Nagging questions inevitably arise for even the most gifted congregational leaders, like:
- Why is my congregation not growing despite the fact that I spend more and more time and energy at church?
- Are my sermons reaching the minds and hearts of the congregation, though they look distracted, maybe even daydreaming?
- Why do members of my Sunday school seem timid and unwilling to engage in conversation about scripture?
The answers may lie in understanding both biology and theology. In his new book Your Brain Goes to Church, Bob Sitze outlines the pathways in the brain from which these questions emerge, and offers ways to help “re-set” the brain toward energy for positive action. Congregational leaders can learn through easy-to-read scientific explanations, coupled with practical applications, the ways the brain plays a large part in congregational life.
For example, Sitze suggests the following brain-based facts and responses to the questions above:
- Create Focused Task Forces. Just like brain cells can get overloaded with the body chemicals that process information, congregational leaders can become overloaded with the management and pastoral tasks that run a church. Sitze encourages leaders to use the theory of separating tasks out to different groups in much the same way that the brain divides different tasks (such as moving, breathing, and speaking) to different parts of the brain.
- Get Moving! Sitze explains that “the cerebellum coordinates both physical movement and the movement of thoughts, integrates information, [and] decides when to process information.” He encourages church leaders to pursue activities in Sunday school that use movement to inspire thinking and foster discussion.
- Daydreaming can be a positive learning response. It turns out that daydreaming can be an important part of incorporating an idea into the brain. Sitze explains that “the prompts of words and feelings in a sermon can engage parts of the cortex and limbic structures, inviting the brains of hearers to imagine, respond emotionally and physically, and reintegrate their beliefs and self identity.” So take heart, sermon-givers, a wide-eyed gaze can mean that your words are being integrated into both the brains and the hearts of your congregation!
Like the human brain composed of so many cells that function in different groups to perform different tasks, your congregation can be thought of as many independently-minded individuals working together toward common goals. As congregational leaders recondition their own brains, congregational responses can be reset as well to create more effective, active mission.