rebelling against low expectations

How do you keep from zoning out in church?


LAURA WRITES: I expect (hope!) I’m not alone here… I’ll be paying attention to my pastor’s sermon, then I realize that I’m thinking about what I want to do in the afternoon, or what a friend told me, or a story I’m writing, etc. Any tips on how to keep myself focused on church?

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  • Sometimes it helps to write notes on the sermon, and one of my friends sketches rather than writes about the sermon. For me, I occasionally will be thinking of something totally unrelated to the sermon, when that happens I mentally step back and refocus. Try to find ways to apply the sermon to yourself on a daily basis. There was a book I read not too long ago, I think it was called ‘listen up’ or something like that, which I found extremely helpful. Great question by the way!

  • I like to bring a sketch book and draw whatever I’m hearing. I have sketchbooks full of past sermons and its interesting to go back later and look at what I’ve learned through pictures…sometimes I don’t know what they mean but its still fun. Even if you don’t consider yourself creative it can still help you process and think about what you’re listening to.

  • Take notes!! They don’t have to be pages long, but just jotting down some main points and ideas that are interesting to you will help you stay focused. I didn’t take sermon notes until my new Sunday School teacher required them every week. It’s made worlds of difference!

  • Definitely take notes!! It works wonders on paying attention! Just like Ruthie C said, they don’t have to be word for word copies of the sermon, just something to keep your mind going. Really I find that notes do more to help me pay attention during the service, than they do to remind me of what happened after the service is over.

  • Other people have suggested notes, and I think that’s a great idea. Also, then you can refer to your notes mid-week and review. Also turn your brain on, I know that sounds obvious, and easier said then done, but as you listen to the sermon, make connections to your own life, ways to apply it, other scriptures—expand on the sermon in your head.

  • If this happens too often, you might want to have a time before service to just be alone with God and make sure your spirit is in a receptive state. Too often, we rush into services and have been running so much, that it is impossible to slow down. If your pastor’s messages are challenging and biblical-truth driven, it is harder to zone out.

  • 1. Get a good night’s sleep the night before.
    2. Take notes (like other people have said)
    3. Be interested in the sermon – ask God to prepare you beforehand.

    #shortanswersaredabomb 😉

  • Okay I might sound like a pagan….
    I like to pass notes about the sermon to my friends. A good friend of mine and I like to have a conversation about the sermon by writing our thoughts down. Sometimes we have somewhat of a “group chat” going on, if other friends of mine want to join:)
    Another thing I like to do is knit for a couple of minutes (sit in the back so the congregation or the pastor can’t see you haha just kidding) Knitting actually is proven to refocus your mind. So do it for a couple of minutes, put it down and you’ll find that its easier to listen and meditate on what your Pastor is saying.
    Write down lyrics to songs the songs that you sang in worship. Write them in cursive, calligraphy or illuminate with your own drawings (or doodle) 🙂 Often when my mind begins to dwell on impure or negative thoughts, this helps a lot.

  • Prayer works, man.
    But besides praying that God will give you focus, take notes and cling to the pastors words. I also like to draw some when I’m listening (I can’t draw, but I doodle stick figures. That’s kinda the same thing. Right?) It helps me focus.

  • Like what a lot of people have suggested, drawing what you hear is a good way to stay focused. It’s been shown with different studies that doodling helps to engage both auditory and visual memory. I’ve done it for the past 7 or so years and find it very helpful. I give my drawings to my pastor afterwards as well. Don’t know how many people want to do this, but you can. It’s a nice way to show you were listening and what parts were most meaningful.

  • What I used to do was, notes (as many of you have already said) but I would watch the pastor, his facial expressions, tone of voice, hand gestures..ect.. (I know this sounds a little weird, but that’s me :)) I would imagine what he’s saying as clips or pictures. Then my parents and my sister would talk about the sermon on the way home. 🙂

    Just my two cents, Laura!

