It’s much easier for your audience members to trust you if they believe that you care about them. One step in showing someone you care about them is taking the time to know them. Know who’s in your audience, what they’re interested in, and what makes them who they are.
If possible, learn your audience’s demographics beforehand and write your sermon with that audience in mind. Spend time building relationships outside of Sunday morning services. As you preach, reference what you know.
Don’t try to be someone else when you’re preaching. Don’t try to force a preaching style by copying another preacher or speaker. Audiences value authenticity, so learn your preaching style and embrace it.
As you preach your sermon, lean into your style. Incorporate humor, stories, and experience from your own life. Preaching isn’t about fitting into a cookie-cutter mold – capitalize on the strengths in your preaching voice and let them shine through.
People are more likely to trust you if it’s clear you know what you’re talking about. Take the time to research the Scripture you’ll be preaching about (commentaries are a great tool for this). If you understand and internalize your own teaching points, it will be clear that you are a credible, knowledgeable presenter on the subject.
If you aren’t an expert on one point in your sermon, study the experts or consider bringing an expert into the sermon to share via video or live presentation. Be willing to admit that you don’t know everything, and lean on the knowledge of those who know more than you.
Be intentional about citing your sources and explaining what you know and how you know it. Familiarize yourself with the passages around the ones in your sermon. Make sure you understand the big picture, so you can more naturally explain the passages.
Additionally, make sure you’re spending time in Scripture outside of your sermon preparation time. Your personal time with God will deepen your relationship with Him, and it will be evident in your preaching. Your audience will trust you more if it’s clear you know God personally and invest in your relationship with Him.
You might know what sanctification, eschatology, and hermeneutics are, but chances are good that your congregation members don’t. As you preach, use language that your listeners will understand.
This doesn’t mean you have to avoid deep or theological concepts. It just means that when you incorporate them into sermons, make sure you explain what you’re talking about. Using big, fancy words might make you look smart, but it won’t make you look like someone people can trust to lead them in their daily walk with God. People can’t trust and follow your teaching if they don’t understand what you’re talking about.
This connects back to our first point – know your audience. Understand who you’re speaking to and what they know about theology. If you were preaching to a group of seminary students, you could use different words than you’d use if you were preaching to a group of new believers.
It’s hard to trust a complete stranger. As you preach, incorporate stories from your own life. Let people see that you’re human, that you have interests similar to theirs, and that you have a daily life outside of your Sunday morning ministry. Allow people to know you so they can trust you.
Stories and illustrations also increase trust. Illustrations help convey a point and show that you want to take the time to make sure they understand what you’re talking about. If you’re struggling to find sermon illustrations, try a resource like Illustration Ideas.
Have you ever spent time around someone who talked badly about anyone who wasn’t in the room? Does that make you wonder what they say about you when you’re not around?
In order to build trust and respect with your audience while preaching, make it a point not to speak badly of others while preaching (or ever, for that matter!). When you share stories, celebrate the people in the stories. If someone made a bad choice, let your words convey grace and compassion. Don’t mock others or put them down.
If you share stories that were told to you in confidence, keep them that way. Omit names or change details so the people in the stories remain confidential. Make it clear to your audience that you honor and respect people who interact with you.
This is a common public speaking technique, but it’s worth repeating. Consider how you appear to those watching you. Casual clothes are okay, if they fit your church’s culture, but don’t appear sloppy. Sloppiness conveys a message that you don’t care what people think of you.
In addition to your wardrobe, practice public speaking skills. Speak with confidence, talk slow enough that people can understand you, and make eye contact as possible. Practice your sermon in advance and make sure you’re familiar with your notes.
If your bulletin says the sermon will be 20 minutes long, don’t preach for 40 minutes. If you said you were going to cover 5 points, don’t stop at 3. If you told your audience that you’d be giving them practical Biblical advice for their finances, don’t preach solely about theoretical concepts. To put it simply – stick to your word. Follow through on what you say you’re going to do. It’s hard to trust someone who isn’t consistent or faithful.
All of these points boil down to one, overarching point – consider how you would want to be treated, and then treat your audience that way. Build trust by knowing your audience, allowing yourself to be known, being authentic and understandable, using stories and credible sources, and celebrating others. Build trust by treating your audience the way you’d want to be treated.