Saturday, 7 January 2012

Getting your sermon priorities right

It is said that people remember 10% of what they hear, 20% of what they see, 30% of what they do... presumably up to 100% of what they eat.

I've never seen any real research behind this claim, no trainer has ever cited his or her references to me (but see the link below), and my guess is it's codswallop, like the claim that the Americans spent millions on a space pen while the Russians just used a pencil. Burton Dasset once heard a trainer claim that the Beagle II mission was a masterpiece of project management, so that just goes to show the rubbish that people can say when power-crazed and drunk with the smell of dry-wipe marker pens.

But the claim I mentioned - the so-called "Retention Myth" - has infected the way that Beaker People engage in what more traditional, or - as you might say - "square" - churches would call "preaching".

For myself, the assumption that most people aren't paying much attention to sermons (see Burton's post from earlier today) is backed up by a natural inclination to avoid any firm doctrine in case it causes an argument. So I find it best to read spiritual-sounded verses from the Metaphysical Poets while playing a little light Enya, to the accompaniment of some vanilla-scented candles. People always say "nice sermon, Archdruid", and never feel the need to argue with my model of realised eschatology (which is just as well, as my model of realised eschatology is made of old matchsticks and wood glue).

Hnaef has bought into some of the verbal vs visual theories, so he occasionally preaches while riding a unicycle round the Moot House. I'm not saying anyone is any better-informed, but the time he did it while juggling with chain-saws, people certainly gave him 100% of their attention. And many came close to having their lives radically changed.

The other trendy sermon technique we like to use is to split people up into small groups and share their thoughts, and then get one person - the "rapporteur" is one term, although we prefer "show-off" - to summarise the group's findings to the Beaker People in plenum. We have noticed the tendency that this has to show up unusual heresies, and we treasure it as a way of developing some new ones.

Drayton, of course, when preaching over at the Funambulist Baptists, sticks rigidly to the belief that Jesus would only approve of sermons preached by a bloke in a suit. His sermons can occasionally last for an hour at a time, I am told - but if they are any longer than that, they have a break so his congregation can change ends at half time.


  1. Eileen
    Thanks for posting the link to "Retention Myth". This has been a truly viral concept for generations, and I've never found such a helpful de-bunking.
    Sorry for such a serious response :-)
    Simon Martin

  2. That's no worries, Simon.

    Since you wrote it down I've forgotten 90% of it anyway.


Drop a thoughtful pebble in the comments bowl