  • A long time ago, I used to draw cartoon depictions of the sermon and secretly put them in the Pastors’ mailboxes for them to read. 😁 That was fun, and it helped me keep my mind on the sermon. Like many others have said, take notes! Go to church with the purpose of gleaning at least one thing from the sermon. Make a conscious effort to learn! That’s my 2 cents. 😏

  • One thing that helped me when I dealt with that a lot was the fact that my mom made me write down at least three things from the sermon that stood out to me, and we would all talk about it as a family at lunch. Even if I wasn’t “into it”, I still had to pay enough attention to make some notes! So maybe you might want an accountability partner, to help you pay attention and get something out of it?

    • That’s smart! Talking about the sermon over lunch….

      Well, actually, idk if that would work at my church bc we meet at a school, and afterwards all the younger people go out on the soccer field…all that to say that my dad and I stay and my mom and brother go home, so we eat at different times. XD

  • I like to take notes and copy the slides my pastor uses to help with his message, I also write down every scripture reference and then compare it with my mom’s notes. it helps me a lot. When I don’t focus like that I can easily tune out what the pastor is saying.

  • I think all these have been covered, but here’s what I personally do… take notes, pray that the Holy Spirit would help me learn and be convicted, try to have at least one takeaway, and keep my eyes on the speaker. Because of my physical needs I have to get up and walk for a few minutes sometimes, but my church is really laid back. After all, we’re meeting in a home. (=

  • My mom used to make me take notes so that I was forced to at least pay attention to part of it. And if I didn’t have enough notes at the end, I had to copy hers when I got home (there’s a long, drawn-out job, believe me). Not sure if taking notes will help you, because some personality types that helps them learn, others like me, it does not. But I thought I’d put that out there.

    I also try to stay busy during the sermon. When the pastor makes a statement, think about it. Is it true? Do I know other verses to back that up? Do a little fingerwalking through the Bible during the sermon. Find verses that tie in with the what the pastors preaching that would give you another idea or clearer point of view of what the pastor’s saying. That’ll help keep your head in the sermon, rather than floating all around to whatever distracts you.

    That said, I think distraction is a normal part of listening to anyone for an hour. I can’t think of many people I could listen to talk for an hour and not get at least mildly distracted. So, no, you’re not the only one!

  • I realize everyone else has already said this…but do take notes. I don’t have much trouble with being focused usually, because I’m a perfectionist with my notes and my pastor’s sermons are so *ahem* scholarly that if you zone out for two minutes you’ll be lost for the rest of the time. So I make sure I’m paying attention and writing things down.
    (P.S. This is my first Rebelution comment, so excited to join the community here!!)

  • I used to zone out all the time. Not sure what will help you, but these helped me!

    1. Take notes. Writing things down helps you to remember and focus better.

    2. Pray. Ask God, “How do I apply what the pastor is saying to my life?” or “Help me to be more [insert whatever pastor is preaching here].”

    3. Actually look up the verses in your Bible. What’s the point of bringing your Bible to church if it just sits there? 😛 Open it up, flip to the page, and read the verse(s). Highlight it if you want. Keep reading the chapter if it interests you.

    4. The only way to pay attention is to actually be interested. If you’re bored in church, something’s wrong. It doesn’t matter if your pastor isn’t funny or a good storyteller. Are you taking his words- which are ultimately God’s words- to your heart?

    Hope that helps. I’ll be praying that you find renewed excitement in God’s words!!!

  • It often helps me to think of how Christians in certain countries have to risk their lives to go to church. It makes you take it all more seriously. We really are blessed to have a place to worship and seek God with fellow Christians.

  • That’s a hard question. Maybe doodling/taking notes could help. I know people think it means your not listening if you doodle but it can actually help. Of course, it can also distract you. Probably the most helpful thing for me is taking notes and trying to apply the message of his sermon to my life

    • I agree. I am not much of a note taker, but I do like to doodle on the bulletin. This *usually* keeps me focused.

  • I will echo the others and say that, for me, taking notes has made all the difference. I will occasionally start going “off topic” in my thoughts based on something the pastor said and my mind will wonder on that path. My own Bible time revolves mainly around the series in church (we’re going through Mark right now), so that helps motivate me to take lots of detailed notes that I study all week.

