Dealing With People Who Sleep in Church

Pastors, next time you feel your sermons are too boring, remember: The Apostle Paul once preached someone to death.


God bless Eutychus. Acts 20 says that Paul was preaching late into the night and dear Eutychus couldn’t take it anymore. He even moved to the window. I’m guessing he did this as a strategy to stay awake.

But even sitting at the window didn’t work. He zonked off and out he fell. Paul raises him from the dead, and then, get this, it says Paul then “talked until morning!” I love this!

Paul bores someone to death, raises him up, and then keeps on preaching for more hours!

Thank God this passage is in the Bible.

Do you know how many pastors over the years of Church History have put people to sleep and yet remained confident to keep going because Acts 20 is in the Bible?

Eutychus probably had an excuse. He probably worked long hours, or walked a long ways to get there. I do think he moved to the window in an effort to keep awake. The spirit was willing, the flesh was exhausted.

I give him the benefit of the doubt. I do this because many people have fallen asleep on me while I was talking. Most of these people work long and late hours. One guy worked a moving shift of crazy hours and often just got done with work before coming to church after working all night. He could have just gone home, but he made the effort to be there.

People are busy and here’s the other thing: I’m not always that exciting.

There is much biblical foundation a person needs to fully know what to do with the Bible. People get geared up about the “practical parts” of the Bible, but the “practical parts” only make sense if you have the foundation.

The foundation takes time and is often tedious. It’s hard to make every single passage of Scripture life shakingly gripping. Those who try usually just completely blow the entire intent of the passage.

The Bible was not written to entertain. It was written to educate you in a new way of life made possible by the Gospel. Ultimately this is very exciting and life changing, but the process is not always thrilling. There are some pretty thick parts. Even Peter says there are things Paul wrote that are “hard to be understood.” It takes some work sometimes.

Work is exhausting.

I’ve heard stories of pastors who throw things at sleeping people or suddenly call on them to pray. They make a joke out of the person before everyone.

I get it, this is no doubt fun and keeps everyone terrified to fall asleep, but is this really the loving thing to do?

If Paul says he will be one under the law when with those under the law, shouldn’t we let sleeping people sleep? Their sleep doesn’t always mean they are spiritually in trouble. Don’t always attach spiritual meaning to physical tiredness.

People are tired. There were some Sundays the only thing keeping me awake was the fact I was standing and talking. Sitting and listening is hard. It doesn’t work every single time. That’s ok. Lighten up. Give the people a break.

Let people sleep the way you’d like to be left sleeping!



Then cometh he to his disciples, and saith unto them, Sleep on now, and take your rest
–Matthew 26:45a

8 thoughts on “Dealing With People Who Sleep in Church

  1. Thank you for this. As a woman whose husband works the night shift, and comes straight to church after work, and who also battles a sleep disorder, I am so encouraged when there are pastors who have grace with him and not take his nodding off personally.


  2. This is a tricky issue! Some people work hard and they’re just really tired. Some are unwell, older men especially can have sleep apnea and just drift off. Than there’s this other thing, this mental shut down when we get overwhelmed, when there is too much for us to process or we don’t want to deal with it. When that happens we can get very sleepy. But with all that said, it’s still kind of rude, kind of offensive, bad manners.


    1. There are those who show their complete disinterest in spiritual things by nodding off. It happens, but in my experience, most sleepy people are sleepy because of work situations. Others from bad time management. In any case, they answer to God, not me!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I don’t know. I struggle with this with my son in law. He has no interest in being at church and once the sermon starts he’ll close his eyes and fall asleep. Frankly, I’d like to hit him in the back of the head and tell him to wake up but that wouldn’t be a good idea. It makes me seriously angry though. Any advice to deal with this?


      2. Yes, some people are plain not interested and entirely bored with it all. I guess I’d tell him to stay home. Don’t play a game with God. It’s not a matter of how he appears to you or others, or how it reflects on you, but who he is before the Lord. The only thing that wakes up spiritually sleeping people is if they see themselves before God. Why is he there? Ask him. Your anger isn’t going to resolve anything. If he’s there for appearances, his appearance isn’t working. If it placates God or someone else, it’s not genuine.

        It’s a tough issue since these are people you are related to and presumably love. They are real souls. The important thing is to consider his soul, not your frustration. I’d ask him probing questions about it, not from a pastor, but as one who is related to him. Call him out. Get him to deal with God. Tell him to stay home if he’s just going to mock it. Or ignore it all, love him, pray for him, and lead the way. It’s up to you!


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