3 WAYS THE BEST COMMUNICATORS KEEP PEOPLE’S ATTENTION
North Americans have less attention span than a goldfish. That seems harsh but it’s backed up by science. http://time.com/3858309/attention-spans-goldfish/
So, given this fact how do great communicators hold people’s attention? If you’re still paying attention (sorry, I couldn’t resist), let me suggest 3 powerful ways!
1) YOUR FIRST WORDS COUNT
As a communicator you’ve got seconds–seconds (!) to get the attention of a congregation. Your first words are vitally important, but almost as important as what you say is the fact you know what you’re going to say. Those opening words can’t be mousy or unclear. This is where leadership instincts have to kick in.
Whether you start with a greeting like Rick Warren saying, “Good morning Saddleback”, or a question, or a pastoral prayer, be absolutely certain before you speak you know what you mean to say. Then say it like you mean it! Trust me. People notice.
2) IGNORE THE EXPERTS- USE HUMOR
Preaching is serious, right? Eternity is too long to be wrong, right? Of course, but the way people listen today doesn’t resemble our Puritan past, when congregations were trained to listen to somber, one hour plus, theologically dense sermons. Those people are gone no matter how much we wish they weren’t (if you object to this fact remember the goldfish thing).
As a new pastor in the late 20th century I had been schooled to be serious in the pulpit. It was good training but one Sunday morning I preached with a slight fever and I was a little more loose than usual. At home my wife said, ” You should be funny more often. You’re funny- so be funny. People love to laugh.” She was right. As my Executive Pastor frequently reminds me (about a variety of things we should do in church which our Seminary professors warned us not to do), “Nobody loves it but the people.”
“But”, you may object, “what if it’s inappropriate humor?” Preacher, if I have to explain to you not to use inappropriate language in church you’ve got bigger issues than being funny.
If they aren’t tracking with your explanation of the aorist imperative or the political intrigue of the Babylonian Captivity, I am certain you can recapture their attention with a brief, humorous insight. Remember, “people love to laugh.”
3) PREACH THE WORD
If you want to hold people’s attention, tell them what God has said. Nearly every Sunday, just before I walk up to the pulpit, I remind myself, “They almost didn’t come.” There are a lot of competing voices in our culture- but only one Voice heals, forgives, corrects, and saves. Tell them what God has said and you’re somebody people will hear.
They don’t come to hear us. They come because they want a word from God. The preacher should give it to them.
“…And the great throng heard him gladly.” (Mark 12:37)