Measuring Sermon Engagement
If those delivering the Sunday morning message could measure the results of their message, would it change the way we tell the Good News?
This question came to mind as I read a post in my inbox this morning. The post was written for an audience of meeting specialists—the kind that book hotels to run seminars, train their new hires, or celebrate a corporate milestone.
The first of the five recommendations is a little scary. We may no longer be able to hide that yawn!
The hotel industry is preparing for the adoption of technology that will measure the engagement of meeting attendees. Sensors will measure things like heart rates, eye movement and stress levels. Those sensors (things) will report the findings in real time to meeting presenters so that they can make immediate adjustments in how they are communicating with their audience. They are using what is called the Internet of Things. Things (sensors) are participating online along with people.
I doubt this will ever relate much to church. We haven’t yet found a way to measure and react to a yawn—or fidgety children—or sneak peeks at smartphones—or waning attendance!
But we should pay attention. Today’s preachers are increasingly dealing with changed expectations. Today’s churchgoers are experienced audiences. We spend tons of time every day practicing. We watch TV, where story lines include action or a big laugh at measured paces. Then come the ads that have been carefully tested before airing. Some are crude. “Buy now, and we’ll double the offer.” Some are sophisticated: the only color is the yellow Cheerios box. Some prey on emotions: Silent Night playing in the background as photos depict abused pets. All are calculated to do what the presenter intends.
They’ve studied us. They know us. They can predict what we will do if they communicate with us effectively.
So, what about today’s church audience? How do we know if our message is having any effect?
We usually bypass this question for one reason—we don’t have any way to measure.
There may be a second reason—we don’t plan to make any changes regardless of what we learn.
Soon, the rest of the world will be using technology to guide the delivery of their messages.
Maybe it’s time we took some steps to do the same.
The 2×2 publication, Interactive Preaching for Advent, adopts an approach to preaching that responds to today’s expectations and mindset. It gives suggestions for each sermon topic that engage during the worship service and continue engagement online.
Here’s a sample. It’s a sermon that teaches the scriptures regarding the Magnificat. It engages visually, orally and encourages participation and post-worship action. It also provides links and online tips which users are welcome to use in their social media. The book also has a private web page where purchasers can download additional resources related to the sermon to use in their congregation’s social media.
If you like this approach, let us know. We’ll create more resources like it.