by Brett Prouty
There are some truths that cartoons can convey better than anything else. One of my favorites is when some catastrophic event is about to take place (a dam breaking, a nuclear plant about to explode) and there is the one hero who knows how to save the lives of everyone. The hero is completely focused on his quest. Scene after scene, the intrepid hero marches across raging rivers, battling obstacles great and small, avoiding anything that might take his attention from saving everyone else from impending doom. There is nothing that can distract him from his purpose until… ooh a butterfly. It’s all downhill from there.
The same thing can happen in our ministry every week. We are having a great worship service. The message is really connecting with our students, the worship is powerful and students are responding, and then there is that one moment, that one little butterfly that completely distracts them. It could be something small like a typo in a slide or comment during announcements or the message that makes students think about anything but your intended purpose. Then there is the other side of the spectrum. The students who are there looking for an excuse to checkout or become distracted, waiting for you to make one little mistake so they can justify not paying attention.
Our audience is coming to church from so many different places, so it’s easy to put most of our effort toward engaging students without taking any time to ask ourselves what might cause them to disengage. While there is no way to eliminate everything that might be a distraction, here are three ideas to help you keep it from looking like the monarch butterfly migration.
#1. Look at the simple- Often, the things that can cause students to disengage are minor things like typos on slides and handouts. This is one that is a huge distraction for me. If there is a typo, especially during worship, my focus is no longer on singing; it’s on seeing if anything else is misspelled. Even something as simple as a student not getting greeted as they come in can be the difference between them paying attention or not.
#2. Look at the big picture- Sometimes bigger things can be distractions as well. Stage or graphic designs that are too busy, an overly animated band member standing center stage or an endless list of announcements are all things that can cause people to lose focus. Add up all the little distractions, and students might spend the entire set of worship wondering if that guitarist is going to end up with a cord wrapped around his feet.
#3. Look back-Take time look back after a service to see if there were things that distracted your audience. This doesn’t mean that you have to nitpick every single detail, but it does mean that you should see if there was anything that detracted from your intended purpose. The easiest way to do this is to ask the other leaders in your ministry. If something distracted them, chances are it distracted your students as well. This doesn’t have to be a huge meeting. It can be as simple as a 2-3 minute conversation with few people.
It’s impossible to avoid everything that might be a distraction (If we did we would end up with services so dull that students would bring things to distract themselves). By removing some of the more obvious distractions, we might find that our efforts to engage students are more successful.