  • I get easily distracted. That’s why homeschooling through 5th grade wasn’t so successful for me. But it helped me to pay attention on Sunday morning by sitting in the front row (it didn’t mean that I never zoned out or got distracted) but it helped a lot, because the pastor was the only one that I could see–and I knew that he could see me!

  • Have seen a few with similar responses, but thought I’d add mine – definitely taking notes for me! I started out by noting in my farm diary at night who the preacher was that day, and what the sermon was about. I was horrified at how regularly I couldn’t remember! I now write the speaker’s name, the church, and the date, and then try to catch all of the points of the sermon, as well as the references, my own thoughts from it, and any quotes that particularly stood out. Reading through afterwards I then get the encouragement and blessing again, and am also able to research the topic more through the references. If there is anything I’m not sure about, I’ll note it and look it up or talk to my parents about it too. 😀 In my own personal Bible time, I had also found I would get distracted sometimes when I was praying, especially if there were other people around and I had to pray silently. Keeping a prayer journal (now for about six years!) has been incredible for focusing me on the Lord, and being able to look back and see His faithfulness. It doesn’t replace my prayer time, but the written format is such a good thing to focus me. 🙂 Hope that helps!

  • First of all congratulations @Grace M! This is my second time posting and I too had about at heart attack on April fools.Yes he got me! I was waiting seeing all the different subjects and was amazed ya’ll cover the whole of it it seems. Anyway I wanted to say that yes taking notes and sitting in the front row will definitely help.However there is another solution in Ephesians 6 we are to put on the whole armour of God everyday.So before church starts pray but put on the armour of God.Pray the scripture make it personal. Ex… (Lord Your word says to be strong in You and the power of Your might.Also to put on the armour of God.So Father I put on the 1.helmet of salvation to guard my mind,my thoughts,my actions) and just continue and in reality we can take any scripture and make it personal.It just helps us to realize wow God said that for me and ect…

    Ephesians 6:10King James Version (KJV)
    10 Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might.

  • my dad is the pastor so after the sermon he ususally goes through the basic pionts by i find it reallly hard to concentrate even when my dad gives me fill in the blanks
    btw this is my first comment

  • My parents don’t require me to take notes; but I do as part of my relationship with God. If my parents do find me or my siblings “zoning out” they will give us a look 🙂

    I think that taking notes does help with my attention. And if you can’t take notes, be looking straight at your pastor. This helps too!

  • Have a discussion with your family on the sermon. If I know I’m going to be asked questions on the material I’ll pay more attention so I can intelligently answer instead of, “Oh sorry, I was thinking about ponies and rainbows.”

  • I’m not the best person to answer this question. I have the ability to hyperfocus (focusing really hard on a specific thing), but I’m also really good at zoning out. I don’t zone out in church usually, but if something in the sermon popped out at me, I’ll write it down.

  • Writing notes, definitely writing notes; without it is easy to zone out, with writing notes its nearly imposible 🙂

  • Yes this is true I see some of my friend zoning out, yawning, head tilting down and all of sudden they bring their heads up again. In my church my youth group is required to take notes and discuss them as a group. But even then, sometimes it doesn’t help you to stay focus. Even if I tried to focus my mind is somewhere else, I maybe looking at the pastor but I will have no idea what he is talking about. I guess taking notes would remind you about the topic of the sermon.

  • I am tempted to say get a new pastor but that doesn’t help anyone. I have found that praying that God would help you get something out of what you know from prior experience will be a slow, wandering and unfocused sermon can turn rocks into bread sometimes. (Hehehe) However, assuming that isn’t the real issue, I would recommend note taking. I have found the same thing is true in classes. Simply, that if I don’t take notes as I listen then my mind wanders.

    • Hey bro! I’m actually the one who sent in this DQ… funny! XD

      Welcome to the Rebelution! “Home of da French Toast Monsters,” as @programguy:disqus would say. (He’s not around much so I’ll speak for him 🙂 I hope you stick around!

  • I just thought about this a little while ago today.

    At the Church we’ve been going to it’s been a slow paced, not so Charismatic (not loud), and they sing hymns. Now nothing is wrong about that at all.

