If you are a pastor like me, you have spent your whole ministry preaching to a room of people. You feel their energy (or lack thereof), you can read body language to know if they are engaged, you know if you are going too long, if you are connecting or not and then covid hit. Now you preach to a camera in an empty room.
What was a relational part of your ministry now feels like a disconnect. When you preach to a camera you wonder, who is on the other side, how engaged is your church as they sit in their pajamas, am I connecting with them, are they following along.
While this is a new challenge for a lot of pastors, it is not a death blow. It is a pivot but one you can still utilize to reach people via livestream.
When you preach to a camera in an empty room:
1. Be prepared. This isn’t just a covid preaching tip but a preaching tip in general, but I think it matters even more, when people are sitting at home and can change the channel. In the digital world, your preparation has to go up. When you preach to people in a room, there is a give and take to the preaching, you can improvise a little bit easier, and it plays well. When you stand in an empty room, there is no feedback to know how that landed with the audience. Because as we’ll see in a minute, eye contact becomes even more critical, you can’t be tied to your notes, but you must know the content so well that you can keep your eye contact as much as possible. This means you must prepare more. As well, you must be shorter than usual, which means more focused preparation.
2. Be clear. As you focus your preparation, you must focus your message. I’ve always been a big believer in a message having one main idea, one point you are trying to drive home, one clear action step. This matters even more now because people are sitting at home and have more distractions than their attention spans or their phones. They have their children, the coffee maker, their computer, etc. Clarity becomes even more of a big deal when you are preaching in a digital world.
3. Go shorter than usual. I used to preach for 35 minutes, but now we are doing 20-25 minutes. I think this is important because what I’m hearing from pastors is that engagement goes down after an hour. Meaning, more people click off your service at the 60-minute mark.
4. Picture people. One of the things I try to do is picture the people I am talking to, the stories I am aware of, the things I know people in my church are walking through. Even imagining what they are doing that moment helps me to speak to what they are doing and walking through. I know some pastors have put pictures of their church in the auditorium, so if that helps you picture them, do it.
5. Eye contact matters (a lot). Even more, than being in a room, eye contact matters. Looking right into the camera matters, especially when you are saying your main point, something difficult or something pastoral. And pastors, the moment you think you are staring at the camera too much, you aren’t. You need to look right at them. This feels so weird, but it is incredibly crucial.
6. Your body movement matter. On a screen, you need to exaggerate in some ways. You are trying to live in a room you aren’t in. It isn’t that you are an actor, but I think it helps to feel this way. It helps to move in some ways that maybe you won’t with people in the room.
7. Be you. Finally, be you. You are their pastor. They aren’t watching some national TV preachers when they watch you; they are watching you. So be you. If you stand behind a pulpit, do that. If you sit, do that. If you get all excited, do that. Simply be their pastor. What has been amazing to me is watching so many pastors in this season and seeing how differently everyone preaches. What a beautiful picture of the church that it takes all kinds, and God placed you at your church, so be you.
This article originally appeared here, and is used by permission.