Preaching, eye contact, notes

Look at me when you’re talking to me!



Here’s a free gift to help you develop as a preacher, or to help you help others.

Compare two preachers I heard recently. One had been to college and the other hadn’t, but that wasn’t what we noticed. One was more confident than the other, one gave us too much information while the other weighed his message with care, but neither of those was the key difference either. Both were faithful to the passage, well prepared, and carefully applied. Both will have prayed. Somehow, though, one kept our attention, and the other lost it.

Do this simple test next time you hear a sermon and you’ll see the issue

Squeeze your right hand, and keep it closed, for as long as the preacher looks down at his/her notes.

Squeeze your left hand whenever the preacher makes eye contact.

This is what separated those two preachers: The preacher who lost our attention looked down for over 90% of the time. The preacher who kept our attention looked up for around 70%of the time.

Here’s the scary observation – having done this unobtrusively for around a decade, I reckon most preachers hit around 70% eyes down. On a good day. 70%.

Maybe that’s because we are not so confident with our material. Maybe we are nervous. Maybe I’m just hearing modest Brits.  Maybe we are being very careful with our notes.  But still – 70%…

Is that a trivial observation? Think about this: if you and I had a conversation, and I looked away for even 10% of the time, what would you conclude? You’d think I had other things on my mind or more important people to be with. 25% and you’d be wandering off to find someone else who wanted to talk. Eye contact matters.

Here’s my challenge. Scare yourself. Ask three of friends to ‘squeeze’ for you during your next few sermons, and give you the result as a simple percentage. And then do some hard thinking about how you can raise your game – because I bet that the percentage you guess at for yourself is way too optimistic.

Look at me when you’re talking to me.

PS. Yes, I do know the Jonathan Edwards story. If you’re another Edwards you can break the rules too.

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2 comments on “Look at me when you’re talking to me!”

  1. Since we talked about this Chris I have completely changed the way I prepare 🙂 And I think I am making a bit more eye contact…

  2. One member of my congregation has mentioned to me, that when I look at my notes they switch off. However, when I look at the congregation they listen more. For me it’s having the confidence in my Prayers, and sermon prep that God has moved his word from my head to my heart, rather than in my notes with its pithy punchlines!

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