I couldn’t believe the effect! People were literally sitting on the edge of their seat as they followed my sermon. I was taking a risk, but it was a risk I felt I had to take. Slip into the scene: I was the pastor of a large multicultural congregation in Miami, Florida, and I was about to attempt my first multisensory sermon. In my quiet time, I noticed that Jesus was a multisensory teacher. He combined verbal, visual, and interactive communication to produce this powerful effect. So, I decided to experiment with his model in the exposition of a biblical text. Here’s how I prepared for the experiment.
Before the service, I set the stage area with some simple visual props. I also asked the ushers to give everyone coming into the auditorium a small instrument by which they would interact with the message. As people began entering the worship center, attention levels immediately heightened, because the stage that had looked the same for years suddenly looked different. Now there were props and visual aids atop the platform. People entered the room whispering and asking questions to one another wondering what it meant. They weren’t sure what to expect.
Now it was time to see if my risk would pay off. As I began to teach using the simple visuals I had placed on the stage, I saw something that took me by surprise. People were actually leaning forward, as if on the edge of their seats with interest. They were not just listening to me; they were watching me, as if I was doing something that they just had to see.
It was patently clear that audience attention levels were elevated. Attention levels seemed to heighten even more as they interacted with the instrument that they had received. At this point, the audience seemed incapable of distraction. In fact, the only person who seemed distracted was me! I was momentarily distracted by the audience response. In the midst of my teaching, it occurred to me that they weren’t merely using their ears; they were now engaging their ears, their eyes, and their hands. They were not passively engaged; they were aggressively engaged. They were not partially engaged; they appeared totally engaged—absorbed!
It was also obvious that audience comprehension levels were elevated. After the message, a number of people came up and said, “Rick, I really understood what you were saying, because it was so visual and interactive.” A lady who was new to our church said to me, “I am a visual learner, and all the visuals helped make things crystal clear for me.” Based on these anecdotal testimonies, the multisensory teaching had not only impacted attention levels, but it had also raised comprehension levels.
Then came the “aha moment.” Weeks later, I noticed that people were still talking about that message. In fact, it was the buzz around Christ Fellowship for some time. The correlation hit me like a hammer between the eyes. My multisensory sermon had not only elevated attention and comprehension levels, but it had also increased retention levels. The verbal presentation combined with the power of visuals and hands-on interaction made the information stick like Velcro. The audience was able to remember what was taught in the sermon, because they heard it, saw it, and interacted with it.
Rick Blackwood, The Power of Multi-Sensory Preaching and Teaching (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 2008), 22–23.
Resources to help you be more multi-sensory:
Teachers: check out my video preview of the Bible Studies for Life Sunday School Lessons at http://www.sundayschooluniversity.com/
Preachers: check out my new website http://stickysermon.com/ It is a work in progress, but here is what you can expect to find. Each sermon will include:
- A PowerPoint—most of them with embedded videos that make the point stick
- A 15 minute coaching video where I talk to you the preacher about what I have in mind for the message, and go over any visual aids I might use.
- A Good Question Bible Study Lesson to be used by your small groups to further reinforce the message. The same power that was at work in the Purpose Driven Life Campaign will be at work in each week’s message.