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How to Engage the WHOLE Congregation

You know that feeling. It’s Sunday morning. You’re preaching. But most of your congregation isn’t really listening. Some of them may be looking your direction, but you know better; they’re not really with you.

Some of them are thinking about what they’re going to do for lunch after church. Others are planning out their week. Some are playing that fight they had with their significant other last evening, over and over again, in their head. Others are checking their email. And some are daydreaming about vacation and how they can’t wait to find a job (and life) they actually like.

As you’re observing this, you feel frustrated, bewildered and even a little angry. After all, you’ve spent the past week praying, studying and preparing a message you believe is from God—and they’re not listening. How dare they?

Why does this happen? And why does it happen so frequently? Well, one of the reasons why is because most preachers make the same mistake week after week—they tend to communicate the way they like to learn. And, no matter what your learning style is—more people are unlike you than like you.

And that’s a huge problem. Why? Because of self-interest. Everyone prefers to learn in their own style, which means that if you primarily communicate in your own preferred style, you will not engage the majority of your people most of the time.

But what if? What if there were a simple way you could change the way you organized your message so that you could engage more of your people more of the time. Even better, what if that way only required you to remember four words? If you’re interested, keep reading and then apply these four words to every message you preach from this day forward.

However, before I share these four words with you, let me share with you two other thoughts. First, the four words I’m about to share with you are the best four words I’m aware of to summarize a lot of research on learning theory. Second, I think you’ll find that these four learning styles fit well with personality theory. In other words, the way God has wired our personalities has a clear correlation to our preferred learning style, which is why I’ll link each of the four learning styles to the four main Myers-Briggs® temperament types (NF, NT, SJ, SP).

That said, here are the four different kinds of learners that you’re trying to engage and communicate with each weekend.

The Four Learning Styles

1. The “Why” Learner

Why learners are those who want to be moved by emotion and logic to believe that what’s being said ought to matter … TO THEM. Just because you’re speaking and you think something is important, doesn’t mean it’s important to them.

Which means that if you want to connect with a Why learner, you have to have a good hook. You need to connect with their emotions. You have to create an argument where you show them that it’s in their best interest to listen. If you don’t connect to a why that matters to a Why learner, they won’t be engaged. Note: The Why learner fits the NF temperament best.

2. The “What” Learner

What learners are those who like content. They’re the ones who like to understand the theory or reason behind something. They like to be challenged in their thinking. They like learning and getting the inside scoop. But they also easily get bored with average or boring content.

Which means that if you want to connect with a What learner, you have to have great content. You have to share information that either they don’t know or that challenges them to think in a new way. If you don’t communicate great content that’s new or intellectually stimulating, you’ll lose with a What learner. Note: The What learner fits the NT temperament best.

3. The “How” Learner

How learners are those who want to know specifically, “What am I supposed to do?” How learners like to understand steps and procedures. They want to do something right, so they want to know exactly what they should do in order to complete a task correctly.

Which means that if you want to connect with a How learner, you have to give them very practical, concrete steps and examples of how something should be done. For example, “Before you start writing your message out this week, take out a piece of paper. At the top of that paper write out the four key questions (Why? What? How? Now?) and for each question write out … ” If you don’t give How learners steps, they won’t be engaged. They’ll be frustrated. Note: The How learner fits the SJ temperament best.

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Bruce D. Johnson is a business growth strategist and the author of, “Breaking Through Plateaus." Bruce is an expert in the areas of business growth, strategic planning, leadership, systems thinking and development, positioning, and marketing to attract and retain more clients and customers.