Although Netflix doesn’t release viewing numbers, I wouldn’t be surprised if more Americans watched Stranger Things this weekend than went to church. Season 2 just dropped Friday and fans are furiously trying to keep up with the latest happenings. Netflix is not only reshaping the viewing habits of tens of millions of Americans, it is shining a spotlight on some pivotal truths that preachers (like me) would do well to take heed of. Here are five things preachers can learn from Stranger Things:
1). Everyone is a sucker for a good story. From the cast to the plot to the unexpected twists, Stranger Things provides a compelling storyline for the audience to participate in, and that’s a timeless truth that preachers can never forget. Why did Jesus use stories (parables) so often as a medium for communication? Because everyone is a sucker for a good story. So preacher, what kind of stories are you telling with your sermons? What kind of stories are you telling in your sermon? If you want your sermons to explode onto the hearts and minds of your audience, learn to tell better stories.
2). Belief in the paranormal has never been higher. Without giving away spoilers, Stranger Things hinges on the paranormal and a mysterious place called the Upside Down that keeps crashing into Dawkins, Indiana. The seeming absurdity of the paranormal doesn’t drive away today’s scientifically minded society because even we technologically advanced Americans know there is a realm outside of ours that cannot be explained yet cannot be denied. This continued belief in the paranormal should be a boon to preachers because the Bible gives the deepest insight possible into the paranormal and how the spiritual world interacts with ours.
4). Always leave the audience wanting more. One of the things that makes Stranger Things so bingeable is that there is always a hook at the end of the episode that almost forcibly makes you watch “just one more episode.” In your preaching, what makes your audience want to come back the following week? How does one sermon play into the next? How does one sermon build off the previous one like episodes in a season? If preachers do some work on the front end they can create cliffhangers in sermons and tie them together in such a way where the listeners want to come back next week to hear how the story ends.
5). Make your content available for non-Sunday viewing and binging. One of the ways Netflix has completely reshaped viewing habits is that it drops an entire series online at once, giving power to the audience to determine their pace of viewing. You can watch an entire series in a night or over the course of a year. But either way, it means you never have to miss. As much as preachers hope their audience will show up week in and week out, life has an inconvenient way of butting in. If you put your sermon content online, your audience will be able to keep up with whatever sermon series you’re in the middle of, even if they’re out of town.