Ditto Russ again.
We've discovered that stories are incredibly powerful. Whether a 4 minute video faith story, a live on-stage interview, or a personal illustration from one of our pastors, we get more positive feedback on the Sundays we use stories to illustrate the truth of God's word.
Christ was also incredibly engaging. He fed people, healed people, asked questions, confronted trouble makers, invited children to his side...all while "preaching" on stage. It's not a gimmick.
My goal is to preach 30 to 35 minutes. But we must understand that if the Holy Spirit has truly anointed a speaker, He (Holy Spirit) is the ultimate attention getter and keeper. One factor we must also consider is the hunger of the people. If the majority of the people are not really hungry for a good feeding of the Word, finishing up will be the priority. But for instance, if there are some babes in Christ in the room, discovering the liberty of God's Word, they could probably sit for hours on end feeding on the Word. I agree that we do live in a day and time when creativity is a major factor in getting the attention of the people. Especially the unchurched. But we must trust God's anointing to keep the attention of the people. We must never forget that the purpose of anything we do in a "meeting" format is to create an environment in which the people hear the voice of God and are touched by His presence. Without that our gatherings are just more meetings.
My attention span depends on who is speaking. I can listen to pastor Mark Gungor for a long time, but my current pastor I can only stand for a few minutes. Both are emotionally involved, but one towards the light-hearted humorous side (Mark G.) the other the too heavy "almost crying toward the end" side. Unfortunately M.G. only speaks on marriage issues, from what I can find.
As far as music, I prefer songs to be 3-4 minutes long.
Also, when it comes to movies, remember the dialogue only a few minutes per scene, so while everything is connected, its broken down into parts that are easier to digest.I wonder if speakers realize that. So how can we sit and watch an interesting 2-hour movie when the average adult attention span is only about 20 minutes? How can we read a book for a hour or longer without losing interest? I think watching a movie or reading is a lot different than listening to a sermon.
I had a friend/pastor who never preached beyond 20 minutes. He said that during his time as a youth pastor, he studied the congregation and his senior pastor closely, trying to learn all he could about ministry. He noticed that at nineteen minutes, people began checking their watches, so he decided that that was the limit of their attention spans. We sometimes got out of the service by 11:30, easily beating everyone to the buffet line. I liked that. A lot.
Despite us, and through us, God moves.
I am a little confused about something. And if this gets a little off-topic, the original poster (me) says it's OK! And maybe this belongs in a separate topic. Or maybe it has already been discussed. I have not done research here to see if it has been beaten to death or not. Here goes ...
What is the purpose of a Worship Service? Is it to adore, praise, lift up, magnify, and exalt our God? Or, is it to introduce others to God's presence? Is it to grow in knowledge and faith? Or is it to edify and build up other believers? If some say "all of the above" are we actually creating a conflict in purpose and delivery? Should there maybe be two kinds of "service", one being for believers to just cut loose and praise God and another to corporately introduce non-believers to Christ/Father/Spirit? Or should one service be sort of like a smorgasbord where you take what you need and put up with the rest?
Matt Redman would suggest the heart of worship is all about Jesus. I am particularly moved when he sings, "I'm sorry Lord for the thing I've made it." He doesn't go into details there, but my mind can just imagine. Have we made it a lecture? Have we made it show? Have we made it a social hour?
We were discussing attention span and someone said they would plan to speak 30 to 35 minutes. Not trying to attack that person at all, but why would you plan to speak 10 to 15 minutes longer than the average adult attention span? Maybe it is for those few who "need to be fed", babes in Christ as they said. But shouldn't that feeding be done sort of off-line, like in Bible studies and personal growth groups, or with mentors? Isn't going to a worship service to be fed, sort of like going to a concert to learn how to play guitar?
Others mentioned stories. I think they are incredible ways to worship God, particularly personal testimonies. And I don't limit testimonies to just the point of conversion experiences. Stories of how God is working are wonderful to listen to. It seems I can listen to them endlessly.
So back to the question about the purpose of a worship experience. Since it is not practical to have multiple services for multiple purposes, how do we gauge how much time is spent in different parts of a service. Why is the sermon 30 to 45 minutes long and the music only 12 minutes? Why are testimonies only done 3 times a year instead of once per month?
Have others had any peace in thinking about these questions?
To B-3 or not to B-3, that is the question.
