Communicating to a Varied Audience

Every Sunday, you stand before a congregation from different places in life, wrestling with different problems and approaching the Bible with various degrees of believability.  You have one message, but how can it apply to multiple audiences? One audience isn’t one perspective…it’s many.

So how can you make your message apply to the Christian and the skeptic, the young and the old, the man or the woman? Here are three ideas.

1. Make them laugh.
Everyone loves to laugh, and the language laughter is universal.  Consider the varied audience at a comedy show – it’s just as diverse as the typical church congregation, but the audience pays attention for upwards of an hour.  Why?  Because the content is engaging and they are laughing.
One reason humor works so well is because it’s often unexpected in church.People expect sermons to be dry, intellectual and boring, filled with reason and logic and lacking personality and humor.  So when you make them laugh, they pay attention.  And when they pay attention, you can plant Biblical truth in fertile ground.  If you make them laugh, you’ll make them listen.
2. Use simple words. 
A simple message is better than a complicated message, and the more varied your audience, the simpler your argument needs to be.  When speaking to a broad audience, you’ve got to cast a wide net.
So don’t try to impress the congregation with a masters-level vocabulary.  Words with more syllables don’t pack a punch.  In fact, the opposite happens.  Think of Ronald Regan delivering a simple and powerful message:  “Mr. Gorbachev…tear down this wall.”  Simple, clear and direct!
Don’t misunderstand.  A simple sermon isn’t a simplistic sermon.  Keeping things simple doesn’t mean dumbing down your message – it means giving your message the greatest opportunity to be understood and applied.  Deliver your sermon so children and teenagers can understand it.  Do that, and the adults in the congregation will be impacted as well.
3. Acknowledge your audience. 
Have you ever wondered why many political or graduation speeches begin with a phrase like “Ladies, gentlemen, faculty, students, distinguished guests, President So and So and blah, blah, blah, blah?”  It’s because the speaker wants each segment of the audience to connect with the speech.  Of course, it usually comes across as forced and doesn’t work…it’s the easy way out.
Instead, try something like this:  As you come to the end of your message, give specific application to three different groups of people.  You might say, “So if you’re a Christ-follower…” and then give a sentence or two of instruction.  Or, “If you’re a single mom, here’s what this means…”  You can speak to different sub-groups each week and fight to make your application points extremely relevant.