by Terry Wilhite
You’ve seen the maps on the back of the hotel room door that shout, “YOU ARE HERE!” The same sign also gives you a path to the nearest exit. In case of an emergency, knowing where you are and the path to the nearest exit could mean the difference between life and death.
The Scripture we try to teach is just like the sign on the door of the hotel room door. It’s the difference between eternal life and eternal death. So: With your teaching and with your preaching, do you know where are you now? Are you in sync with your listeners or are you shooting over their heads? If you’re like many communicators, where you are is probably not where you think you are!
Further, where the people in your Sunday School class or congregation are is probably not where you think they are. Barna research indicates many people just aren’t getting it. They’re looking for the exit door that leads from self to the Savior, but we haven’t stopped to ask: Where is my audience now? Where am I? There’s a disconnect. Listeners are asking: “Just how do I apply the Scripture outside of these church walls?”
As Jesus taught along roadsides, on mountainsides, and from boats, He was teaching in the same world His listeners were living in. It was easy for His listeners to make the connection between His teaching and their lives. Why? His listeners were more than listeners, they were participants. They were involved, whether it was lowering an ailing friend through the roof for healing, climbing down out of a tree at Jesus’ summons, or taking a dip in the river. Having heard it, seen it, and participated in it, they remembered it! And, oh, they couldn’t help themselves. They had to spread the good news.
The point? If you’re relying totally on spoken words to get your message across, you’re missing the mark. Listen to these facts: We hear half of what is said, listen to half of what we hear, understand half of it, believe half of that, and remember one half of that! What does that mean for the people in your congregation? Translation: they spend fifteen minutes in listening activities. They hear about 7.5 minutes of that. They actually listen to about 3 minutes of what they hear. They really understand about a minute and a half of those 3 minutes, and they believe only about 45 seconds of what they hear during that time. And get this: they remember about 20 seconds of that! Help!
What your audience takes away from your message is directly proportional to how much they participate in the message. So what can you do to get people to remember? At our church we make available a notebook for each person in our congregation to use to keep weekly bulletin inserts that we three-hole punch. These inserts have blanks that we are prompted to fill in as the preacher preaches.
The system combines an on-stage presenter, multimedia, and audience participation. By the way, each person has had to buy his or her notebook ($5 each)—the thought being that personal investment brings commitment to getting a return on the investment.
It gives us the opportunity to hear it, see it, and participate in it. We’re more apt to remember it! And there’s but one thing left to do, in the words of our pastor, “Go out and preach it with our lives.”
Terry Wilhite is a music, communications and multimedia specialist. “His video tapes M & Ms (music and multimedia) in a Box and Lights, Camera, Digital Video help ministries use technology to share the gospel. Contact Terry at www.terrywilhite.com or email@example.com.