ATTENDANCE & Why Americans Don’t Go to Religious Services: Many cite practical or personal reasons, rather than lack of belief, for staying home. #PewResearch

by Pew Research, 8/1/18.

Among those who attend no more than a few times a year, about three-in-ten say they do not go to religious services for a simple reason: They are not believers. But a much larger share stay away not because of a lack of faith, but for other reasons. This includes many people who say one very important reason they don’t regularly attend church is that they practice their faith in other ways. Others cite things they dislike about particular congregations or religious services (for example, they haven’t found a church or house of worship they like, or they don’t like the sermons). Still others name logistical reasons, like being in poor health or not having the time to go, as very important reasons for not regularly attending religious services.

…Overall, the single most common answer cited for not attending religious services is “I practice my faith in other ways,” which is offered as a very important reason by 37% of people who rarely or never attend religious services. A similar share mention things they dislike about religious services or particular congregations, including one-in-four who say they have not yet found a house of worship they like, one-in-five who say they dislike the sermons, and 14% who say they do not feel welcome at religious services.

About three-in-ten non-attenders say they are not believers, while 22% cite logistical reasons for not going to religious services, such as not having the time or being in poor health. And fully a quarter of those who infrequently attend religious services say none of these factors is a very important reason why.

Among those who rarely attend religious services, nearly four-in-ten say they don’t go because they practice their faith in other ways

Read more at … https://www.pewforum.org/2018/08/01/why-americans-go-to-religious-services/

PREACHING & Research confirms we usually talk too long. What does this means for sermon length?

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: In almost 30 years of consulting hundreds of churches, the one weakness that recurs most often is that the sermon is slightly too long (I’ve estimated by about 20%). Subsequently, in my own life I’ve kept my sermons shorter than people anticipate (and usually people seem to appreciate this – but this of course could be because of the speaker 😉

Therefore I found it interesting that a Harvard study found that most people spend too long in a conversation. Here is some key takeaways from the article.

“Want to be a master conversationalist? Harvard Research says you have to fix this first”

by Wanda Thibodeaux, Harvard Business Review 12/5/18.

In a study by Adam Mastroianni and Daniel Gilbert of Harvard University, 133 participants were paired up and given a simple job–just talk to each other for any amount of time up to 45 minutes. They could decide for themselves when to stop, and when the conversations were over, the researchers hit them with a few questions.

The results showed that just 15 percent of people in the study left the conversation when they actually wanted to. About half of the participants wanted the conversation to end sooner, and about half wanted it to keep going longer. On average, the desired length of the conversation differed from what actually happened by 46 percent. Lastly, when participants had to guess whether their partner wanted to leave, they were right only 63 percent of the time. They thought it was only six minutes from when they wanted to leave to when their partner wanted to call it quits, when in reality it was 13 minutes.

The conclusion from the study was that, even while we might have a grasp of how much conversation we want, we’re not very good at all about judging how much others want. We also tend not to know that we’re off the mark.

So what does all this mean for you as a communicator?

Simply put, you probably don’t really know when to stop talking, and your conversation partner probably doesn’t, either. … This, of course, means you have to understand what some of those cues even are. Signals that a person might want to politely head for the door are:

  • fidgeting…
  • acting distracted (e.g., looking at their watch, checking their phone)…
  • lack of eye contact.

Read more at … https://www.inc.com/wanda-thibodeaux/want-to-be-a-master-conversationalist-harvard-research-says-you-have-to-fix-this-first.html

CHOOSING A CHURCH & Americans look for good sermons, warm welcome

Choosing a New Church or House of Worship, by Pew Research, 8/26/16.

About half of U.S. adults have looked for a new religious congregation at some point in their lives, most commonly because they have moved. And when they search for a new house of worship, a new Pew Research Center study shows, Americans look first and foremost for a place where they like the preaching and the tone set by the congregation’s leaders.

