understanding your audience

By March 25, 2010Preaching

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I adopted Andy Stanley’s approach to outlining your message a few years ago.  One reason I really like his approach is the attention and focus it puts on the listener while not minimizing God’s voice.

To refresh your memory, the basic outline is: me, we, God, you, and us.  Each part ties into the one main point of the message.

When a message moves from me to we, I am beginning to develop how the main point relates to the listener.  In my preparation, I’m asking questions such as:

  • Why should they care?
  • What need does this address?
  • What problem does this resolve?
  • What question does this answer?
  • What hurt or hang-up will this message help with?

Many preachers work really hard at understanding their text.  We may dig into word studies, commentaries, and other helpful books.  If our goal was simply to provide information, this would be all we would need to do.

But I’m aiming for transformation.  I have one basic aim when preaching: to see lives changed.

To do this effectively requires understanding your audience.  I’ve learned to approach this part of message preparation with the same intensity as trying to understand the biblical text.

Understanding your audience requires thinking through the different people who will be there.  On any given weekend, the crowd is filled with newcomers, seekers, skeptics, the wounded and hurting, as well as maturing believers.

Some will learn by listening, others by looking.

Some will grant me a built-in respect and authority.  Others will be listening for one reason to tune me out.

It’s no wonder that preaching is an incredibly challenging task!

But here’s the deal: the better you understand your audience, the better they will understand your message.  A little bit of extra effort is certainly worth it.