sticky_church_coverOne of the first things I noticed [when we started using sermon-based small groups] was that people were more attentive.

I wish I could take credit for an improved delivery or better material, but I didn’t really change anything. What changed was the congregation’s awareness that they were going to discuss the message later. People who would normally fold their arms and listen paid careful attention—most even started taking notes. Those who missed a point were likely to catch me afterward to fill in what they missed.

I also discovered that attentiveness is contagious. When everyone else in the room is dialed in, it sends a subtle, maybe even subliminal, message that this is important stuff—don’t miss it. So most people work a little harder to hang in there even during the slow (should I say boring?) parts of the message.

Increased Note Taking

The most obvious sign of greater attentiveness was the marked increase in note taking. That alone had a significant impact.

Educational theorists have long pointed out that we forget most of what we hear unless we also interact with the material visually, verbally, or physically. That’s why getting people to take notes increases recall dramatically.

In every crowd there are always a good number of neurotic note takers (you know the type; they’re the folks who get a nervous twitch if a blank in the sermon outline is left unfilled or a point is skipped over). The challenge is to get everyone else to also write something down.

That’s not too hard to do when their small group questions are tied to the weekend message. Then even the most note-resistant listeners tend to write something down, because they know they’ll be discussing the key points later in the week. Note taking is their way of “laying down some crumbs” so they can find their way back home again when their group meets.

Osborne, L. W. (2008). Sticky church. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

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