Researchers in Australia have been interested in studying the interactions between teachers and students. Particularly, they are interested in what makes for good teaching and learning. To this end, they’ve conducted experiments to monitor students in real time.
In one experiment students were given wristband monitors to wear during class. The wristbands were specially designed to measure heart rates and electrodermal activity. Researchers were able to take the aggregate of the data to examine how comfortable the students were and to what extent they were engaged in the material.
It got me thinking: What if we hooked up an entire congregation during worship? That would be cool!
Teaching and Preaching
Church growth pundits continue to insist that preaching is the most important element for a Christian congregation. Unfortunately, not every pastor is a good preacher. Like any effective presenter, good preachers know their audience and how to engage them. But for some pastors, it’s a challenge to observe what resonates with a congregation. And most congregants (the audience) are reluctant or unable to give helpful feedback.
From a biofeedback perspective, what makes for good preaching? Some might consider that question blasphemous. In protestant circles, the spoken word is seen as a powerful vehicle for transformation. What a preacher says matters. But if two preachers preach the same words they might be heard differently by different people. How might we explain this? It could be the work of the Spirit, but there also might be other things at play.
Perhaps after I finish up my current list of projects, I might look into purchasing a wristband for everyone who attends worship. As they arrive, worshipers and worship leaders would put on their neurofeedback wristband for the length of the service. The wristbands would provide important feedback. For example, when our worshipers most engaged with the worship service? When are worshipers listening and participating and how might we explain the difference between different times of attentiveness? A second area of interest might be providing worshipers with feedback about their level of participation. Worshipers could see when they are the most engaged and what steps they might take to stay more engaged during the entire worship service.
The Complexity of This Work
Things like attentiveness and engagement are best understood in the context of one’s family of origin. It is there that individuals learn levels of attentiveness and engagement. The wide variation of attentiveness and engagement that exists in a family unit has to do with the level of anxiety in the family and where the anxiety is focused. If the level of anxiety is high in the family and one child receives the majority of the projection of the anxiety, that child will more than likely struggle with regulating their attentiveness and engagement as a child and as an adult. Those who are out of the projection process will more than likely do better self-regulating their attentiveness and engagement.
Most preaching is evaluated with little regard for the emotional complexities of both the preacher and the hearer. I’ve made this case in earlier blogs; the majority of praise or criticism one might receive at the conclusion of a worship service has less to do with specific aspects of the worship service and everything to do with the emotional functioning of the persons offering and receiving the praise or criticism.
Leaders can play a role in the emotional process. The functional level of a leader can exasperate or improve the functional level of the group. But that’s true of any relationship system.
If the wristbands turn out to be an effective way of giving one feedback, I may decide to wear it all the time. Learning how one is responding to the emotional process present in every relationship system is valuable information for the one working on differentiation of self – a concept developed by Dr. Murray Bowen.
What type of feedback have you found useful? How do you use this feedback to work on regulating your reactivity to others and engaging your thinking system to keep on track?
The wristbands used with the Australian students and teachers were from Empatica and can be found by clicking here.