Sometimes the most basic components are the most significant. Such is the case in crafting a powerful and practical application.

I am blessed to travel and speak across the country. I say blessed because that means I have the opportunity to interact with so many Christians, both young and not so young anymore, from various backgrounds and cultural settings. While I intend to hopefully bring a convicting message of hope from God’s Word to them, often, I also leave with lessons learned that help me in my efforts to engage people of various backgrounds and from a variety of cultural experiences more effectively.

People are people, and we all have the same basic desires. We want to be loved, feel valued, enjoy good health, and be able to take care of ourselves and our loved ones.

We ask the same questions in life:

  • Why am I here?

  • Who am I?

  • What is my purpose?

  • Where am I going?

  • What happens when this life is over?

So, I don’t want to leave you with the impression that some basic and common values aren’t shared regardless of your audience.

However, there is also the potential for vast differences to exist. The cultures each state affords, and even the different parts of each state, could impact the audience’s thinking and thought process. The jobs that employ many in the community need to be considered when making an application. Making a farming illustration won’t necessarily be the most effective if you deliver a lesson in downtown Manhattan. In the same sense, if the community is mainly rural, an application that focuses on aspects of inner-city America may not be the best either. That’s why it’s essential to know as much about your audience as possible when crafting your lesson.

A few simple questions to ask as you prepare to make an application in your lesson are:

1. What is the demographic makeup of the audience?

It may not seem like that big of a deal at first; however, knowing if your audience is mainly an older crowd, younger crowd, or young with small children makes a huge difference in the application. The text you select for the lesson has a message intended for the original audience and, thus, for your audience. This central message must be what you will apply. However, how you apply it will depend to a degree on your audience’s demographics.

Older audiences tend to be more auditory in their learning style. Recounting historical events they lived through or their parents lived through may be very effective, as their memories are brought to life. They relate what they already know with the spiritual application of the lesson. In contrast, younger audiences may not relate as well to the telling of historical events they never lived through and only heard about in the history books. There is no emotional connection. Instead, by the time the lesson application arrives, they may be tired from wrestling with children during the lesson. Therefore, the application may need to be shorter and more visual. An image on a presentation slide or an object lesson may be very beneficial.

2. What are the occupations and interests of most of the audience?

You will want to ask yourself this question because the listener’s interest and experiences will need to be considered in a compelling application. We tend to relate what we hear to what we already know, and as a speaker, you will want to help tie spiritual messages/principles to those with which they are already familiar. Otherwise, you risk giving them much information about something you’ve researched. Still, instead of catching the tie between that and the lesson’s message, they are trying to process the new information.

Please understand it’s not that you can only use illustrations or stories to make applications that align with the occupations and interests of the majority. You don’t want to use an application about the inner workings of an engine in a tractor if you are speaking to a group of people who aren’t interested in engines or working with tractors regularly. If you did, you would risk sidetracking their thinking and causing them to get stuck on the engine information and not move with you in applying to the spiritual message or principle that you’ve just spent hours preparing for and delivering.

3. What is the cultural context in which you deliver your lesson?

Often, the culture in which one is raised serves as a filter to process the content of sermons and lessons. If one comes from a culture with more liberal thinking, they might find it more challenging to process the content of your lesson where you deal with very concrete and absolute concepts. On the flip side, if one comes from a very conservative area, they may love the “hell-fire-and-brimstone” lessons but find it difficult or less engaging to consider love, mercy, and justice. I know I’m painting with a huge brush; however, you probably know what I’m talking about.

Knowing as much about the cultural context your audience lives in, works in raises their families in, and worships in can be a huge blessing when you develop your application. You don’t want to sound fake, as if you’re trying to make it sound like you’re from their hometown when you aren’t. However, in the same way, you don’t want to be out of touch with reality and make the application in such a manner that it doesn’t connect. That’s why I believe knowing a little about the culture of your audience can only help you as you strive to apply the Biblical message of your sermon/lesson.

I’m sure other questions would be good for you to consider, and I invite you to leave a question to ask below in the comment section that you think would be good for us to consider when crafting an application. The more you consider your audience, the more effective your application will be. Remember, the whole purpose of the application is to serve as an open window that allows the listener a deeper look into the spiritual message of the sermon/lesson. If your application doesn’t consider your audience, you risk the window being there but the blinds being drawn, not allowing a deeper look. In contrast, when you consider your audience (their demographics, occupations/interests, cultural context, and others), you’ll more likely achieve precisely what you wanted when you developed the application to the lesson.

Joe Wells
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Joe Wells holds an earned B.S. degree in Science along with a completion certificate from the Nashville School of Preaching and Biblical Studies and a Masters of Ministry degree from Freed Hardeman University. Joe travels the country as a frequent speaker for youth and family events, men’s days, as well as gospel meetings. He is the co-founder of Kaio Publications, publishers of the Family Devotional series as well as the Finer Grounds Bible Study series for women. Joe is also the author of the book Complete: Becoming the Man God Purposes You to Be and Game Plan: Developing a Spiritually Winning Strategy for Adults and Teens in Today’s Culture. Along with this, he and Erin are the co-host of The Hey Joe Show, a podcast designed to challenge and strengthen families and teens across America. Joe has served God in a public way since 2000 in the capacity of youth minister and gospel preacher, helping people make the connection with the Word of God and encouraging them to be transformed for Christ. He is blessed to the husband to the former Erin O’Hara, and they are the proud parents of four beautiful children: Colton, Michala, Camden, and Bennett.