Do Education Experts Lead Us--Or the Opposite?
One of the more interesting debates I've had in recent times came in a class on leadership I took a little while back. In the class, my professor argued that people today are conditioned to pay little sustained attention to, well, anything. According to "experts" that he cited, people can only pay attention to a lecturer/speaker for about twenty minutes before they need a break or switch in activity. He used this data to argue that Sunday School classes in churches ought to be discussion-oriented, particularly for people (he noted his wife) who cannot pay attention for long periods of time. His data-fueled educational philosophy, that people can't long stand lectures, drove the way he organized his church curriculum.
As with much of conventional thinking, I would surmise that there is an element of truth here. People today do struggle to stay attentive. We all know why. We do little activity these days that requires sustained, unbroken attention. Mirroring the tv we love so well, we flit from place to place, writing an email here, changing our laundry there, watching a show in between, talking on the phone for ten minutes, and then repeating the whole cycle. At work, or in school, we begin a task, discover it more difficult than we thought, and so switch to another. Then it's time for a meeting, then it's lunch, then we take a call, and so on. We're not just hyperactive with the remote control. We're hyper with our very lives.
All of which does pose a challenge for the church pastors, the elders, who are responsible for drafting curriculum and teaching lessons that engage their congregation. The church teachers do not receive blank-slated listeners when they open the Bible to teach. They teach a people who are continually being conditioned by their world and who thus have their own peculiar struggles and challenges impeding the comprehension and activation of truth. Knowing this, though, are leaders to give way to the culture? Are they to acquiesce to the demands of a jitterbug mind and unfocused intellect? Or, are they to lead the way in helping such devices of learning to focus? This is not a throw-away question. All over the country, and indeed the world, churches are structuring their services according to a postmodern attention span. Is this right? Tomorrow, consumed offers an answer.