Fully 83% of Americans who have looked for a new place of worship say the quality of preaching played an important role in their choice of congregation. Nearly as many say it was important to feel welcomed by clergy and lay leaders, and about three-quarters say the style of worship services influenced their decision about which congregation to join. Location also factored prominently in many people’s choice of congregation, with seven-in-ten saying it was an important factor. Smaller numbers cite the quality of children’s programs, having friends or family in the congregation or the availability of volunteering opportunities as key to their decision.

Perhaps as a result of the value they place on good sermons, church leadership and the style of worship services, many people – even in this age of technology – find there is no substitute for face-to-face interaction when seeking information about a new religious home. Fully 85% of those who have looked for a new house of worship say they attended worship services at a church they were considering, and seven-in-ten say they spoke with members of the congregation or to friends or colleagues about their decision. Looking for information online may be growing more common, especially among young people and those who have looked for a congregation recently. But online information still appears to be far less important to potential congregants than experiencing the atmosphere of the congregation firsthand.

The single most common reason people give for having looked for a new congregation is that they moved: Roughly one-third of adults say they have searched for a new place of worship because they relocated. By comparison, fewer people say they sought a new congregation because of a disagreement with clergy or other members at their previous house of worship (11%) or because they got married or divorced (11%). About one-in-five adults (19%) volunteered that they have looked for a new congregation for some other reason, including other problems with a previous church, changes in their own beliefs or for social or practical reasons.

These are some of the key findings from the fourth in a series of reports based on Pew Research Center’s U.S. Religious Landscape Study. The study and this report were made possible by The Pew Charitable Trusts, which received support for the project from Lilly Endowment Inc. The first report on the 2014 Landscape Study, based on a telephone survey of more than 35,000 adults, examined the changing religious composition of the U.S. public and documented the fluidity of religion in the U.S., where roughly one-third of adults now have a religious identity different from the one in which they were raised. The second report described the religious beliefs, practices and experiences of Americans, as well the social and political views of different religious groups. A third report drew on both the national telephone survey and a supplemental survey of participants in Pew Research Center’s American Trends Panel to describe how Americans live out their religion in their everyday lives.

Read more at … http://www.pewforum.org/2016/08/23/choosing-a-new-church-or-house-of-worship/

SERMONS & Research Finds Physical Note Taking Aids Retention

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: There is a tech trend in our Sunday services, of which I have been in favor, to replace printed bibles and sermon note handouts with e-bibles and electronic notation. Yet research indicates this may hinder retention. Research cited below indicates that a printed book fosters memorization/retention more than an e-book. Research discovered that writing out your notes on paper similarity promotes “contexts and landmarks” which further foster learning.  With advances in technology such weaknesses will eventually be overcome.  But in the meantime, churches may want to return to the availability of paper bibles and handouts for notes. If we are serious about helping congregants move from “remembering” to “knowing,” then sometimes being an early adopter may result in acting too quickly.

Read this overview in TIME magazine with links to the original research …

“Do E-Books Make It Harder to Remember What You Just Read? Digital books are lighter and more convenient to tote around than paper books, but there may be advantages to old technology”

by Maia Szalavitz, Time Magazine, 3/14/15.

… I discovered that Google’s Larry Page himself had concerns about research showing that on-screen reading is measurably slower than reading on paper.

This seems like a particularly troubling trend for academia, where digital books are slowly overtaking the heavy tomes I used to lug around. On many levels, e-books seem like better alternatives to textbooks — they can be easily updated and many formats allow readers to interact with the material more, with quizzes, video, audio and other multimedia to reinforce lessons. But some studies suggest that there may be significant advantages in printed books if your goal is to remember what you read long-term…

Context and landmarks may actually be important to going from “remembering” to “knowing.” The more associations a particular memory can trigger, the more easily it tends to be recalled. Consequently, seemingly irrelevant factors like remembering whether you read something at the top or the bottom of page — or whether it was on the right or left hand side of a two-page spread or near a graphic — can help cement material in mind…

