It’s 11:53am. Your Sunday morning service has just ended. People ease to their feet, collecting purses, Bibles, pens, cough drop wrappers, and keys. The low chatter of the crowd crescendos into the familiar after-church fellowship. Gradually, everyone files out the doors and down the steps to the parking lot. They disperse to their respective vehicles. Engines start, cars drive off, and off they go to Olive Garden, pot roasts, or quick sandwich lunches as they move to the next activity on the agenda. And what about your sermon?
What happened to the message you just preached? What has become of the hours of study? What about the years you spent in theological training? The sacrifices? The low salary you receive? After the intense effort and the focal point of your workweek, what has become of it all? A lot of pastors may have similar thoughts. Will people remember the sermon? Are the people really getting it? Do they listen at all? If they do, are they remembering anything? Is the sermon making a lasting impact in their life?
Some Troubling Statistics
These are important questions. Professional research estimates that the average person remembers only 20% of what they hear. In comparison, most people remember 90% of what they see. The lecture or sermon as an instructional mode averages a 5% retention rate. If you mix in audiovisual enhancements, demonstrations, group discussion, and immediate practice of the teaching, that retention factor could spike up to 90%.
Wouldn’t it be great if your people remembered 90% of what you said?
Working toward a Solution
There are ways to improve retention of the messages you preach. For the purpose of this article, we’ll discuss ways that you can use visual enhancements outside the sermon itself. If you are not already using some form of PowerPoint or sermon visual, it is a good idea. Your goal is to amplify the voice of the church. Sadly, once the church is out of sight, it is often out of mind. Here are a few simple ways to enhance the voice of the church and increase the retention of your sermon.
Pre-Sermon Splash Screens
Create anticipation for the sermon by projecting the sermon theme, title, text, or other relevant content. Doing so before the service begins will help to focus people’s attention once the sermon does begin. Use a unified visual theme as you develop a splash screen or video for this purpose.
Post-Sermon Splash Screens
The same theme can be used after the sermon has ended. People will still see and read the displays after the sermon has ended. Use this opportunity to broadcast application questions, the theme of the sermon, or other closing exhortations.
Your church website is a powerful forum for adding visual reminders regarding the sermon content. Many church websites have a portion of the screen that continually loops images. Get with your Webmaster about uploading content that deals with theme of the sermon.
Many pastors arrange their preaching schedule around sermon series—taking a theme or a biblical book, and developing multiple sermons on that one subject. When you begin a new sermon series, consider making themed bookmarks for distribution to the people. The bookmark could contain relevant visual imagery for the sermon series, the title of the series, a quotation, Scripture verses or some other exhortation. Simple bookmarks are inexpensive to produce, and as they get tucked into Bibles and Bible cases, they are rarely lost.
The bulletin is one of your primary means for visual reminder. Design the bulletin in such a way that it contributes directly to the sermon theme. Sharefaith produces sets that include video loops, PowerPoint sermons, bulletins, and flyers all with the same theme.
If you are using a system such as ConstantContact, you know how easy it is to stay in touch with your people using email. Email is ideal for sending daily devotionals, updates, surveys, and other messages, all of which can serve as a reminder of the sermon.
As discussed in a previous post, Twitter is a great way to stay connected to the church. Tweet about the sermon’s theme, its impact in your life, ways that it can be played out, the text from which it came, its major application, etc.
Use your church’s Facebook page to generate discussion about the sermon. Studies prove that if people interact about what they hear, they are far more likely to retain what they’ve heard. If you can get some discussion going, you are nearly guaranteed that your people will remember the sermon. Just make sure the discussion is positive!
These are not the only ways to enhance your sermon’s impact. They are not the only way to improve the voice of the church. There are hundreds of ways to ensure that the voice of the church is heard long after you say your final “amen.” Be sure to check out the resources available on Sharefaith.com to see how you can enhance the visual impact of your sermon.