Retro preaching for hi-tech pastors: why and how I used a flannelgraph

I’m a techno geek … I stood in line for 5 hours to get the latest iPhone, I use a MacBookPro, I use an iPad on stage when I preach, I twitter, and I write a blog. Yet, sometimes technology gets in the way. I once tried a retro version of communication. It worked.

Back Camera

Our church is techno … we use video extensively, power point, YouVersion which allows people to follow the sermon on their mobile phone, and we’ve done texting feedback during services.

Yet, sometimes I feel like I’m drowning in too much technology.

Recently during our programming meeting, our creative director suggested that we use a different medium to help the sermon delivery…the old flannelgraph.

In case you’ve never heard of a flannelgraph, it was a Bible teaching technique extensively used many years ago. Sunday school teachers would prop up the flannelgraph on an easle (a large piece of cardboard with flannel on the outside) and as she taught us the Bible lesson that day, she’d stick cardboard images of people and Bible objects on the flannelgraph. The flannel on the back of the images would stick to the flannel on the board. Thus, the flannelgraph. Today the flannelgraph is being used quite extensively in areas around the world with illiterate populations.

This past Sunday we tried it. I taught from Ephesians 2 and 3 where Paul uses several word pictures. These metaphors made it easy to find and cut out images.

Here’s how it added to my teaching.

It was drastically different from how I usually teach. Its novelty helped the message stick.

It helped those familiar with the flannel graph feel a bit of nostalgia, which endeared them to the medium which enhanced the message.

It helped me easily remember the next point. I simply picked up the picture and stuck it on the board.

As I walked back to the board, it was easy to keep reviewing the main points when I referred back to the images.

It built interest as the people wondered what was next.

It helped visual learners stay more focused.

So, if you’d like mix things up a bit, give it a try. All it takes is a board (wood or foam core), some felt, and some pictures (I used velcro on the back to make them more sticky) and … PRESTO, you have a flannelgraph.

Although we still used powerpoint images on the screens so people could see the images in detail, I now have a new tool in my preaching toolbox.

What retro technique has worked for you?

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