Learner Styles in Teaching Spiritual Truths

holy-bibleI had a short thought today while preparing some lessons for upcoming curriculum designs that I’m working on with my employment. I thought I would share some of these things I was pondering. Originally they had nothing to do with the topic at hand but as I was in the midst of my preparations some of these thoughts began to go through my head.

One of the first things a person who is studying to become a teacher learns  is that there is more than one way to learn and there are various individuals who learn in different ways. Most professional institutions have come up with three main styles which are often called the three learner styles. There are variations of these three types of ways people learn but for the most part they can be summarized as followed:

  • Auditory: Which basically means that they learn primarily from hearing the information.
  • Visual: Which means they learn primarily through seeing
  • Kinesthetic: which is a very popular method of learning mainly those who learn through doing.

Whenever a teacher or anyone involved in education prepares any sort of lesson to teach their students, these three learner styles are very important to always keep in mind if the teaching is going to be effective. They are very important in order to prepare an effective curriculum and program.

While I was putting together a curriculum today, I began to ask myself if  these methodologies could  be applied to the teaching of scripture? Do learner styles change in a person when they are in a church? I would argue that they probably don’t and it might be time to reflect on the effectiveness of our biblical teaching in the 21st century keeping in mind that not all people learn in the same way. Please don’t take this as some radical step towards liberalism in the church just a greater effectiveness especially among a younger generation.  Most importantly think of these items I’m bringing up as my thoughts!

In churches today, the unanimous learning methodology used is audible learning. We hear a sermons or a talk on a weekly basis in our churches whether through expository preaching or topical preaching. The pulpit has been passed down from generation to generation and so has this methodology. It’s so embedded in our tradition that there are many individuals who run away from any type of biblical education that includes visual/ kinesthetic. There are many individuals who learn very well this way and I might be persuaded that there are people who attend churches who become better audible learners even if it isn’t their main learner style.

What is obvious is that the two other methodologies are seriously lacking in many churches. What about those people who learn more effectively in those ways? Another question we might ponder is: does the bible run away from such methodologies?  Let’s start with examining visual learning. I believe the bible is filled with visual learning. We have numerous examples of the Lord Jesus teaching people through a visual learner style. When we think of it, visual teaching was actually used in many examples of the Lord Jesus’ teaching. Just a few examples that come to mind are when the Lord used bread to teach the disciples that He was the true bread of life (John 6:22-59) or the use of things such as a fig tree (Matthew 21:18-22) or even the temple itself (Matthew 24). When the Lord instituted the Lord’s supper He used common bread and wine as symbols to teach them about the truth of His broken body and His shed blood. Obviously the Lord Jesus didn’t shy away from having people look at certain examples to teach them a deep spiritual truth.

What about the kinesthetic? Are there any examples of this learning methodology in scripture? I believe that the scriptures do demonstrate examples of the Lord teaching through doing! Think of the action of baptism, The Lord’s Supper, Christ having His disciples cast their nets or the woman drawing water from a well. I believe the Lord at least expects us to learn through this methodology when we think of all the commands to do. The sad part about this methodology is that quite honestly it is the most effective way of teaching but the most neglected in all the churches. How many churches are “doing” as a means of teaching their people? How many have use hands on approach to teaching that would really put other teaching methodologies to the test? Most importantly, if there is no doing then just how effective and useful are these other learner styles? Are we not expected to use what we have learned?

While there is no perfect way of doing this in a church setting, I pray that my readers will consider these things and perhaps consider those who are not audible learners (like myself) when it comes to teaching the word of God.


One thought on “Learner Styles in Teaching Spiritual Truths

  1. I couldn’t agree more. While we all appreciate hearing a well-turned sermon in a moving worship service, sitting in a pew is a passive experience. None of us would get very far academically if all we ever did was attend lectures. We have to read, study, work some problems through, write, engage others in discussion, apply ourselves, and prepare to be tested. And so it is with our faith.

    There are such riches waiting to be discovered if only people would assume personal responsibility for working at their faith. It’s biblical. In Philippians 2:12 Paul exhorts us to continue to work out our own salvation with fear and trembling (NIV84). It’s an active process, and it takes work.

    Thanks for a great post!

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