How to Keep Your Congregants Awake in Church
Sleepiness in a church is quite common, but there are some things we can do to help fight it. It’s something that almost everyone has experienced- sitting through an hour and a half long church service, only to get home and find out that you can hardly remember anything. It happens frequently because of the monotony we experience in many churches today.
While the music is often great, and there are wonderful messages shared by pastors and priests across the world, there isn’t much that can be done about the drowsiness factor.
So, how can you keep your church attendees awake? The following tips will help keep your church members awake during your services: speaker adjustments, removing the choir, setting up time limits on service length, adjusting the temperature, ambiance, and seating, changing music types, and evaluating sermon topics.
In this article, I hope to change your church from a yawn factory to a-rockin, roller coaster of emotion and excitement. Read on as I give you 10 tips on how churches can make sure their congregation doesn’t fall asleep!
1. Speaker Adjustments
Make sure your pastor is charismatic and well-spoken. I like this one because it’s not fair to say that anyone whose voice isn’t perfect for preaching or speaking in front of others can’t be an effective pastor, priest, or preacher.
However, there are many pastors, priests, preachers, etc. who are not good public speakers. If the person leading your church isn’t charismatic or well-spoken, it might be time to find another pastor!
Add some excitement to your sermons. In my opinion, it’s pretty boring for everyone in the room when all they’re hearing is the same old stuff every week!
Why not add some excitement to your sermons by throwing in some off-the-beaten-path analogies or stories? You might be surprised at how much it will wake up the congregation.
Many churches are experiencing great results by just changing their pastors or priests for whatever reason. This should be the first step taken.
Pastors need a humorist rather than humorous literature to illustrate their points. They should also make sure that they are well-rested before delivering any sermon, even if that means taking time off from other activities to get some sleep.
2. Remove The Choir
Get rid of the choir. Or at least get rid of the choir director! Researchers at North Dakota State University found that choirs cause church-goers to fall asleep more than any other element of a church service.
This is yet another aspect that needs to be changed if churches want their congregation to stay awake!
3. Time Limit
The researchers suggest that if early-morning services were held later in the day, fewer people would fall asleep during church. Make sure you don’t go over an hour and a half!
According to William C. Dement, M.D., founder of Stanford University’s Sleep Disorders Clinic, churches that go on for over an hour and a half tend to put their congregations to sleep. This can be avoided by making sure your church service doesn’t last more than an hour and forty-five minutes!
You can prop open the doors to your church to create an airflow in the room. This will make it more difficult for people to fall asleep during service.
Install stadium seats in your church and use them throughout the service. It’ll be harder to fall asleep when you have to sit up straight for an extended period.
A great way to keep your church attendees awake is by adding more seats! If you notice that people are feeling drowsy during the service then it’s time to add more seats.
It could be beneficial to add chairs in odd places such as the hallway, extra rooms (especially an overflow room), and even in front of the sanctuary where your choir is sitting.
Make sure you change up the words in your hymns. According to Dr. Dement, doing anything that will change up hymns and make them more interesting is one of the best ways to keep your church awake.
If your music is a little bit too slow and boring for people, perhaps it’s time to add more upbeat songs with short choruses.
This could be a great solution to keep your church attendees awake without the need to add speakers that will wake people up from their slumber.
Turn the lights up in your church and play music with a fast tempo and high volume before service starts. These techniques can make it difficult for people to fall asleep in the pews. Instead of lighting the sanctuary with warm red lights why not try changing to cold blue lights?
Another option is bright yellow lights to make everyone feel a bit more awake. If the service is taking place in a dark room then perhaps it’s time to install some basic light fixtures, especially around where people enter the sanctuary and sit down.
This may seem like an extreme measure but perhaps it’s time to add more coffee stations around the sanctuary and invite people to go get their favorite cup of coffee. This might be a little bit over the top for some churches but it could be beneficial to those smaller churches with older demographics.
Avoid common sermon topics that are very familiar to the members. If you must use a sermon on a familiar topic, go deeper into it than usual or find ways to make it different from past messages on the same subject.
Churchgoers are likely to nod off during services, according to a study of US churchgoers who wore watches that recorded their daily activities.
The finding is no surprise, due to the church service schedule including early morning and late evening times. This contradicts the idea that people sleep less on weekends because they have more time to sleep in.
