Thursday, May 29, 2014

CONFIRMATION: Sermon Notes/Responses?

My guess is that pastors have been requiring sermon notes for confirmation for at least a hundred years. I know I remember doing them back in the 1970's! I know what pastors will say. Their goal is to get the kids to pay closer attention to the sermon and some will say that they want the kids to listen and actually think about what they hear or to help them pay attention to the whole service. I've seen people ask students any combination of the following:

  • the readings
  • who preached 
  • who served
  • the church season
  • the color of the paraments
  • special events during the service
  • the sermon text
  • 5 points from the sermon
  • the main idea of the sermon
  • a point of law and a point of gospel
  • a summary of the sermon
  • what made them think 
  • what they learned
  • any questions they have

Wow. I hope they write fast or remember well while they think. A fellow church worker recently asked my professional opinion about what should be included in a sermon note or response. Mind you, it's not that all pastor's sermons aren't amazing, insightful, and inspirational, but there are a few pieces of educational research that might help before I give my opinion:

  • A middle schooler's attention span is 10-12 minutes. 
  • Middle school students have not yet mastered the skill of note-taking. Their main point may not be yours which isn't necessarily a bad thing. 
  • If you want somebody to remember something longer than 30 seconds you have to repeat it. (Neurons wait for a repeat signal and "reset" if they don't get one.)
  • If you hear information you'll remember 10% of it 3 days later but if you add a picture you'll remember 65% of it. (Senses work best together.)

Here are a few other points to ponder:

  • I don't think I could find 5 good points in a sermon and write them down without missing a lot of other information. I would go with 3 points if you like the idea of them choosing points.
  • Most pastors don't use visual aids or slides during their sermon to highlight important points which means students are just listening (see a previous post on this) and their minds easily wander if something doesn't catch their eye (see above).
  • Pastors don't pause for kids to think and write. They just keep talking...

What to do?
As a professional educator here's my opinion. Aside from the date, title of the sermon and sermon text, and the Sunday in the church year (all can be done before the service starts) you should ask no more than 5 questions:

  • 2 that require them to write down something that strikes them about the sermon,
  • 2 that they can answer later that require them to think about what struck them,
  • 1 about what in the sermon made their parents think OR
  • 1 about finding law/gospel in the sermon.
The date, title of the sermon, etc. all connect with the sermon itself which makes it beneficial and a logical part of the sermon response. In my opinion, adding other details of the day seem busy-work. Personally I'd choose the parent question. If they know they have to discuss it they'll pay better attention. Keeps them on their toes!!

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