Friday, March 26, 2010

Teach Less for More

I have a real problem limiting how much info I want to teach people when I preach.
So it's great to read some really mind-bending ideas in a good little book that we are going through together as a staff team. It's called "7 Practices of Effective Ministry" and yes, it's American.

I'm finding the current chapter (practice #4) particularly helpful.

The key idea is that we need to Teach Less for More.

Information Overload

* We all accumulate a lot of knowledge in our lives; very little of which is actually helpful on a practical level.

* When learning a sport or hobby, a good teacher will first focus on the fundamentals of the game, teaching us only what we need to know.

(I've got a good friend called Peter Evans who I've watched model this really well. Find someone who teaches well and watch them in action)
* This is especially the case when the game is a complex one.

* When we think about it, we don't really learn something until we really need to know it.

(A good example is talking to people about Jesus. I find that when I go through periods of lots of conversations with people, my efforts at sharing the gospel seem far better and sharper than when I'm hit up to explain the gospel after a long period of stagnation. At that point, I essentially have to re-learn a lot of what I had already loaded into my brain on previous occasions)
* The greater the need, the higher the interest and potential to actually learn.
(Now that I've begun having some good conversations with some pretty fundamentalist muslims, I'm becoming much more interested in how best to talk about Jesus with people from such radically different backgrounds to me)
* Most of us don't learn so we can know more; we learn when we need to know something.

(Changing a tyre on the company car when on the edge of the gateway motorway, in peak hour traffic, in the middle of winter, with about 30cm's of lane space to work within...... that's when I learnt to change a tyre!)
* Our responsibility as teachers and communicators is critical: we must make sure we know what people really need to learn.

* Sometimes this involves helping people understand themselves why they need to learn something.

(I never learned of my need for Jesus until my friends explained the sin within)
* We can drastically improve how much people learn if we teach less but better.

* Sometimes we will actually need to say more about fewer things.

* These things should be limited to what our hearers most need to hear.

* Kids learn by doing things. Most adults still learn like kids. Concrete applications are crucial (Eg. 'our lives depend on them!')

* We must therefore separate what is important from what is merely interesting.

* We must be infocists (my term). All knowledge is NOT equal.

* Good teachers begin by identifying what is most important for their students to know.


  1. You should have listened to your uncle. Why am I not in your blogroll? I thought we were family...

  2. He even comments more on your blog than he does on mine...

  3. Dave,

    Your blog post could take some advice from your blog post. :P