How to Get the Most Out of Your Pastor’s Preaching

Editor’s note: Sunday, October 8, marks Pastor Appreciation Day. Why not give your pastor the gift of getting all you can out of his message? It’s probably the best gift you could give him . . . although he and his wife probably wouldn’t mind a gift card to a local restaurant or coffee shop too. 

Do you ever find yourself:

  • Waking up on Sunday morning and wishing you didn’t have to go to church?
  • Having a hard time staying awake in church?
  • Daydreaming during the message, or making a mental “to-do” list while the pastor is preaching?
  • Picking apart the message or the preacher in your mind or not getting anything out of the sermon?
  • Wishing your pastor would be more [fill in the blank]?
  • Forgetting what the message was about before you get home from church? 

If you’re not benefitting from the ministry of the Word as it is publicly proclaimed in your local church, the fault may not lie in the one preaching but in your readiness to hear, receive, and respond. Here are some practical helps for preparing your heart to get the most out of your pastor’s preaching.

Five Habits before the Service

  1. Pray for your pastor as he prepares for Sunday.

    Pray that:
    • His schedule would be free from unnecessary distractions.
    • God will give him understanding into the meaning of the Word.
    • The Holy Spirit will speak to him personally through the Word and that he will respond in humility and obedience.
    • God will help him to communicate the truth with clarity, freedom, passion, and power.  
  2.  If your pastor is preaching a series from a particular book of the Bible, take time during the week to read ahead and meditate on the text. Ask God to speak to your heart before you even hear the message.
  3. Prepare for public worship the night before. Consider shutting down your laptop, turning off the TV, and taking a break from social media; take time to cultivate your appetite for God’s Word.
  4. Ask God to prepare your heart for the preaching of the Word. Repent of any sin God reveals to you, and get rid of the things that are standing in the way of the Word of God in your life.
  5. Come to church asking God to meet with you. Expect to hear from Him and to be different when you leave.

Five Habits during the Service

  1. Be there. You’re not going to get anything out of church if you’re not there. Don’t be a sporadic attender; purpose to gather faithfully with God’s people, if you are able.
  2. Get to church early. Spend a few minutes before the service quietly preparing your heart for worship. Pray for God to move—in the pastor, in your heart, in others’ hearts—and surrender your heart to whatever God will say.
  3. Don’t be a spectator. Participate fully in every part of the service. That means when it’s time to sing—sing. When it’s time to pray—pray. When it’s time to give—give.
  4. Listen attentively and humbly to the reading and the preaching of the Word. While the sermon is being preached, open your Bible and follow along. If your pastor refers to other references, look them up. Be a “yes face.” Not only does that help the pastor know people are listening and connecting, but it helps you stay alert and focused. Ask the Lord to make His Word clear. If your heart is humble, your focus won’t be on evaluating the message or how it’s delivered; you will let the message evaluate you.
  5. Take notes. Jot down things the Lord speaks to you about; highlight points the Spirit applies to your heart and life. Take those notes home, and work through them later.

Five Habits after the Service

  1. Pray for God to keep the soil of your heart fertile so that after you’ve heard the Word your life would bear fruit (Mark 4:20).
  2. Ask God to give you at least one takeaway from the message—a key concept, phrase, or verse that you can review throughout the week. Jot it down so you don’t forget.
  3. Discuss the message with others while it’s still fresh on your mind—perhaps before you leave church, on the way home from church, or over the meal following the service.Share what you learned; something you’d like to study further; how you were encouraged, challenged, convicted; any specific responses prompted by the Spirit.
  4. Be a doer of the Word and not just a hearer(James 1:22). Apply what you heard Sunday morning to real-life, everyday circumstances and situations throughout the week.
  5. Pray for your pastor. He has poured out his time and energy so the people in your congregation could be filled with God’s Word. Pray that He would experience refreshment and be filled by the Spirit in the week ahead.

And One Don’t . . . 

Don’t make your pastor a prisoner of unrealistic expectations. He doesn’t have to be mesmerizing, entertaining, dramatic, or tell a lot of stories to be effective. You are blessed if he is a man of God who is humble, loves the Word, and opens the Word and seeks to make its meaning plain. The ultimate power is in the truth of Scripture, not in the messenger.

If you’ve been challenged by this encouragement from Nancy, you won’t want to miss Let’s Go to Church: A Guide to Getting the Most Out of Lord’s Day Services and Encouraging Your Spiritual Leaders, a booklet by Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth. Inside you’ll find “Make It Personal” content for this article, a thirty-day challenge to pray for your pastor, and more! We want to send you a copy when you give a gift of any amount to Revive Our Hearts this week. It’s our way of saying “thank you” for your partnership in helping women thrive in Christ. 

Article adapted from: Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth, “Let’s Go to Church: A Guide to Getting the Most Out of Lord’s Day Services and Encouraging Your Spiritual Leaders” (Niles, Michigan: Revive Our Hearts, 2022), 8–12.

About the Author

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth

Nancy DeMoss Wolgemuth has touched the lives of millions of women through two nationally syndicated radio programs heard each day—Revive Our Hearts and Seeking Him. Her books have sold more than five million copies. Through her writing, podcasts, … read more …

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