As a pastor I have come to understand that some people have difficulty concentrating throughout the Sunday message. Sometimes it’s just me people have trouble following. But sometimes it is something within them. It may be a short attention span. It may be external distractions. Or maybe it is the overwhelming wealth of insight being offered throughout the message that leaves some still pondering the previous point when the next gem is thrown at them. (That last one is my favorite.)
If you’ve ever found yourself to be one who even occasionally experiences a problem concentrating throughout the sermon, let me offer a few practical tips. These are far from perfect, and certainly not exhaustive. But still, I think you will find they are helpful:
1. Write It Down
Many educators will tell you to write things down because it helps you focus and remember. Often, after writing something down, you’ll find you don’t even need to go back to your notes to recall what you wrote.
I find it interesting that in Deuteronomy 17.18 we learn that every time a new king was installed in Israel he was to write the entire Law of God out by hand. He had to write it himself. He could not delegate it to anyone else. He could not dictate to his secretary. But taking pen in hand, the new king had to transcribe the whole thing himself. The expected result, we learn in v. 19, was that the new king would revere the Lord and follow the law carefully. I suspect that what is also true, but has no need to be stated, is that the king would remember the Law.
2. Pray It In
When you hear something that strikes you, if the Lord impresses something on you, during the course of the message, stop and pray right then. Whether it is something that challenges you, encourages you, or even convicts you, ask the Lord right then to apply it to your life. (This is also true during other parts of the service. You may be struck by something in a hymn, or during a prayer. Pray it in.)
A church service is supposed to be more relational than academic. The Lord promises his presence among his people. It should be a time of interaction between you and God. As he speaks to you, deal with it at that moment.
3. Give It Out
After you write it down and pray it in, don’t neglect to give it out. Tell someone about it. If you are married, share your insight with you spouse on the way home: “Honey, do you know what struck me today?”
When you give it out it becomes part of your life. Your insight may also prove beneficial to the one you share it with. And giving it out also promotes unity, a oneness, because you are opening up and sharing what God is doing in your heart and life.
4. Move Around
No, I don’t mean you should get up in the middle of the message. I mean, don’t always sit in the same place.
While the first three are pretty simple, and probably will not receive much of a negative response, this suggestion poses some risks. It may not only seem strange, but the very notion violates some long standing personal traditions. I’m convinced that whole sanctuaries must have been built around some people – probably built while they were sitting in one particular spot! Construction crews just worked around them. God have mercy on the visitor who sits in what he/she consider to be ”MY” place.
But this suggestion is not as silly as it may at first seem.
Studies have shown a direct correlation between academic success levels and where a student sits in the classroom. (I usually sat in the back, which probably says a lot.) Perhaps it could also have some effect spiritually.
Now, I am not suggesting that those who sit up front are actually more spiritually mature than those in the back. Spirituality has nothing to do with geographic location. But there is an attitude that can creep in. Sitting in the same spot, week after week, year after year, things can become a little stale.
Moving around every once in a while offers a new, refreshing perspective. You see things from a different angle, which seems to stimulate the attention span. You are surrounded by different people, which not only creates a different worship environment, it is also a great way to expand unity within the church.
It’s amazing, but sitting in a different place almost makes it seem like a whole different church, regardless of the size of the sanctuary. So move around, and mix it up.
Anyway, these are a few of my simple suggestions. Let me know if you try any of them out, and how they worked out for you.