They Do Remember and It Does Matter

“They don’t remember what you teach them.  They remember how you made them feel.”

“They don’t remember content.  They remember relationships.”

“It doesn’t matter so much what you say, but more how you treat them.”

These phrases and so many more like them make their rounds in-person and on various social media platforms.  They are expressed with the intent of reminding people the value of relationships.  However, what they subtly communicate is the low value of content.

If you are a teacher, parent, or ministry leader – this should frustrate you.  It does me.

I’ve been told by people from small group conversations to main stage speakers at a conference that it doesn’t really matter what you teach students because they won’t remember most of it anyway.  I’m usually challenged to just ask a student what I taught the previous week and see if they remember.  Then that is usually followed up with asking them about an experience or a feeling and see how they remember that.  I know there is a lot of research and science behind how we remember and why experiences and emotions tie so strongly into that.  I’m not arguing with that.

My frustration is that people have pushed so strongly for the relational, experiential and emotional, that too often the content gets left behind.  Maybe when someone says, “They won’t remember what you teach.  It doesn’t matter.”, what they need someone to say to them is: “They do remember and it does matter.  If students don’t remember what you teach, you may need to teach differently.”

We could talk about learning styles and becoming an effective teacher.  However, there are people far more qualified than me to speak on these issues.  (Which is why I have linked a couple articles here.)

My point in writing today is simple: encouragement.

Whether you are a parent, teacher, small group leader, youth pastor, or a variation or combination of these roles, you need some encouragement.  Whether you are paid for your role in the lives of young people or you do so as a volunteer, you need some encouragement.  And whether you have a few weeks left of summer vacation or have already started a new school year, you need some encouragement.

So let me share some with you.

I don’t remember much about my Kindergarten class or the content I was taught by Mrs. Searl.  I do remember holding a colored piece of construction paper and following instructions while the color song played on a record player, the smell of paste and bringing a toy fire truck for show and tell.  And when it comes to elementary school, I have similar memories, mostly of class parties, recess, friends and some current events.

However, I am able to read and write English.  I don’t remember the lessons teaching me about each vowel and consonant.  I remember a little about diagramming sentences and grammar in junior high.  The skills and abilities I have in reading and writing today are built upon the foundational bricks that started with teaching me letters – even though I don’t remember those lessons decades later.

I was around church a lot during my childhood, but not consistently until I was a junior in high school.  So my memory of Bible-teaching is a combination of typical children’s stories and a few memorization challenges about the names of the disciples and children’s worship songs.  Yet those lessons provided a foundation for the more extensive and deeper learning I have done over the last twenty years!

So I’d like to take this moment to encourage you.  Hopefully this post has caused you to think back and re-live some fun childhood memories.  But more significantly, I want to encourage you that what you teach children will remember.  What you teach does matter.

Whether you are a teacher setting up a formal classroom to instruct children in basic knowledge about the world around us; a parent trying your best to raise children in this crazy world;  a volunteer who prepares games and lessons for a small group of students at your church or club; a professor or lecturer who instructs young adults at a college or university; or are the Children’s or Youth Pastor at your church; they do remember and it does matter.

We all need to be life-long learners so that we do the most effective job possible at our teaching.  There are good and bad ways to communicate no matter how important the content is.  And there are ways to become a better teacher no matter the age with which you work or the context in which you teach.

At the end of the day, it is about the content and all the emotional, experiential and relational elements.

So don’t be too hard on yourself if your 2nd grade student forgets what they learned today as you meet with their parents for a parent-teacher conference.  And don’t feel bad when a child from your Sunday school class, weekend program or small group only tells their parent about the game you played or the crazy thing someone else said instead of the important truth you taught from the Bible.  And don’t give up on choosing and developing quality content for your children’s or youth/student ministry because that doesn’t seem to stick.

You are making a difference in the lives of young people.  They’ll look back and remember at least some of this down the road.  But just because they don’t remember all of it, doesn’t make it significant and important.  After all, just because I don’t remember learning my letters in Kindergarten doesn’t mean I forgot that skill.  I’m extremely thankful to be literate today in part because decades ago Mrs. Searl took the time to teach me my ABC’s.  Even if I don’t remember her lessons.  My life has been impacted by them forever.  I do remember.  It does matter.

(Letter board picture by Dan Klimke • Used under Creative Commons License from https://flic.kr/p/5j1xwm)

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Technology and Ministry

I was recently invited to be interviewed for a podcast at Ministry to Youth.  They talked with me about two of my favorite subjects: technology and student ministry! Check out the link by clicking on the image below.  This also goes well with my page of “Apps for Spring 2015.”

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Happy Birthday Dr. Seuss . . . and Thanks for Horton!

As a young child, I loved to read.  One of my favorite authors was – and still is – Dr. Seuss!  His creativity both visually and with words was unique and fun.  I enjoyed reading his stories over and over again.  Today, March 2 – would have been his 111th birthday!  In honor of the man born Theodore Seuss Geisel, I’d like to share this post with you.

The Older I Get, The More I Like Horton

horton-hears-a-who-main

One of my favorite lines from this book is when Horton says,

“A person’s a person, no matter how small.”

