How can you make your teaching more memorable? Don’t be afraid to be silly!

I’m going to share an illustration that people still talk to me regularly about 12 months after I did it. It is perhaps the stupidest, silliest sermon illustration I’ve ever used.
Why do people still talk to me about it? Well the only reason I can think of is it was so outrageously stupid that it really stuck with people. At the end I’ll explain how the underlying principle is backed by science.

The sermon was on “Gossip”. I wanted to illustrate the different reasons people gossip. I’d been reading “Resisting Gossip” by Matthew Mitchell (highly recommend) in it he had “characters” that we play when we gossip. I liked this idea so I modified his characters and I wanted to think of a way to illustrate these:

– The Spy gossips to gain information to use as leverage for power.
– The Grumbler gossiped to complain out of frustration or jealousy.
– The Chameleon gossips to fit in.
– The Busy Bee gossips out of boredom.
– The Backstabber gossips for revenge.

So I joked about getting Mr Potato heads and dressing them up. Someone in our planning meeting said “Why not use actual potatoes”. Thus was the genesis of a really silly idea.

I used actual potatoes with googly eyes and cardboard to make characters that were really ridiculous.
You can see in the video and pictures below what I brought out on stage. I brought out each character and shared how and why they gossiped.

So it was fun, it was silly… but did it work? Well at the end, I had people tell me that they really resonated with certain characters and could see how they were similar and what they needed to change.
And for months and months after people would tell me they really remembered that idea.

Funny thing is, this is how metaphors work. In the course “Learning how to learn” they explain that researchers have shown that the more ridiculous or silly a metaphor is the more likely someone is to remember it.
This is just how our brains work, we are more likely to remember something that is a bit crazy, outside the norm.
This works when studying for a test and it can also work from the pulpit.

So don’t be afraid to be a bit outrageous, do something silly. Illustrate ideas in ridiculous ways and have fun with your Bible teaching. These are the things that might make our lessons a little more memorable in the hearts and minds of those we are teaching.

Related Passages

  • Ephesians 4:1-4
  • Ephesians 4:17-32
  • Colossians 3:1-17
  • Proverbs 18:8
  • Proverbs 26:11
  • 1 Corinthians 6:1-6
  • 1 Corinthians 12


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