A pause is a simple concept. Stop for a moment. A non-preacher might assume it would be easy to stop talking, especially since most people would rather not talk in front of people anyway. But no, pauses are hard to do. Almost a constant piece of constructive feedback to beginning preachers is “a few pauses would help.” I still find it difficult to pause enough after almost 15 years of preaching.
A pause is a very powerful weapon in the preacher’s arsenal. After a pause, studies suggest that listeners are alert, attention is high and they listen well. This increased focus will only last for a few sentences before fading to a more relaxed state again. This means that after a pause we only have perhaps three or four sentences to establish what we’ll be saying next.
Be sure to pause between the chunks of a sermon. Give listeners that opportunity to be fully with you as you set off on the next chunk. Then be sure to start the chunk clearly. Think through those first sentences and be sure that everyone will be onboard before the relaxation of attention. If we really think through the power of purposeful pause, we’ll be motivated to pour over our outlines or manuscripts and carefully select key moments to stop. Plan to pause.