    Since my casual Church experience has been the opposite, I found myself drifting off and hardly able to pay attention to the sermon, and sing the songs with my heart on Lord.

    But today it was different.

    I had my focus on God and his word earlier in the morning, and I found that this prepared me for the service. Meaning my heart was open to God.

    I think that’s the key. The devil will by all means try and keep you away from God, and isn’t distracting you from a good message and worshipping the Lord with your heart not your words doing just that? When I opened myself to God I felt much more attentive to the speaker and to what he was saying.

    Just some thoughts, but I think it’s amazing how spiritual warfare can happen even at Church. 🙂

    • Mmhmm, I know what you mean. My current church is the one Joseph R mentioned right below this comment. The preaching can be very… emotionally-based, and it’s just really hard to pay attention to because I don’t really like emotion-based sermons; I want *real* teaching. Idk, it’s probably just me. Anyway, I’ve kinda just stopped listening. Thank you for the reminder that God can work through it anyway! 🙂

      • I would say to find a church with many people in your own age group helps a lot. As a fairly new church (4 years old) most of the people there are youthful, and our 44 year old pastor does a tremendous job of keeping people involved while using a ton of biblical references, so we get *real* teaching with a sermon designed for younger people.

  • I sometimes pretend I’m a comedian and try to make up funny things to help me remember the sermon. But I too take notes. I try to link the sermon with other verses I’ve learned over the years. Also, don’t look at it as a sermon. Imagine you’re a very prestigious soldier (after all, you DO know the God Who created absolutely everything) and you are receiving your mission. You have to pay attention to know what that mission is. And even more important, make up plans to carry out that mission effectively. Three words. DO. Hard. Things.

  • 1. Take notes
    2. Take notes
    3. Take notes
    4. Did you forget to bring a pen and notebook??? Cause I have like 3 extra pens if you did.
    Just kidding. But seriously, note-taking really does help! Everyone’s probably already said it a million times over–and they’re right! I am NOT an auditory learner. It is the easiest thing in the world to zone out, and even if I don’t, to have forgotten what the sermon was even about an hour later. I joke that my notes are my memory. It really helps to be able to read them back over later and think about it more. No matter what you do to help you stay focused, there are going to be weeks where you think the sermon is boring. BUT you have to remember that God called the man standing up there to preach, what’s coming out of his mouth is teaching from the word of God (because I’m pretty sure your parents are smart enough to pick a doctrinally sound church, in most cases), and it’s important to listen when God speaks. Even if it’s a passage you have heard your whole life, you never know what new perspective you can get on it. If you get distracted thinking about how your week is going to go, try seeing how you can apply what you’re hearing to what you’re going to be doing during the next few days. 🙂 So yeah. That’s my take on it. Sorry for the rambling comment. ~AnnaGrace

  • Wow everybody, thank you for the advice! I’ll be trying note-taking, because it seems that it works for you all (and I’ll probably be drawing, too!). I would answer each comment individually, but that would take half of forever!

  • Obviously, everyone’s already heard “take notes”. But I’d also recommend not just going straight into a sermon from a rushed morning of getting ready – if you take a little time before church to stop and focus on God and His word, it should help get your mind in the right place to be taught.

  • another thing, sometimes it helps if you find the speaker interesting. There are some preachers that are really just, boring. Then there are others that i find really interesting. (I mean, how can you zone out when you have a young pastor up there who is passionately expounding the word of God, while jumping :P) So if you go to a church that has a preacher that is hard to follow, you might want to find another place of worship.

    And just so there’s no misunderstanding, everyone has different styles. I’m a visual learner, so i do better with sermons that have lots of slides and video clips. Others are learn with audio, so maybe for them a strictly speaking sermon is better. It all depends on your style 🙂

  • Ha ha! This is such a funny DQ!

    I personally think that there is nothing wrong with “zoning out” occasionally. If this has become a habbit though, you may want to reevaluate your “thought life.” Spend some extra time in pray and GOD’s Word and maybe Scripture memorization. Church service for most of us is only once a week and just under two hours… I’m sure your attention span can manage… lol

    However there are exceptions… I had to find a new church recently… one of the main reasons being because our new pastor’s sermons were so meatless that I found myself “zoning out.”

