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preaching article 5 Ways to Get People to Pay Attention to Your Sermons

5 Ways to Get People to Pay Attention to Your Sermons

based on 4 ratings
Nov 15, 2016
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One of the most disconcerting feelings we pastors experience is when we prepare a sermon and pour our heart into it, yet feel that it didn’t make a difference in people’s lives. It’s equally frustrating when we preach to see somebody tuning us out.

What can we do to help people pay more attention to our sermons? For when they do, there’s a greater chance what we say will stick in their minds to give the Holy Spirit time to ultimately change their hearts.

Neuroscience is teaching us a lot about how people remember things. Two mental processes related to attention simultaneously activate in the minds of those sitting in the pews on Sundays.

  • Focus: the ability to attend to what you are saying.
  • Inhibiting distractions: the ability to tune out competing information. Those distractions can be external like a baby crying or internal like self-talk or mulling over memories of what happened on the way to church.

So what can we do when we preach to help increase attention? I’ve listed 5 neuroscience insights to keep in mind as you prepare your sermons.

  1. Mood matters. 
    Scientists have discovered that when people are in a good mood they pay better attention. We can’t change what happened to a family on the way to church (ie-a fight), but we can take some steps to help put them in a good mood. Humor is a great tool that does that. Don’t begin your sermon with something heavy. Rather, try to interject some humor. Smile and put people at ease.

  2. The head cannot take more than the seat can endure
    This is true. Our brains need downtime. They can’t concentrate for long periods of time. In fact, the brain will make downtime for itself when it gets tired. So, build ebb and flow into your sermons. Alternate intensity (something that may require intensive concentration) with points or stories that don’t take much concentration.
     
  3. See your sermons like firing a gun.
    Three distinct processes take place in the brain for attention to occur. It’s firing a gun: load, aim, fire. To load is when the brain is alerted to take notice. Aim is when it looks for more information. Fire is when it actually acts. So develop your sermon with this in mind. Build each point around the load—aim—fire process.
     
  4. Include novelty in your sermons. 
    Attention increases with something novel or new. Include a couple of surprises. Perhaps you pull out a “show and tell” item unexpectedly to illustrate a point. Maybe you move to a different location from where you usually preach (ie-off the stage and into an aisle).
     
  5. Make it relevant. 
    Preaching is connecting the then and there to the here and now. We must try to help people apply the message to their lives. The brain pays much more attention when it senses relevance. Don’t just wait until the end for application. Provide application points throughout the sermon.

Ultimately, we want our sermons to stick in the listener’s long-term memory. The more they stick, the greater the chance for the Holy Spirit to bring about life transformation.

What presentation techniques you found that helps sermons stick?

 

Dr. Charles Stone is Lead Pastor at West Park Church in London, Ontario, Canada, and the founder of StoneWell Ministries, a pastor coaching and church consulting ministry. He is the author of four books including, "People Pleasing Pastors: Avoiding the Pitfalls of Approval Motivated Leadership" (IVP 2014), and his most recent book, “Brain-Savvy Leaders: The Science of Significant Ministry” (Abingdon, May 2015).

Talk about it...

Lawrence Webb avatar
Lawrence Webb
0 days ago
You make good points, but here's my thought about humor: I use humor if it pertains to content, otherwise, no. On the other hand, I try to start with something current, perhaps not evidently related to my central focus (but leading into the focus). I once read a book called "Grab 'Em by the Ears."
Doug Knox avatar
Doug Knox
0 days ago
I agree, Lawrence. I will use humor, but only in small doses. The message from God's word is the important thing.
Rey Diamante avatar
Rey Diamante
0 days ago
the items mentioned are all applicable. but i think the biggest and most powerful item to bring with you in the pulpit is voice projection incorporated with genuine enthusiasm(i.e.) hand gestures/eye contact and most especially mastery of the Sermon outline/memorized/familiarized or using a well Organized Powerpoint Presentation

So, what did you think?


Thank you.