This seems irrelevant at first, but spatial context may be particularly important because evolution may have shaped the mind to easily recall location cues so we can find our way around. That’s why great memorizers since antiquity have used a trick called the “method of loci” to associate facts they want to remember with places in spaces they already know, like rooms in their childhood home. They then visualize themselves wandering sequentially through the rooms, recalling the items as they go…

E-books, however, provide fewer spatial landmarks than print, especially pared-down versions like the early Kindles, which simply scroll through text and don’t even show page numbers, just the percentage already read. In a sense, the page is infinite and limitless, which can be dizzying. Printed books on the other hand, give us a physical reference point, and part of our recall includes how far along in the book we are, something that’s more challenging to assess on an e-book…

Read more at … http://healthland.time.com/2012/03/14/do-e-books-impair-memory/

 

SERMONS & Research confirms: Reading a sermon is not a good idea.

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: In this research, cited in the Harvard Business Review, listeners gave markedly higher ratings to presentations that were given extemporaneously or by memorization than when they were read. Though reading sermons is (in my observation) a dying practice, it is still important to realize that we best communicate when we internalize the message.

Read more at … https://hbr.org/2015/10/the-science-of-sounding-smart

SERMONS & Wesley’s Sermons: An Interview w/ the editor of the @AbingdonPress book

by , Scriptorium Daily, 10/8/13
… Though he (John Wesley) wrote and edited voluminously in a variety of genres, it’s the sermons that made history and deserve to be heard today. Wesley even specified a few dozen sermons that he considered to be standards, which makes our selection easier. In fact, back in the year 2000 I consulted with Wesley scholar Kenneth Collins of Asbury Theological Seminary and asked him what primary text he would assign to a captive audience of undergraduates. He said, as I expected, the 52 Standard Sermons, and he even recommended a representative sub-set within them.But we’ve had trouble getting the old 19th-century edition of the Standard Sermons into the hands of students, and have limped along, making do with internet versions (they’re in the public domain, after all). For years we’ve had these practical challenges when answering the question, “what primary source should one read to grasp the thought of John Wesley?”

So I’m delighted that Abingdon has just released a volume that solves our problems: The Sermons of John Wesley: A Collection for the Christian Journey.

At about 650 pages, this collection of 60 of Wesley’s sermons is pretty likely to serve this generation as the definitive anthology for reading Wesley firsthand. It is published by a Methodist press and edited by two respected Methodist scholars. One of those two editors is the aforementioned Ken Collins, and the other is Jason Vickers, Associate Professor of Theology and Wesleyan Studies and United Theological Seminary.

Vickers is author, most recently, of Minding the Good Ground: A Theology for Church Renewal (Baylor UP, 2011) and is one of the leaders in the program known as Canonical Theism. As for his credentials to edit the sermons of Wesley, he is author of Wesley: A Guide for the Perplexed , and co-editor of the Cambridge Companion to John Wesley.

I asked Vickers a few questions about this new collection of Wesley sermons. Here are his responses…

Read the interview at … http://www.patheos.com/blogs/scriptorium/2013/08/how-to-read-john-wesleys-sermons/

WESLEY & His Oxford Sermon on His Pre-conversion Journey: “I Was Almost a Christian”

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: “I recently spoke at a conference in Orlando, and described John Wesley’s conversion this way: Wesley decided that rather than live a fair-weather, ‘summer region’ … he was now: all in. Afterwords two pastors told me they had recently preached sermon series on the theme ‘all in,’ and wished they had known this about Wesley. To help pastors preach such sermons, here is my colleague’s analysis of Wesley’s Oxford sermon, where Wesley explains to his colleagues that though he was once an Oxford student and instructor, he was really only “almost” a Christian. Now Wesley realizes an ‘almost Christian’ (or what some today call a ‘cultural Christian’) is insufficient to attain eternal life, but an ‘all together Christian’ (or as might be described in modern language as being all in) is what God expects.”

