NO FOOD OR DRINK ALLOWED IN THE AUDITORIUM!
I’ve seen these messages emblazoned in the lobbies of many churches where I’ve attended or where I’ve served. Although we allowed food and coffee at my last church, I was often miffed at how many stains our carpets incurred from coffee spills and donut smudges. The carpet looked terrible. We’d often pay extra for carpet cleaners to clean them. Since I don’t drink coffee, I secretly wished we didn’t allow anything in the auditorium except people. But apparently I’ve been very wrong to want that. Coffee stains and donut smudges may have actually helped my preaching.
I’ll average 15-20 hours preparing a sermon with the end goal that God would use it to change lives. I’ve prayed that with the Spirit’s help the message would persuade others to live more like Jesus. Often I’ve wondered to what degree my message actually stuck in their minds and hearts. Surprisingly, the number of stains may actually have indicated my sermon’s stickiness.
Recently I read about a study at Yale University that examined how eating and drinking influences a message’s persuasiveness (Janis et al., 1965). Colege student volunteers first filled out a questionnaire about their views on certain subjects. Researchers then presented four unpopular or unlikely views to them like, “it will be over 25 years before a cure to cancer is found.” The students then read articles that attempted to persuade them otherwise. One group of students was offered Pepsi and peanuts while they read the articles while the other group wasn’t offered food. Later they all completed a second questionnaire about their views on the same subjects.
The Pepsi-peanuts group consistently changed their viewpoints on those issues to more favorable ones. The non-food students’ viewpoints changed very little.
Others eating food or drinking coffee while they listen to your semon may actually make your message stick better. So, paying a few extra dollars to clean those coffee stains and donut smudges may be worth the price. Perhaps we should actually encourage people to bring food into the service.
What is your church’s policy on food in the auditorium?
Janis, I.L., Kaye, D. & Kirschner, P. (1965) Facilitating effects of ‘eating-while-reading’ on responsiveness to persuasive communications. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 1 (2), pp.181-186.