I cut the sentence off because the intended hearer was not listening; they were head-down, submerged in their phone. Well that is what I thought until recently.
Microsoft published a study in 2015 that challenges my assumption. Some people prefer to alternate their attention between sources and have gained new competencies to aid them in that pursuit. The study reports that across all age groups the amount of time people spend consuming media is increasing. This interaction is impacting cognitive skills like attention and focus.
Now sustained focus is still at the core of getting stuff done, but interaction with digital media has encouraged the development of two other preferences:
- Selective attention shows itself in individuals who prioritize input and quickly move from one source to another that has more engaging content.
- Alternating attention manifests itself in people who engage with information from a variety of sources, preferring to blend them together.
Adapting Sermons to Emerging Preferences
Microsoft did not apply their findings to preaching, but morphing attention styles are what we face on a Sunday morning. It is easy to speak to those who are focused on the sermon you are delivering. It is much harder to consider how to communicate to those who prefer to move their attention from source to source, or who prefer to blend multiple sources together.
Here is what I am experimenting with:
- include more media in the sermon (pictures and video)
- alternate verbal segments (e.g., reading, speaking, storytelling, fact sharing)
- embed multi-sourced segments that invite blending (e.g., speak over a PowerPoint slide that includes complementary but unspoken information)
How are you adjusting your preaching to address the varied attention preferences in your audience?by