The Almost Christian by John Wesley, Oxford, 1741 (click link for entire sermon)

Analysis by Ken Schenck Ph.D., Wesley Seminary, 2/12/15.

This is a masterful little sermon. Wesley preached it at Oxford in 1741. It is masterful for the way it fits its context and for the way it builds its rhetoric.

The text is incredibly clever, Herod tells this to Paul in Acts 26, that Paul almost convinces him to be a Christian.

What Wesley does is he describes a very religious person, a very pious person. Indeed, he is describing himself as a “methodist” in the Holy Club when we was at Oxford before. How wonderful if we had lots of people in our churches who were “almost Christian” like he describes!

He builds to the “altogether Christian.” This is the person who loves God and neighbor truly. And at the climax of the letter he gets to the main point. This is the person who is justified by faith.

I wonder if today we should almost preach the sermon backward, since we have plenty who are justified but are hardly as dedicated as the almost Christian he describes.

Read more at … http://nblo.gs/13gSqQ

METAPHOR & Once Upon a Podcast: 11 Storytelling Podcasts To Love

Commentary by Dr. Whitesel: “As you know from my postings, researchers have found that utilizing a story as the central aspect of a sermon or when creating church change will make your endeavors twice as effective (Wilchert, 2012). Knowing this, I often wonder why so many pastors rely mostly on topical sermons when research shows that narrative- and story-based sermons are better remembered and their lessons retained more clearly. Could it be that our seminaries don’t teach and our pastors don’t know how to present a good story? If you’re having trouble making a story come to life, then listen to some of these podcasts with great examples of how to make a story come to life.”

Read more at … http://www.brit.co/storytelling-podcasts/

BIBLE STUDY & Bible’s Abraham to Be Tried in New York #WSJ

By SOPHIA HOLLANDER

The Wall Street Journal, 11/13/14

It was a father-son hiking trip gone terribly wrong. When they reached the mountain peak, the father tied up his son, placed him on a pile of firewood and prepared to slash the boy’s throat—until he heard a voice telling him to stop.

On Sunday, the father—also known as the biblical patriarch Abraham —will be brought up on charges of attempted murder and endangering the welfare of his son, Isaac, in a mock trial at Temple Emanu-El synagogue on the Upper East Side…

“Let’s be honest here—if I put an ad asking people to come study Bible on a Sunday morning, not many people will come,” said Gady Levy, the new executive director of the synagogue’s Skirball Center, which is hosting the event.

With this program, he said, “people are going to come and study Torah. But they’re going to do it in a creative way—and in a way that makes religion relevant to their lives.”

Read more at … http://m.wsj.com/articles/biblical-figure-abraham-to-go-on-trial-in-new-york-1415904360?mobile=y

WESLEY & Why the Rich Don’t Visit the Poor #Quote

“Indeed, Sir,” said person of large substance, “I am a very compassionate man. But, to tell you the truth, I do not know anybody in the world that is in want.” How did this come to pass Why, he took good care to keep out of their way; and if he fell upon any of them unawares “he passed over on the other side.”

John Wesley, The Sermons of John Wesley – Sermon 98, “On Visiting the Sick.”  http://wesley.nnu.edu/john-wesley/the-sermons-of-john-wesley-1872-edition/sermon-98-on-visiting-the-sick/

PREACHING & A4 (or AAAA): My Structure for Effective Preaching in a Postmodern World = Adversity – Answer – Adventure – Action

by Bob Whitesel D.Min., Ph.D., 4/28/14, 7/24/19.

Part of my study of today’s culture, which some call a post-modern culture, is to understand how we can effectively communicate with people the life-transforming truths of Jesus’ sacrifice for us.  Here are the elements I have developed and practiced to communicate the Biblical message in an increasingly skeptical world.

ADVERSITY.  State a problem with which people struggle …

1.1 Ask the congregation a “question” that illustrates the adversity.

1.2 The Serendipity Bible is a great source of these questions.

1.3  Wesley’s questions are also great sources for these questions.  You can find them adapted for today in …

1.3.1  Cure for the Common Church by Bob Whitesel (2012) and

1.3.2  The Healthy Church by Bob Whitesel (2013)

ANSWER biblically the problem (the more people who can relate to this problem the better).

