Sermons & Brains

My friend Mike Medved — a computer programer — preaches a few times a year at Renew Communities. Recently we’ve been talking about how we preach effective sermons. Here are a few of his thoughts that I’m thinking through this week as I prepare…

1. People will most likely remember stuff from your first and last 5–7 minutes, so put the huge take aways here, and connect the two if possible. I.e. story from beginning connects with the “so what” from the end or something like that.

2. Brains seek novelty. We should look at our sermons in 5–7 minute chunks with something that breaks them apart, thus introducing something novel for the brain to look at, and reengage with. Audience questions are great for this.

3. Engage as many of the senses as possible. This is why multimedia works so well — pictures, video, audio, whatever in the middle will give people’s brains more connecting points to what you are saying. Example: if you tell people to remember that a man’s name is Mr. Baker, and then tell a group to remember there is a man who is a baker, the second group will remember with much greater reliability. Why? The idea of a baker is coupled with all the touch/taste/smell ideas of bread/bakery.

4. Object lessons work. We should use actual physical objects when possible.

For example I will never forget, for as long as I live, the sermon series Rick Duncan did on “raise the bar” because he had a track hurdle out there and he used it as an object lesson. This is obviously related to the last point. I intend on bringing a literal yellow pages up for part of the unity sermon to demonstrate the “church” section.

Originally published at on December 11, 2014.