9. Sleep Study
A team from Florida State University College of Medicine analyzed data on 69 people who wore the watches for an average of 18 days each. The active adults fell asleep for 24 minutes on average during the weekday – but this more than doubled on Sundays, to 57 minutes.
The study’s lead author Dr. Chris Idzikowski said: “Unfortunately there is a relatively high propensity of very sleepy people in the population and early morning religious ceremonies involving standing to tend to be held at a time when the human body clock is at its lowest ebb.”
“There were only two instances during the week when church attendees did not fall asleep,” Dr. Idzikowski said. He added: “Neither was attributable to an interesting sermon…Despite receiving only half the recommended amount of sleep, they still fell into a very deep sleep at least twice during the service.”
The study also showed that people are more likely to nod off during sermons than hymns.
“It is only the first hour of the service that seems to be a danger zone for sleep during church attendance,” Dr. Idzikowski added. “The prelude music, sermon and first part of the service are associated with falling asleep…After this initial hour, church attendees remain very sleepy but become less likely to doze off.”
Of all the many activities a pastor is expected to perform, one of them is having a congregation that is alert and attentive.
Watching a church fall asleep during a sermon presentation can be frustrating for the minister, particularly when they have prepared this message with great effort.
10. Keeping Audience Engaged
I know that as much as we love sharing great content with our people, we also want them to pay attention and be engaged! Here are three ways I’ve seen churches accomplish this:
Use Music Strategically
Music is an important part of our worship experience. A lot of times we simply plugin and sing the songs on the screen display, but I’ve seen many churches use their band strategically to encourage people to focus on one thing or another.
One way is when they tell different parts of the story (ex: Advent) any time there’s a change in music, it helps people focus on what they’re teaching. In the Life Point below, you’ll see that we have a key change in music coming up to get everyone’s attention.
Create Moments of Silence
At the risk of being politically incorrect (which is sometimes good and sometimes bad), I’m going to recommend making some silences in your service. I often joke that the only thing people care about when they come to church is when they can go out to eat… just kidding.
But seriously, sometimes our services are so noisy that it’s hard for people to focus on what’s being shared with them. So there are times (not all the time) when we’ll simply pause and share a thought. It doesn’t have to be a few minutes, but just enough time for people to reflect and focus.
Use Video Strategically
I’ve written before about the importance of using videos well, and this is another example of that. Of course, you can show a cute story or short clip up on the screen which helps engage people, but another way to use video is simply by showing a clip of something on the screen without sound.
Because of our diverse population, an effective way to communicate with people who don’t speak your language very well is to show them pictures on the screen without saying anything.
It’s more powerful sometimes because it doesn’t let interpretation get in the way and it’s a more visual way of communicating.
When we show our “Go” video on Sunday night, we don’t say anything for the first 5-8 seconds because we want everyone who only speaks Spanish to focus on what they can see.
Church Leadership Ideas
- Use a different style in presenting the sermon that is more interesting to the members e.g., read your text from a piece of paper rather than write it on the board beforehand, use few or no props when departing from your normal style, etc.
- Involve the audience for critical elements in the sermon so they “do something” as part of the presentation.
- Ask some members to participate with you, such as those who have some particular knowledge about the topic or those who are known for some ability (singing, playing a musical instrument, etc.) that could be used to enhance your message.
- Do not try to be a “people pleaser” by using sermon illustrations that are only marginally related to the text or your message, but choose stories and anecdotes from many diverse sources so they will have a greater impact on your audience.
- Begin the service on time and make your introduction short and to the point so that your congregation is not tempted to doze off before the sermon starts.
- Speak loudly and clearly and try speaking with a rhythm to help wake up those who are struggling because of fatigue or boredom.
- Keep your dramatic pauses short.
- Do not wander around too much while you’re delivering your sermon.
- Avoid giving a lengthy invitation at the end of your sermon since that gives people time to doze off if they have been struggling to stay awake until then.
- Ask clarifying questions from the audience so they will be engaged in the presentation rather than sleeping through it.
- If a certain section of your sermon seems to be losing some of the congregation, pick up the pace and speak more loudly.
- Acknowledge that there may be some members who cannot stay awake (e.g., those with a child under age three who will not sit still).