Information dumping doesn’t make disciples. You don’t become doctors just by sitting in medical lectures. You won’t be a pro-ball player by memorizing stats. And you won’t get in shape by reading a biology book.
Jesus calls us to make disciples. Disciples of Jesus follow His way of life and submit to his teaching. Making disciples doesn’t happen through information dumps. Dispensing information is easy… making disciples is not. Disciples have to learn truth and apply it to their lives. Disciples are made by teaching. But what is good teaching? Good teaching happens when people learn, but how can we know if people are learning?
Preachers can learn something from educational guru John Hattie. In Visible Learning for Teachers: Maximizing Impact on Learning 2012, he shows us how learning happens.
1) Get people doing something with the information. Listening isn’t enough. It lacks sticking power. Provide your church with an outline or a note taking guide.
“Outlining, integrating, and synthesizing information produces better learning than rereading materials or other passive strategies.” *
2) Stories stick. Share biblical and personal stories that place truth in context. Jesus used stories, and we should too. If people can see how something like redemption or sanctification works in your life or the life of another, it will be easier for them to understand.
“Stories and example cases tend to be remembered better than facts and abstract principles.” *
3) Share the hard stuff. Tackle the difficult issues people deal with every day. Give God’s answers to the problems people face. Let people struggle with hard truths.
“Deep reasoning and learning is stimulated by problems that create cognitive disequilibrium, such as obstacles to goals, contradictions, conflict, and anomalies – and students need to be told that this is a normal part of learning.” **
4) Be big picture. Share truth as it relates to the big themes of God’s word like love, redemption, sin, and forgiveness.
“Success at fluent and flexible transfer requires a deep understanding of the rich, ‘big ideas’ that connect the surface knowledge. We need ‘coat hangers’ to which to attach our understandings across problems, situations, and content domains.” *
5) Hold people accountable. Let people find out if they really understand God’s word and are applying it to their lives. Help them learn how to monitor their spiritual life. Our beliefs shine through our actions.
“Most students need training in how to self-regulate their learning and other cognitive processes.” *
6) Rely on the Holy Spirit. Allow him to speak through and to you. Nothing gets done without Him, so don’t even try.
Hattie didn’t say this, but God did. He is the real authority on what it takes to learn. Let the Holy Spirit show you what it takes to reach people.
If we do these things, we can move from just dumping information to discipling people.
*Quotes from Hattie, John (2012-03-15). Visible Learning for Teachers: Maximizing Impact on Learning (Kindle Locations 2384-2393). Taylor and Francis. Kindle Edition.