How do you learn? A theological look at a church’s teaching time

Do you have a system for how you study?  Do you love to listen to really loud music?  Or would you prefer having complete silence?  Do you find yourself more engaged in the learning process when the lesson is more hands on, or would you rather passively listen to someone explain how something works?  Each person is uniquely made.  We are all made in God’s image.  As mentioned in “A Theology for Christian Education”:

“God created us in his image so that we, like a mirror, would reflect him in the world in which we live…We exist to reflect God in the world in which we live…Our purpose is to imitate him.  As we do, we give others a glimpse of what God himself is like” (Estep, Anthony, and Allison, p. 180-181).
Each and every person we encounter has value in the eyes of God and represents His infinite nature and qualities.  The way we learn, and the many differences in the way we process is just one of many ways that reflect the infinite nature of God.
With this idea of acknowledging the many attributes and skill sets brought into the learning experience, a major philosophy on the education process that I have carried with me in my life and ministry is that – if you are not learning, then I am not teaching.  As a pastor, a Sunday School teacher, or in the classroom, if you are not learning anything during your time with me, then I am merely wasting my time talking.  Again, my goal in teaching is that you are learning, so if you are not learning, then I am not teaching.
In addition to the learner, there are three other major factors involved in the learning process that one must consider: the environment, the curriculum, and the teacher.  This is the simple formula for learning: fx = L (learner) E (environment) C (curriculum) T (teacher) or fx=LECT.
If one of these four elements changes, the learning process is effected.  Example, the same teacher, teaching the same student, the exact same lesson will be drastically different in a school library compared to a heavy metal concert.
When you can, be sure to impact these four areas to help make the learning process as productive as possible.  As a student, seek experts in a field that you desire to learn and let them pour out their expertise to you.  Trust that the professor, or leader selected a particular curriculum for a specific purpose and then seek to understand what the teacher wants you to learn.  Identify the best environment for your learning, and attempt to utilize it as often as possible.
As an instructor, acknowledge each of the four elements of learning and work towards perfecting them.  Work towards knowing about your students.  Understand that they are individuals that have a story that they are bringing into the classroom and let that story play a factor in their learning process as well as the learning process of others in the room.
Acknowledge that some students will be auditory learners, some students will be visual learners, and some people will be kinesthetic learners.  Incorporate each element into the environment of your classroom and curriculum in order to reach each student in their preferred method of learning.  Also, never stop learning!  Though you may be deemed an expert in a particular field and have been asked to teach it to others, you are not done learning yourself.  Continue to grow in your field, and grow as an educator.  Learn teaching methods, active learning techniques, cultural factors and familial factors that may effect the learning process.  We could spend the rest of our lives learning and not know everything…but I challenge you to try!  Keep learning.  The more you learn, the more you become an expert at how to learn, which will help those you are teaching immensely.  Again, as I have said before, “I am not teaching if you are not learning.”  Let us not let those that have gone before us merely speak for the sake of speaking.  Let us learn Gospel truth and let that transform our lives and those that have been entrusted to our care!

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