He’s talking about the “Who’s” in “Whoville.”  He makes a great point: It doesn’t matter the literal size or the supposed significance of a person, each one has priceless value.

As a follower of Jesus, this character seems to echo the true words that described how God created the first people – and how all of us carry God’s image in us.

 

“So God created human beings in his own image.  In the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.”

Genesis 1:27, New Living Translation

And which is reflected later by Paul, as he wrote this description of what God has and does do in us as we choose to follow Jesus:

For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago.”

Ephesians 2:10, New Living Translation

 As a Christian, these words encourage me to see the value Jesus has placed on me and on every single other person in the world.  As a husband, these words remind me of the priceless value God has placed on my wife and how I need to honor and care for her.  As a father, these words remind me of the limitless value God has placed on my children, reminding me that even though I can’t comprehend it, God loves them more than me, but has somehow still trusted me to help raise them to know and follow Jesus.  And as a pastor, these words remind me of how much God loves every single person and how much I need to grow in seeing them, not through my human eyes, but through His eyes.

You can read all about the background of this story and its connection with post-World War II Japan here.

A few years ago, I had the opportunity to visit the Marcus Ashley Fine Art Gallery in Lake Tahoe, California.  While there, I enjoyed their wonderful collection of Dr. Seuss art.  I was a little child all over again!  There were lots of things I expected: prints and drawings of various Dr. Seuss books.

And then there were things I didn’t expect but should have, especially the taxidermy collection.  Here are a few of the pieces I really enjoyed and would loved to have purchased to put up around my office.  (Can you imagine the faces of students, parents and anyone else who walked in and saw these on my wall?!)

The gallery reports the following about these creations:

In 1938 Paul Jerman, who had graduated from Dartmouth with Ted, wrote a brief biography of him for the alumni newspaper. Jerman said in part, “Another iron in the fire is what the doctor himself calls The Seuss System of Unorthodox Taxidermy. Not satisfied with drawing strange beasties, Ted modeled the heads of some of his animals and mounted them. Put on display in bookshops around New York to promote And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street, many people wanted to buy the weird animal heads.”

Shortly after Ted created this unique collection of artworks, Look Magazine dubbed Dr. Seuss “The World’s Most Eminent Authority on Unheard-Of Animals.” To this day, Ted’s Collection of Unorthodox Taxidermy remains as some of the finest examples of his inventive and multidimensional creativity.

At several thousand dollars a piece, I’d have a hard time justifying the expense to have one of these.  I am surprised that no company has won the rights to produce these at a lower cost for those of us who would enjoy having these creative mounts on our walls without the extravagant price tag.

And then, I spent a good deal of time admiring one piece in particular: a bronze maquette of Horton from Horton Hears a Who.

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HORTON HEARS A WHO! – MAQUETTE Inspired by Dr. Seuss’s character and created by artist Leo Rijn.

The last I checked, the price tag was just over $6,000!  An amazing artwork inspired by Dr. Seuss and created by Leo Rijn.

There are similar, cheaper versions out there.  But I like the idea of a valuable piece of art representing a story about the value each person has – and should have.

Whether you are reading this on Dr. Seuss’ birthday or on another random day in the year, may we all remember the value of the people around us.

As I look into the eyes of preteens and middle schoolers, I want them to see and hear someone who believes that they are a person of extraordinary value and potential, no matter how small the world may tell them they are – in size or significance.

As I look into the eyes of my three children, I want them to see a father who looks on them knowing they are created in God’s image, resembling their heavenly Father in so many more ways than they resemble their earthly mother and father.

As I look into my wife’s eyes, I want her to know that I see in her the masterpiece that God has created her to be, and that I will cherish her all the days of my life.

And as I live as a follower of Jesus, this children’s story helps me remember that God has a special place in His heart for those that others see as of little significance.  Jesus encouraged parents to bring their children to him, even when his own followers though they weren’t important enough for his time. (Mark 10:13-15) And I need to see each person as one of limitless value – whether I meet them face to face, come across their postings on social media, or only hear about them.  Because, after all, “a person’s a person, no matter how small.”

Creative Faith-Based Conversations for Thanksgiving, Part 4

(This is the fourth in a series of four posts.  See the original post here.)

4. Finally, the facts. Students may get some of this at church or school, but you can do a little research and talk about the original Thanksgiving.

The History Channel website has lots of good resources, including videos, you could watch to get informed or watch with your kids.

If you want to have resources that are specifically faith-based, check out the videos on WorshipHouseMedia’s site. They have both serious and funny videos that churches, children’s, and youth ministries often use. You can watch the videos for free on their site.

As you engage the historical story behind Thanksgiving, you might find many interesting ways to discuss faith based concepts.

You can talk about the community relationships and the gratitude at that first Thanksgiving with our relationships with others in our family and church today.  All of this would reference back to Acts 2 again very well.

So, as you can see, there is a cornucopia of opportunities to turn this Thanksgiving holiday into a significant opportunity for passing on faith from parents to children.  Like the delicious Thanksgiving meal itself, it just takes a little planning and preparation!

 


This was originally posted as a blog post I wrote for parentministry.net and can be found here: http://parentministry.net/2014/11/4-creative-faith-based-conversations-for-thanksgiving/