Grab Their Attention

Grab Their Attention

grabbing attentionIf you are new to this blog, know that we have been looking at what we can learn from television that will improve our preaching.  You can catch up by reading the posts that begin with this one.  We looked at the fact that television is very intentional about knowing the audience, and then bringing everything in the program to bear on reaching that audience.   In this post I want to look  at what television does to grab their attention once they have a target audience identified.   Knowing how to grab attention will help you become a better preacher.

Grabbing Attention by the Lead-in

I am old enough now that I remember when televisions didn’t have remotes.  If you wanted to change channels (and there were only 3 of them), you would have to get up, go over to the television set, and physically turn a knob.  Because people tended to be lazy, the television producers figured that if they could identify an audience and grab their attention with the first show of prime time, they would likely have the audience for most of the evening.

grab their attentionThat’s not so true today, with dozens of channels and that remote, people are able to switch quickly if they don’t like what’s on the tube.  So what do televisions producers do?  They stock programs with “lead-ins”.  The idea is to put a popular program on before a newer one.  Then when people tune into the popular one, they are willing to give the next program a try to see if they like it.

What do you do in your congregation to grab their attention before you preach?  Often, that is a time of some pretty boring stuff–at least boring to many of your people.  What’s your lead-in?  A lengthy prayer?  Announcements?  One of the things that megachurches do well is that they ramp up their program toward the message.  Some use drama to grab their attention and lead in to the message.  Others use a meaningful and upbeat song.   Others will use a testimony from someone, or a clip from a movie.

Think through what you use as your lead-in.  If you have a poor lead-in, one that loses peoples’ attention, you will have a more difficult time getting their attention back.

Grab Their Attention With a Felt Need

I wrote a series of posts on effective introductions about one year ago.  Many of them have been retired, but you can get an idea of effective introductions by reading this one.  As a recap, there are several ways to reach out to your audience and grab their attention in an introduction.  An intriguing question is one way.  Story-telling always gets attention.  A shocking statistic is a good way to do this as well.

But the most effective way of capturing peoples’ attention is to speak to the interest of the person you are seeking to reach.  Bill Self put it this way:

“I don’t think that the man (or woman) in the pew–the secular man–is hungry to know “What the Bible says”.  He is hungry for control of his life, hungry to get his life straightened out, hungry to “get his itches scratched.”  Biblical preaching is taking that point of need and leading the needy to the source of help–the Bible.”  (R. Albert Mohler, “Preaching to Joe Secular: An Interview with Billiam Self,” Preaching 4, no. 3 (November-December 1988): 3.)

It has been said that when you drive your car your attention can shift 200 times in a minute.  Think of your congregation, with very short attention spans.  You need to grab their attention at the beginning of your sermon.  It’s difficult, so you better plan it well.  To grab their attention you need to go beyond just telling them a good story; you need to speak to their felt needs.

Here’s another view from a speech coach on how important it is when facing an audience of any kind to grab their attention within the first few seconds.



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