9 Insights about Adult Learning every Pastor should Know

Several years ago I took a 13-week intensive class on how to coach through the Professional Christian Coaching Institute. One of my teachers, Anne Denmark, professionally coaches church leaders and trains speakers. As a highly credentialed and experienced coach she shares her insights on her blog. During one class she shared nine basic principles on adult learning. As I read them I realized that each could apply to a pastor’s sermon prep and delivery. I’ve listed them below.

Nine Basic Principles of Adult Learning

  1. Recency – what is most recently learned is best remembered.
  2. Active Learning – people learn best by “doing” through active involvement and participation. Confucious said, “I hear and I forget.I see and I remember. I do and I understand”
  3. Multi-Sensory – taking information in through all five senses increases learning.
  4. Primacy – what you learn first you learn best. Put the most important points first (the need to know first) and then put the least important ones last (the nice to know) last. Tell people your objectives up front.
  5. Two- Way Communication – ask questions often to keep learners alert and thinking.
  6. Feedback – check in to see if your listeners are understanding your material.
  7. Appropriate – people learn by attaching new information to something they already know.
  8. Motivate – give adults the reason the learning will benefit their life – their need to know. Make it practical enough that they will take it home and use it.
  9. Exercise – apply what you have learned as soon as possible. If you do not do this within 6 hours, 25% will be forgotten. If not applied within 24 hours, 67% will be forgotten. If not applied within 6 weeks, 90% will be forgotten.

How might these adult learning principles guide your sermon prep and preaching?

Would you add a tenth?

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