ADVENTURE through a “passage” from a biblical story.  Choose a Bible passage that gives the answer to the problem…

3.1  Start with something like Eerdmans Handbook to the Bible to get the basic historical background,

3.2  Then two good commentaries on the passage,

3.3  Then consult two more books that deal with the problem you are addressing,

3.4 FILL your mind up with this background information until you think you can learn no more – then add a little bit more. Then see what the Holy Spirit brings up from your consciousness during the sermon.

ACTION, give them actions they can do in the next 24 hours to apply the biblical answer to the problem …

5.1  Give just two (2) ways to act on the problem that are based in the story (Adventure) you just described.

5.2  In the next 24 hours (e.g. before noon on Monday).

 

Notes:  I formerly developed this in the more unwieldy acronym ASJAA for Ask, State (the problem), Journey through the Bible with them, State the problem again and Act on the biblical answer.  This of course was difficult to remember and therefore I have replaced it with the A4, A-4, AAAA or the “A to-the-forth-power approach.”  I utilize this in preaching seminars and in communication consultations for my coaching firm ChurchHealth.net

#CommunicationConsultation #Preaching #PreachingConsultation #Communication

SERMONS & The Science Behind TED’s 18-Minute Rule

The Science Behind TED’s 18 -Minute Rule

by Carmine Gallo, author of Talk Like TED: The 9 Public Speaking Secrets of the World’s Top Minds (March 2014, St. Martin’s Press)

“TED curator Chris Anderson explained the organization’s thinking this way:

It [18 minutes] is long enough to be serious and short enough to hold people’s attention. It turns out that this length also works incredibly well online. It’s the length of a coffee break. So, you watch a great talk, and forward the link to two or three people. It can go viral, very easily. The 18-minute length also works much like the way Twitter forces people to be disciplined in what they write. By forcing speakers who are used to going on for 45 minutes to bring it down to 18, you get them to really think about what they want to say. What is the key point they want to communicate? It has a clarifying effect. It brings discipline.

The 18-minute rule also works because the brain is an energy hog. The average adult human brain only weighs about three pounds, but it consumes an inordinate amount of glucose, oxygen, and blood flow. As the brain takes in new information and is forced to process it, millions of neurons are firing at once, burning energy and leading to fatigue and exhaustion. Researchers at Texas Christian University are finding that the act of listening can be as equally draining as thinking hard about a subject. Dr. Paul King calls it ‘cognitive backlog.’ Like weights, he says, the more information we are asked to take in, the heavier and heavier it gets. Eventually, we drop it all, failing to remember anything we’ve been told. In King’s own research, he found that graduate students recall more of the information they learn when they go to class three days a week for 50 minutes instead of one day a week for three hours. Although most students say they’d prefer to get the class over with at once, they retain more information when receiving the information in shorter amounts of time…”

Read more at .,. https://www.linkedin.com/today/post/article/20140313205730-5711504-the-science-behind-ted-s-18-minute-rule?_mSplash=1

SERMONS & Research Confirms 18 Minutes Best Length for Presentations

HELLOThe ideal length for everything on the Internet
by Kevan Lee, The Next Web, 4/6/14

  • The ideal length of a tweet is 100 characters

  • The ideal length of a Facebook post is less than 40 characters

  • The ideal length of a Google+ headline is less than 60 characters

  • The ideal length of a headline is 6 words

  • The ideal length of a blog post is 7 minutes, 1,600 words

  • The ideal width of a paragraph is 40-55 characters

  • The ideal length of a presentation is 18 minutes

  • The ideal length of a title tag is 55 characters

  • The ideal length of a domain name is 8 characters

Read more at … http://thenextweb.com/socialmedia/2014/04/06/ideal-length-everything-internet/