Most pastors preach or speak in a public forum 150 to 200 times a year. Many do more than that. Over time these preachers have the ability to discern if the congregation or audience is following them or if their minds are in another world.
Preachers are also too familiar with distractions. While it’s the way of life of someone who gets in front of people to speak, it is no less annoying.
I asked a number of pastors to share with me the most frequent distractions they experience while preaching. Here are their responses in order of frequency. I also took a representative quote from one of the respondents for each item.
- People walking around. “It happens every time someone walks in the service or leaves the service while I’m preaching. All heads turn to see the movement. I might as well be speaking an alien language while the person is moving. No one is paying attention to me.”
- People talking to each other. “It’s obvious they’re not listening to me if they are talking to each other. And it really gets me when they put their hand in front of their mouths, as if they can cover up the fact that they are talking.”
- People looking at their watches. “Yep, I know it’s been a bad or long sermon or both when people can’t wait to get out. The ‘watch watching’ is the key indicator.”
- People yawning. “So I worked on this sermon 15 hours and this guy can’t stop yawning. Maybe he was up all night, but I would rather him stay home and sleep.”
- People frowning. “I always wonder if they are ticked off at me or my sermon. Maybe they had a bad day with their spouse. Maybe their team lost last night, but I can’t help but take it personally.”
- People sleeping. “There is a deacon in my church whose favorite nap time is while I’m preaching. It doesn’t help that his wife gives him the elbow about ten times each sermon.”
- People texting. “You might be able to argue that they are taking electronic notes, but I know better. Some of the young people in our church can’t go ten minutes without texting someone.”
- Cell phones ringing. “We ask for all phones to be silenced before the service begins, so it’s not as bad as it used to be. But I did a funeral one time and the deceased’s son’s phone rang. He actually started talking to his hunting buddy while I continued my message.”
Dishonorable mention (others noted by preachers): sneezing; coughing; clearing the throat; picking the nose; flatulence.
What other distractions would you add? What do you think about this list?