As we talked further it became evident that she had no idea what ‘100% Attendance’ meant.
My daughter has just come to the end of her first half term at a school for children with additional needs. The school is excellent and my daughter seems to be thriving there for which we are very, very grateful.
It seemed ironic that she had come home with a certificate that she didn’t understand. She was being told well done but she didn’t understand (or had forgotten?) what it was for.
This got me thinking about how we explain things in church life. It’s so easy to (often wrongly!) assume that everyone has a really good background knowledge of church life and what the Bible says. One of the things that we try to do at Orchard Baptist is to lead services and events in such a way that we explain well in order to make it accessible and understandable for everyone who might be there.
I am glad that there are people who come to church to explore faith. They are on an important journey and we need to make sure that we don’t make them feel stupid for not knowing everything that we do.
Churches leaders often talk about what sorts of things that they are teaching about but we need to realize that it is really what people are learning that is the most important. We can talk at people and sound clever but that is pretty meaningless if people don’t learn anything. If sermons were prepared with the question of learning in mind then they would possible be very different and look a lot less like sermons.
If you are trying to create some communication to help people to learn in church then there are a few things that might help if you really want people to learn.
What is the main thing that I want people to learn?
Have you ever suffered from Sermon overload? A sermon that was packed with so much information that your head is spinning by the end?
If you looking at a Bible passage that does involve high information and it can’t be broken up into segments, then you might want to think about some key points that you emphasize. You could do this with visuals or a recurring phrase that reinforces the key points.
How can I give people space to reflect on what am saying?
Have you ever suffered from a pushy sales person who bombards you with information and then pushes you for a quick decision?
Sermons can sometimes feel like this where you get talked at and then you are expected to respond instantly. One of the things that I have started to do in recent years is to build pauses into my communication in church. Sometimes we say things of such importance and then rush on to the next important thing without letting the first concept settle first.
How is this going to make a difference?
Have you ever suffered from being in a meeting where people seem to want to talk about everything except the real issue? Sometimes churches focus too much on theory and philosophy and neglect how the Christian faith is life changing.
There needs to be content in our communications about real life and what the Bible has to say about that.
What visuals/illustrations/examples/activities can I use to communicate well?
Have you ever suffered from being in a really long lecture where you couldn’t remember what was said a few minutes ago?
We all learn in different ways and so we need to think about how we communicate in a variety of different styles if we want to help everyone to learn effectively. Visuals and illustrations are common in many churches, but how about the opportunity for activities for people who learn best in a hands on way? How about space for discussion for people who will learn more effectively in that way? How about some pens and paper for anyone who would find it helpful to write notes?
How is what we are communicating ultimately about God?
Have you ever listened to a sermon that offered great self-help advice but that neglected to mention God?
In our attempts to apply the Bible to life, we need to make sure that we don’t offer help and advice which excludes or doesn’t keep God at the centre.
Anyway, back to my daughter’s certificate:
It’s possible that the school did explain really well what 100% attendance was but that she didn’t take it in.
If you are a Christian, how are you taking responsibility for learning more about and growing in your faith?
Do you make space to reflect on and talk about what you have learnt in church with others? Do you read the Bible yourself? Do you take time to talk and pray with other Christians about what they are learning?
So, do you know what 100% attendance means?
Simply put it means that you have been at something all the time it was open. In my daughter’s case she was there on every school day during this half term.
Churches need to realize that what people learn is much more important than what we try to teach them.