By Chris Foster on Oct 15, 2013
The average attention span has dropped from 12 minutes to 5 minutes. If this is true, what does that mean for you as a communicator of the Gospel?
How to develop sermons that will get and keep the attention of your church:
Never before have we, as a culture, been more distracted. A recent article in the Huffington Post stated that the average attention span has dropped form 12 minutes to 5 minutes. If this is true, what does that mean for you as a communicator of the Gospel?
The role TV has played in shortening our attention:
This attention shortening started with the change in the story process of television from a linier story, to a mosaic story.
Think back to Leave it to Beaver, and The Andy Griffin Show. These shows had one storyline all throughout. It was linear.
Then M.A.S.H. came along. What M.A.S.H. did would revolutionize the television industry, and assuch, permanently altar the way we process stories neurologically. M.A.S.H. was mosaic. It started with one story, and then switched to another, then back to the other. All of these stories would resolve themselves in the last 5 minutes of the show.
This began a trend that would reshape TV production, and as such the minds that consume it. It is nearly impossible to find a linear story line in any TV show today.
The role social media has played in shortening our attention span:
Today people get their information in 140 characters or less. Information comes at us at a rapid-fire pace. Due to the multiple Internet platforms of Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and the like, people are constantly jumping from picture to picture, post to post, viral video to viral video.
According to Market Charts, the average American spends 3.2 hours per day on social media. Do the math. That is almost 24 hours every week. The net result of this much information, given this way, is a dramatically shortened attention span.
Nice story, bro!
What does that mean for me? As communicators of the most important and powerful information on the planet, we need to be aware that we have to tell it like it is, not like it used to be.
Often sermons are linear in thought, not mosaic. We must understand those to whom we wish to communicate. Central to that understanding is the reality that people do not think in linear thoughts, they think in mosaic thoughts.
Every 5 minutes, your audience is going to naturally start to check-out. Now you can get all “preacher” on me saying, “Bless God, they listen to me more than 5 minutes without checking out.” While they may be staring at you, statistically, they are not listening unless you reengage them through a mosaic process.
So look at your sermon from the hearer’s perspective, and illustrate your main point with a story, a joke, or a visual, be it a picture or a short video, or even just word pictures. Find a way to tell the story from multiple angles. After all, isn’t that what Jesus did? He told stories about a man who lost a coin, a man who lost a sheep, and another who lost a son. Jesus was mosaic when mosaic was not cool.
Use humor like a hammer.
Laughter has a way of opening people up, it gathers your audience’s attention, and it brings down defenses. The best place to drive home a powerful and poignant point is right after you use humor. Almost while people are still laughing, you lay down that point, and it sticks.
The reason it sticks, is people remember the humor, and it is immediately tied to the point. A week, month, or possibly even years later, they will remember a funny illustration, and the point that is well placed within it. This is what it means approach your message with the mosaic in mind.
Tell it again!
God created us with certain levels of neuroplasticity. This means our mind carves different neural pathways and synapses because of changes in behavior. The behavior that surrounds TV and social media cannot be ignored as we prepare to communicate the most important message on the planet.
These pathways have been carved, and we must know how to adjust our methods so that our message remains category dominant in today’s world.
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