Economy of Words and a Sea of Stuff Part 2 – Responsibility

I was able to watch a webinar from Preaching Rocket a few weeks ago. A number of pastors and communicators were asked about their craft and the way that they prepare. I was thrilled to hear from a number of preachers that I admire.

There were many segments that stood out, and one of them was part of a talk by Pastor Van Moody of The Worship Center Christian Church in Birmingham, Alabama. He gave a statistic that gripped me.

Regarding learning, he said that 90-95% of what is heard is forgotten in 72 hours.

If you check out the source linked above, something else is worth mentioning… lectures with notes provided allow the learner to remember 65% of the data. Participatory presentations allow the recall of 70%.

In 9 Lies Pastors Believe While they’re Preaching, Ben Reed points to two conflicting misgivings that pastors feel as they preach…

8. If I go long, people will love me for it.

9. If I go short, people will judge me and wonder what I did all week.

The conflict lies in whether a pastor should go long for the sake of going long, or if they should be intentionally brief despite feeling insecure about the opinions of the listeners.

I don’t think there is any one perfect answer.

(Good, Jon, ’cause no one asked.)

Seriously. These things percolate in my grey matter.

Regarding sermons

When I think of a sermon, I think of a one-directional presentation, with no participation aside from the occasional “amen.” Many Sunday School settings are also in this vein. It makes me wonder if some Biblical instruction would be more effective if communicators would re-think their presentations with the end in mind – the retention of the information presented.

After all, if someone can’t remember what a preacher said, how will they act upon the truths imparted?

I do not deny the Holy Spirit’s role in retention, and have personally experienced the Holy Spirit’s ability to bring information to mind when it is needed to influence me in some way. And I understand that the hearer bears responsibility for their own spiritual growth. But does the imparter of information have some responsibility to do everything within their power to enable the hearer to remember what was said?

An outline in the bulletin. A one-sentence “take-home” point that is easily remembered and readily referenced throughout a message. A truth made accessible by storytelling (I heard about a man from Nazareth that did this well). Necessary techniques? No. Helpful when it comes to retention of important information (namely, all of the Word)? Yes.

Do you take notes during sermons/presentations/sales pitches, whether or not an outline is provided? Would you be more likely to remember what you heard if you did?

Other Economy of Words posts

Economy of Words and a Sea of Stuff – Culture and Tech

2 thoughts on “Economy of Words and a Sea of Stuff Part 2 – Responsibility

  1. I’m not a fan of the “mad lib” form of preaching (giving out an outline with all but one word on each line). When sitting under well-organized pastors who had meaty sermons, I would take outline notes on index cards–I still have a pile of them from years past. From time to time I referenced them. My intention was to dump them into Sermon Notes in software like Logos for organized reference/recollection, but like my old record collection, information transfer activities just never have taken place.
    I agree with the quick memory loss; I’ve even forgotten the topic I started writing about… 😉
    In practice, I think if one doesn’t either (1) have an extremely emotional/stressful event associated with the “learning” or (2) ruminate on the information in many different ways across a period of time, then the content just won’t sink in/stick.

    1. Evernote might be a good solution for you. Input your notes, assign a notebook and tags, and your notes become searchable. Thanks Ward!

Comments are closed.