    I did try to give his preaching a chance, but since he’s the senior pastor, there’s just no getting around his boring messages. I could also tell he was becoming one of those “seeker friendly” preachers. Every sermon was focused on feelings rather than Faith. I could no longer take notes because the new pastor was everywhere… looking for verses to back up whatever he was saying. And by the time it was all over, I couldn’t tell what he’d preached about.

    All this to say… sometimes “zoning out” may mean it’s time to look for a new church.

  • I did struggle with that a lot (still do at times) so what I do is I take EXTENSIVE notes and it’s gotten to the point that I’m writing too fast to ‘zone out’ Also I think sometimes God can use the time we zone out for His glory
    For example:
    John Harrison (the inventor of the pendulum) during a boring sermon in church got caught up watching a man swinging an object on a chain and started to notice the law of centripetal force.
    C.S. Lewis (author of many insightful books) During a boring sermon was struck with the idea to write the Screwtape letters

    All that to say sometimes God works best within our (and others) weaknesses because we know we aren’t able to do it on our own.

  • That is pretty funny… from my perspective. MY pastor is interesting, so I don’t have that problem… lol. just kidding.

    In all seriousness, I am an auditory learner, so I don’t need to take many notes. My church has an evening service, so when I’m exhausted during the service, I (wait for it…) take notes to stay awake. Again, I don’t usually have that problem, because I find that church is the most important part of my life, and it naturally follows that I strive to pay attention. 🙂

  • Honestly, I personally find taking notes is unhelpful for me to stay focused, but I believe that is mainly because my pastor likes to go fast and takes lots of interesting twists and turns, and I simply can’t keep up.
    One thing that I do use whenever I am particularly tired or distracted is mentally keeping in mind of how he might develop this next point, and/or, how the point he is making fits in with the bigger picture of the scripture passage/sermon.
    Luckily for me my pastor often keeps us on our toes with movie quotes or ranching metaphors that leave us scratching our heads. 🙂

  • Hey! I often find myself in your situation. I am extremely scattered-brained and I almost always need to keep my hands busy with something. See I feel like I’m in the extreme minority, (so sorry if this doesn’t help) but for me I focus better when I’m doing something. (Again extreme minority) To fix this problem I started bringing a string of a ball or a ball of clay/putty. In this way I could mindlessly play with the objects while absorbing the sermon. Also I can mentally picture someone saying “but taking notes would keep your hands busy”, my thing is notes are extremely boring and I often start drawing and start focusing on my drawing. But that’s just me. For a quite a few people it does work and writing does help you remember things better. But this is just my thing. Best idea: keep trying different things and see what works for you! Everybody’s brain works a little different.

  • i have the same problem. i just sort of twiddle my thumbs. but for me it helps that we have two services, classic and modern, i prefer the modern i’m normaly focused there classic i’m anything but focused.

  • I have a tip try recording the teachings in your phone so when you get distracted in listening to the sermon later when your head is clear from thinking you can just listen to the sermon without getting distracted!

  • Hello,
    This is my first time posting. 🙂 Anyways, I have two methods I use if I zone out. As it’s been said before, taking notes is a great idea to stop zoning out. My other method might not be useful to everyone. But I go to a Spanish speaking church and I often get asked to interpret for guest speakers that are only English speaking or when my pastor is asked to preach to an English speaking crowd. So if I start zoning out in a church service, I start translating what my pastor is saying from Spanish to English. It really helps me to pay attention and I get to polish my translating skills as well. 🙂 It might not help everyone, but if there’s someone bilingual out there who has trouble paying attention, it could help. 🙂

  • Taking notes. believe me you are not alone. I did it all the time at my old church. I find taking notes is the most helpful thing.

  • hi i’m Jonah
    lately i have been having trouble with paying attention from the sermon can anyone help me?

  • dude on the dragon topic in the bible talks about them and god crated them so its ok oh and on the paying attention that what i do all that matters is that you take from the sermon.

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