I've not had peace, but I've definitely wrestled with this.Have others had any peace in thinking about these questions?
Don't get me wrong, I believe that we NEED our primary Sunday (weekly) gatherings. But I believe that we place too much emphasis on them and not enough on, as you say, "feeding be done sort of off-line."
But to me, it's not "off-line" it's THE LINE. It's online. I think we get in trouble when we really try and compartmentalize everything. Sure, we can have specific meetings that meet specific purposes and one church to the next is gonna have a different flavor...but can't we all acknowledge that EVERY church should have the same basic purposes regardless of flavor?
- to bring glory and honor to God (worship)
- to train and equip the Believers (spiritual growth)
- to make Disciples (outreach/spiritual growth)
- to evangelize (outreach)
Sure, all of those are forms of worship, spiritual growth, and can be evangelistic, but it really seems that we've chased hard after formula instead of the shaper and former of our hearts. Nothing wrong with a God-breathed formula, but we HAVE TO know that it's the planner, not the plan, that is of utmost importance in the Church.
So, in that sense, I feel like we miss the mark. I feel like others are sensing it to. Looking around and taking stock of their situation. Seeing shallow growth. Recognizing that just because someone comes through the doors of our churches every Sunday doesn't make them mature in Christ. Just because they sit through a 45 minute sermon doesn't make them spiritually mature.
I think the hardest part about doing church the way we do it these days (huge emphasis on the weekly gathering, and hardy an emphasis at all on the other 6 days of the week) is knowing that those other 6 days most of the time people are NOT even thinking about being Church. If we're honest with ourselves, we'll admit it.
Now, that opens up all kinds of possibilities for discussion, though. Do WE fix it? Does God fix it? Is there something we can do? Can we pray a certain way? Is it something practical? Or mainly spiritual?
When I mentioned stories earlier, I didn't mean that our entire gathering should be one big storytelling session. I did want to point out that I think story is what grips people's hearts and minds. And I think somehow if we could convince ourselves and the people we lead that THEY are part of a GRAND STORY and that they live it out every day of the week, not just on Sundays, we wouldn't have to worry about attention spans.
Why plan to speak longer than the average attention span? To pull them up to a higher level. It doesn't hurt to discipline ourselves to be able to focus on God longer than saying grace before we eat. Someone mentioned earlier about staying focused on television for hours. I daresay the difference lies in priorities and motivation.
What's the purpose of the worship service? It's multi-faceted in nature, but the simple working definition I'm running with currently is that the corporate worship service is an extension and expression of our individual worship.
Despite us, and through us, God moves.
Well said, Windbag.
Finding a hard answer to the attention span question will get you as many different answers as search results.
Back in biblical times (and later) people used to listen to oral histories for hours on end. There's no doubt that our attention span is shrinking. That's not to say that (like faith) it can't be excercised and strengthened.
When I'm teaching, I look for clues as to when attention is waning, but for a majority of listeners, not the first ones. When preaching, I say what the Spirit tells me to say, hopefully no more or less.
Indeed. The comparison that can be made though is someone sitting at the feet of a great orator/teacher back in the day to reading the greatest novel/watching the most engaging movie today.Back in biblical times (and later) people used to listen to oral histories for hours on end. There's no doubt that our attention span is shrinking.
Sadly, you can't compare the oral transmissions of stories, history, heritage, adventure, myth, legend, etc. to the oral transmission of the same today. Even thought they are exactly the same thing, they are totally NOT the same thing.
It's like taking 2 apples and comparing them with each other only to realize that one is a crabapple.
Back in ancient times (up until only a few hundred years ago) oral transmission and reading were the primary methods of conveying moving information.
Enter movies/television. Changed the world forever. You can't reasonably compare a dynamic ancient speaker who had NO OTHER competition for people's attention (media wise) to a dynamic modern speaker who has to compete against every other form of technology and media that we have this day and age. The ancient dude was a collossus, a lone beacon that gripped the hearts and minds of people, while the modern dude is a streetlight, a parking meter on the busiest avenue of the largest metropolis.
THAT BEING SAID, I do think that we should challenge. We should engage people. My overarching point throughout this discussion is that it should spill over into the other 6 days of the week, and not only be looked at as something to achieve within the framework of a Sunday gathering.
We need to pull our people up to a higher level, by challenging them to engage the other 6 days of the weeks as well.