hear something for me.” Believing the Lord has a message just for you will make you listen more intently.
  4. Take notes. I know that’s a simple approach, but it does help people to listen better. Think about creative ways to take notes in addition to writing the sermon outline, like “What I did not know about this text” or “Questions I’d want to ask my pastor.”
  5. Listen for at least one nugget of truth. If you listen for something, you’ll pay better attention to even the most boring sermon. When you hear that nugget of truth, write it down for the next step.
  6. Establish weekly accountability with somebody. Enlist a church friend to whom you send an email after every sermon, stating, “This is what I believe the Lord has challenged me to believe or do through this sermon.” Accountability changes the way we listen.
  7. Plan family sermon discussions each Sunday. Even 10 minutes where each family member talks about what he or she heard will make everybody pay more attention. This step doesn’t need to take long; it just needs to be intentional.
  8. Fight the urge to be distracted by your phone. I’m not opposed to using your Bible on your phone, but fight hard not to check emails or do Google searches during the sermon. If you can’t win that battle, leave your phone in the car and bring your hard copy of the Bible.
  9. Join a small group that discusses the sermon each week. If you do that, you know you have to listen to be prepared for small group discussion.
  10. Review the sermon notes in the middle of the next week. Just read through them one time and pray about your own life application. When you work at application, you’ll learn to look forward to the next sermon.

What ideas would you add? 

16 Comments

  • Cindy says:

    I try to sit near the front. I am easily distracted by babies, children and those that are moving around or whispering to their neighbor. I am better able to focus when I am up front, not distracted and very visible.

  • Thanks Chuck! I have to admit that my tendency is to think like a consumer rather than a worshipper. Proverbs 27:7 comes to mind: “He who is full loathes honey,
    but to the hungry even what is bitter tastes sweet.”
    It has everything to do with appetite and attitude.

  • Kathy Makus says:

    Work with your pastor in a supportive way to help him or her learn how to preach sermons that hold people’s attention. You may also want to work with your worship team to find creative and engaging ways to communicate the message in a variety of ways so that the worship service is less centered on the sermon.

    The practice of giving sermons was developed over the hundreds of years during which listening to someone talk in person was the primary mode of getting information. People actually went to hear speeches as a form of entertainment. But we don’t live in that world any more. The important thing is to share the Good News of Jesus — not the techniques we use to do it.

  • John Stephenson says:

    Our church puts the preacher’s notes on our website on a Saturday. It’s possible to do some research on what is being said before it is said! That’s helpful to me.

  • Our sermons are uploaded to the church website so I listen to them again during the week and I always hear something that didn’t hit me during the preaching. Your #9 would be great for this too but it’s not in effect right now. Plans for it in the future.

  • Lisa Kramer says:

    Perhaps I would add: During the week, while preparations are being done, pray for the pastor bringing the message. Not only are we honoring God by praying for our leaders, we are becoming invested. 🙂

  • Kevin Jackson says:

    All are great Ideas and the best one is to take notes of the sermon as that will keep you more alert to the Pastor’s sermon but it would not be wise to leave your cell phone in the car where it could be stolen..It would be better just to turn the phone off and do not use it at all in Sunday School and Church.

  • Keith says:

    For many years our family would discuss the sermon as we drove to Sunday dinner. Was the preacher faithful to the text? Can we think of other passages that address the things taught in the sermon? How do we live in light of God’s truth spoken?

    A very simple debrief, but it has served us well.

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