PREACHING & Neuroscience research confirms: change your presentation every 10 minutes or lose your audience.

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: I have coached hundreds of pastors to increase preaching impact (and sat through thousands of their sermons). One thing I found is that sermons should end about 10 minutes before they actually end.

In my observations from 25+ years of coaching, the average sermon I’ve heard is approximately 30 minutes. And my observation is that 20 minutes would be the optimum time for most pastors. (But let me say that each person has their optimum time and it may be longer.) But my observation has been that their optimum length is about 10 minutes less than the speaker realizes.

But now there is neuroscience research that shows that people tune out a presentation when it goes over 10 minutes.

It seems our brains are wired to have a 10 minute attention span unless something changes.

The following article is a case study of the recent Apple product debut in which in the first 60 minutes was comprised of six speakers of 10 minutes each: Apple Follows This 10-minute-rule to Keep You Glued to Product Presentations

What neuroscience research is telling us is that 10 minutes into a sermon the speaker should introduce a new story, video, demonstration or what in communication theory we call a different “voice.” This can be a different speaker, a different medium (e.g. video, charts, pictures, demonstration, etc.) or in other words someway to reengage the audience almost as if another person walked on stage.

Here is an insightful quote from the above article:

“Neuroscientists say our brains have a built-in stopwatch that ends around 10 minutes. In my conversations with University of Washington Medical School molecular biologist, John Medina, he cites peer-reviewed studies that show people tune out of a presentation in the first ten minutes. ‘The brain seems to be making choices according to some stubborn timing pattern, undoubtedly influenced by both culture and gene,’ he says. ‘This fact suggests a teaching and business imperative: Find a way to arouse and then hold somebody’s attention for a specific period of time.’ Medina and other neuroscientists say that speakers can re-engage an audience every ten minutes if they introduce a change. A change can include a video, a story, a demonstration, etc.”

PREACHING & 5 Key Steps to Rehearsing a Presentation Like the Best TED Speakers

by Carmine Gallo, Inc. Magazine, 7/30/18.

Every year I teach a class of elite business professionals who are enrolled in an executive education program at Harvard University. They are required to participate in group and individual presentations to graduate. After their presentations are complete, I recommended that each student practice their final presentations a minimum of ten times from start to finish. The ones who do stand out.

I learned this technique from studying and interviewing the TED speakers whose talks went viral…

Here are five steps to rehearse effectively.

1. Start with presentation notes.

Start writing notes for each slide in full sentences. Read the transcript out loud as you review each slide. Next, cut down the full sentences into bullet points and rehearse out loud again–relying on notes even less…

2. Practice under ‘mild stress.’

…The famous entrepreneur and author, Tim Ferriss, applied this concept to his TED talk. “Mimic game-day conditions as much as possible,” he said after his presentation. Ferriss gave the presentation in front of friends and strangers at various startups to groups of about 20 people. “I don’t want my first rehearsal in front of a large group of strangers to be when I stand up in front of 3,000 people,” he said…

3. Ask for specific feedback.

Once you’ve practiced your presentation in front of a small audience, most people will say “good job.” They don’t want to hurt your feelings and they’ll have limited feedback. While “good job” might help you feel good, it won’t help you get better. Ask them to be specific: Is there something you didn’t understand? Do I use jargon that you’re not familiar with? Did I make strong eye contact? What did you like–or not like–about my delivery? What can I do to make it stronger?

4. Record it.

Set up a smartphone or a video camera on a tripod and record your presentation. You’ll be surprised at what you see. You’ll

5. Practice until it’s effortless.

Read more at … https://www.inc.com/carmine-gallo/5-key-steps-to-rehearsing-a-presentation-like-best-ted-speakers.html

PRAYER & Charts showing the percentage of adults who pray and their frequency. #PewResearch

Pew Research, Religious Landscapes Study, n.d.

Frequency of prayer % of adults who pray…

Frequency of prayer by religious group % of adults who pray…

  1. Chart
  2. Table

Read more at … http://www.pewforum.org/religious-landscape-study/frequency-of-prayer/#chart-1

PERSECUTION & Let your enemies “bring out the best in you, not the worst.” Matt. 5:43-46 #TheMessageBible

“You’re familiar with the old written law, ‘Love your friend,’ and its unwritten companion, ‘Hate your enemy.’ I’m challenging that. I’m telling you to love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer, for then you are working out of your true selves, your God-created selves. This is what God does. He gives his best—the sun to warm and the rain to nourish—to everyone, regardless: the good and bad, the nice and nasty. If all you do is love the lovable, do you expect a bonus? Anybody can do that. If you simply say hello to those who greet you, do you expect a medal? Any run-of-the-mill sinner does that.”

Matthew 5:43-47 MSG

http://bible.com/97/mat.5.43-47.msg

POLITICS & Research indicates political posturing by Christians may be linked to rising rates of nonreligious people.

Abstract:

Hout and Fischer have made the repeated, controversial claim that the dramatic rise of “religious nones” in the United States is due to the prominence of the politics of the Christian Right. As the argument goes, the movement’s extreme stands on gay rights and abortion make religion inhospitable to those who take more moderate and liberal positions. We take another look at this proposition with novel data drawing on expert reports and interest group counts that capture the prominence of the movement in each American state from 2000 to 2010. We attach these data to decennial religious census data on the unchurched, as well as estimates of the nones from Cooperative Congressional Election Study data. At stake is whether religion is independent of political influence and whether American religion is sowing its own fate by failing to limit taking extreme stands. Rising none rates are more common in Republican states in this period. Moreover, when the Christian Right comes into more public conflict, such as over same-sex marriage bans, the rate of religious nones climbs.

