The average attention span of an adult is about five minutes. The average weekly sermon is 30-40 minutes.
This can be a problem.
If you’re a pastor, you might notice individuals nodding off or reaching for their phones during your messages. What can you do to help your congregation stay engaged? What methods work best to curb waning attention spans?
It’s known that some audience members learn better when visuals are used during a presentation. Others thrive off of auditory or tactile illustrations. While you can’t always be sure which style works best with each specific individual, you can keep their attention by constantly changing up your approach. Utilizing multiple methods and illustrations during talks will keep your audience engaged for longer periods of time. Psychologist Dan Willingham of the University of Virginia argues that mixing up presentation methods is scientifically proven to boost attention spans.
Here are a few ways you can mix up your messages and keep your congregation’s attention. Each sermon should have at least two (or more) of these techniques:
1. A Well Told Story.
Nothing beats a well told story. Notice I didn’t say story, but well told story. Do you bring life to your stories through the use of over-the-top mannerisms and facial expressions? What about humor? Good storytellers aren’t necessarily more talented than everyone else, they just work harder. They run through their stories beforehand. They share them with friends first. Learn from other great storytellers. I’ve written in the past about how comedians (Bill Cosby, Brian Regan) can help speakers become better communicators. Study your favorite comedian for tips.
Visual and tactile learners will instantly direct their attention to a prop. I’m surprised at how often pastors fail to use props in their message. Often, the opportunity is right in front of us. Using fruit as a metaphor? Bring it with you. Connecting the game of football to discipleship? Wear a jersey. Using a prop doesn’t have to be complicated, we just have to be aware.
Movie clips, funny pictures, images of ancient artifacts. Using media is a great way to illustrate the Bible and change the pace of a talk
Check out www.wingclips.com for film clip illustrations.
4. Quotes and Statistics.
A good quote and/or statistic can challenge and bring attention to your point. Just make sure you correctly source your material and use reliable data. Pewresearch.org is a great source for statistics on everything from social media to religion.
Do you brand your sermon series? Essentially, a sermon series is the creation of a metaphor by which your audience can relate to, group together, and recall your messages. Sermon series can attract attention and focus your message. Bumper videos are a nice touch too. If you’re working through a sermon series, make sure you brand it correctly.
What other methods do you include in your sermons?