If Jon Acuff ever asked me to write a guest post on Stuff Christians Like, this would be it. He hasn’t (yet), so I thought I’d go ahead and share it with you. -Heath
One thing every pastor and/or speaker wants is an attentive audience. In the old days (before projector screens and televisions) the sound of Bible pages turning was a good indicator of an attentive crowd. Then came the day of fill in the blank “listener guides.” Seeing the audience write or frantically look to borrow a pen assured the speaker that his words were hitting home. But sometimes those methods just aren’t enough. So to make sure everyone is paying attention, a few “go to” audience participation methods have evolved over the years.
1) The If You’ve Ever ______, Raise Your Hand Method
This method is to help the speaker connect with the audience by sharing a common experience. The speaker starts telling a personal story and then asks the audience if they have ever been in that same situation. It goes like this: “I was standing in line at the grocery store the other day. Anybody else ever stand in line at the store?” Raises his hand and expects you to do the same. As long as the speaker doesn’t admit to something totally embarrassing this one is relatively painless.
2) The Question/Answer Method
This one is pretty simple. The speaker asks a question and the audience supplies the answer. Most of the time the questions are easy enough that almost everyone can answer. For example, any question in which the answer is “Jesus.” But sometimes the questions get too complicated. I mean, how many people could actually answer how old Methuselah was when he died without consulting Google on their iphone/Bible first?
The other problem with the Question/Answer Method happens when the speaker asks a rhetorical question. Especially after asking non-rhetorical ones first. This can lead to embarrassing moments like someone yelling out “969!” in the middle of a sermon. And, yes, that’s how old Methuselah was when he died. I Googled it.
3) The Everybody Say The Last Word I Just Said Method
This is my new favorite. And by favorite I mean most annoying. This is where the speaker stops after reading a verse or phrase and asks the audience to repeat the key word. For example: “Jesus died for our sin. Everybody say ‘sin.’” The problem with this is that it is often repeated ad nauseam. Everybody say ad nauseam. See what I mean? Before you know it a 35-minute sermon expands to an hour because of all the repeating going on.
This one also gets sketchy when the speaker asks everyone to repeat hard to pronounce words. Think Old-Testament names and places. Everybody say ‘Meshullam’ doesn’t resonate well. Unless you are going for a group sneezing sound, in which case, expect “bless you’s” and “gesundheits.” Everybody say gesundheit. Did I mention it’s also hard to stop?
Since there is no blow to the ego worse than an indifferent audience, let’s all do our pastors and guest speakers a favor and be ready to let them know we are paying attention. If you are with me just raise your hand. Everybody say hand. That wasn’t so bad now was it? That was rhetorical…