The marquee religious trend in the United States over the last thirty years is the rapid rise of the “religious nones”—those who claim no religious affiliation in surveys—from just 6 percent in the early 1990s to about 25 percent today (PRRI 2016; Thiessen and Wilkins-Laflamme 2017).1 Perhaps not coincidentally, that meteoric rise started around 1994, just when the Christian Right rose to prominence within the Republican Party in government, as Republicans swept the House of Representatives for the first time in forty years.2 As the argument goes, the Christian Right is the most visible manifestation of religion in the United States, and the extreme positions taken by the movement on abortion and especially gay rights made all religion inhospitable for liberals and moderates (Hout and Fischer 2002, 2014; see also Evans 2016). We aim to revisit this claim by taking one of the mechanisms seriously—Is there a relationship between Christian Right presence in (state) politics and the supply of nones?

We define the Christian Right in much the same way as others have: “as a social movement that attempts to mobilize evangelical Protestants and other orthodox Christians into conservative political action” (Wilcox and Larson 2006, 6). Moreover, we acknowledge that the Christian Right encompasses a wide variety of different actors, including “everyone from movement leaders to activists to ordinary group members and those sympathetic to its political and religious agenda” (Klemp 2010, 25). As discussed later, our measures capture multiple facets of the movement, including a specific focus on the social movement organizations (see Miceli 2005; Rozell and Wilcox 1996; Wilcox 1992), as well as more holistic sense of anything elite observers would lump together as the movement. We use the term “Christian Right” throughout the paper to refer to both, and in this way our operational definition of the Christian Right captures both sides of what Rozell and Wilcox (1996, 7) cover: “organizations that attempt to mobilize orthodox Christian religious views behind a very conservative political agenda.”

Our works draws on a decade and a half of data gathering, surveying elite observers in the electoral moment regarding whether Christian Right organizations were active and influential in their state’s politics. Taking place in 2000, 2004, 2008, and 2016 (Conger 2010a, 2014), we attach these elite perception data to survey estimates, religious census, and U.S. Census data, in addition to other data sources, to assess why the supply of nones changed in the states. We argue that the rate of change is uneven across the states, driven by the salient policy controversy linked to Christian Right activism. Our findings suggest that Christian Right influence in state politics seems to negatively affect religion, such that religious attachments fade in the face of visible Christian Right policy victories.

Read more at … http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/full/10.1177/1065912918771526?cookieSet=1

PREACHING & Baylor Univ. releases list of “12 most effective preachers” & my exercise for preachers.

Baylor University conducted a survey to identify the 12 most effective preachers in the English-speaking world. Now, two decades after the original survey, the Kyle Lake Center for Effective Preaching at Baylor University’s George W. Truett Theological Seminary has identified the 12 most effective preachers of 2018.

The 12 individuals named as the most effective preachers in the English-speaking world, according to George W. Truett Theological Seminary’s national survey are … 

12 Most Effective PreachersRead more at … https://www.baylor.edu/truett/index.php?id=951217

A Leadership Exercise by Dr. Whitesel:

Listen to a sermon from 3 to 5 of these preachers. Then write out the similarities you hear. This exercise can help you identify recurring aspects of preachers known for preaching effectiveness.

PREACHING & The Surprising Power of Asking Questions #OrganicChurchBook #HarvardBusinessReview

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: When researching my Abingdon Press book, “Inside the organic church,” I found growing young churches often have sermons in which the audience is asked to respond to the preacher with live questions. Traditionalists usually found this worrisome, because they feared losing control of the learning experience. But research cited in this Harvard Business Review article demonstrates that asking questions deepens learning.  Not surprisingly, I practice questioning of my listeners in my courses, seminars and even sermons.

by Alison Wood Brooks and Leslie K. John, Harvard Business Review, May-June 2018.

“Be a good listener,” Dale Carnegie advised in his 1936 classic How to Win Friends and Influence People. “Ask questions the other person will enjoy answering.” More than 80 years later, most people still fail to heed Carnegie’s sage advice. When one of us (Alison) began studying conversations at Harvard Business School several years ago, she quickly arrived at a foundational insight: People don’t ask enough questions. In fact, among the most common complaints people make after having a conversation, such as an interview, a first date, or a work meeting, is “I wish [s/he] had asked me more questions” and “I can’t believe [s/he] didn’t ask me any questions.”

…Dating back to the 1970s, research suggests that people have conversations to accomplish some combination of two major goals: information exchange (learning) and impression management (liking). Recent research shows that asking questions achieves both.

… Not all questions are created equal. Alison’s research, using human coding and machine learning, revealed four types of questions: introductory questions (“How are you?”), mirror questions (“I’m fine. How are you?”), full-switch questions (ones that change the topic entirely), and follow-up questions (ones that solicit more information). Although each type is abundant in natural conversation, follow-up questions seem to have special power. They signal to your conversation partner that you are listening, care, and want to know more. People interacting with a partner who asks lots of follow-up questions tend to feel respected and heard.

An unexpected benefit of follow-up questions is that they don’t require much thought or preparation—indeed, they seem to come naturally to interlocutors. In Alison’s studies, the people who were told to ask more questions used more follow-up questions than any other type without being instructed to do so.

Read more at … https://hbr.org/2018/05/the-surprising-power-of-questions