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

Creative Faith-Based Conversations for Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving provides one of the best holiday opportunities for parents to pass down faith to the next generation.

I’ve been working on some great ideas to infuse faith into Thanksgiving, and I’d thought I’d share them with you.

I’ll share one  a day for the next four days.  Here’s the first.

1. First, the food: With the excitement surrounding Master Chef Junior,
kids are more excited than ever to help out in the kitchen. If your kids haven’t seen this show, you can log on and watch an episode together.

Serving together in the kitchen just might lead to a great discussion about how kids can and should have an important role in serving their local church today, not just when they “grow up.”

Sprinkle in a little talk about 1 Corinthians 12 and 13, and you have an organic home Bible study!

Include fun backstories to “secret family recipes” and why you serve certain dishes at your holiday meal.

Maybe even go really crazy and let your children plan the menu this year, (with a
little adult help and suggestions, of course.)

This was originally posted as a blog post I wrote for and can be found here:

What Is Family Ministry?

So, what is “family ministry”? Basically, it’s coming alongside parents and helping them teach their kids how to ride their bikes. (If you need more than the Twitter version, please read on. And be sure to join all of us on this Family Ministry Blog Tour as new voices share their answer to this question each day.)

I used to feel guilty about not having a formal program that could be labeled “family ministry.” I partner with our Children’s, High School and Young Adult Pastors, but we’re not a formal “Family Ministry Team.” But I stopped feeling guilty when I realized I do quite a bit of family ministry. However, it is woven throughout my ministry. And I wonder if it might be in yours too.

As I have studied and reflected on Deuteronomy 6:4-9 over the years, I have realized that God gave this great guide for family ministry. Verses 6-7 sum it up. I like the Message translation best: “Write these commandments that I’ve given you today on your hearts. Get them inside of you and then get them inside your children. Talk about them wherever you are, sitting at home or walking in the street; talk about them from the time you get up in the morning to when you fall into bed at night.” Basically, wherever you are, all the time, parents are to lead their family in being about God and his commands!

I see this through the eyes of a husband, father, and Middle School Pastor. I’m going to focus on that last one today. I am responsible for leading two ministries, one for preteens (5th-6th grade) and one for middle schoolers (7th-8th grade) at Mount Pleasant Christian Church in central Indiana.

I have some great friends in a group called FourFiveSix who nailed what Family Ministry Looks like in 2 pieces. The motto of this group, of which I am a part, is to “help your preteen ministry take the next step.” The second part is in our metaphor: “Letting Go of the Bike.” Basically, FourFiveSix wants to help churches take the next step, whatever that is, with their preteen ministry. At the core of that, is helping parents “let go of the bike” of their child’s faith. As I equip and encourage fellow parents of preteens, (I have a 6th grader myself), I am constantly doing so through the lens of helping them allow their child to make their faith their own while they “run alongside” and help them on this journey.

Then, in working with parents of 7th-8th graders in my ministry, I feel like, (to continue the metaphor), we are helping parents allow their child to ride the bike of their faith around the block. They get more freedom, but within reasonable boundaries. I feel like this ministry is one where “family ministry” really stands out to me. Why? Parents of middle schoolers really want someone to help them. They don’t understand what is going on with their kids, (especially if they have forgotten what they were like in middle school). And I believe they get too many “I’m sorry for you.” and not enough “Let me help you.”, or even at least a few who might say, “Let me walk beside you.” And sometimes, parents of middle schoolers just need us in the church whether as a pastor or small group leader to simply echo to their kids what they are saying at home so that when it comes out of our mouths, the kids will actually listen and accept it!

What does this look like in real life? With parents, it starts by helping them known and follow Jesus. Deuteronomy 6:6 commands the parents to be committed before they can lead their children. Sometimes, I help a parent find a good Bible or Bible app. Other times, I’m simply a listening ear or understanding friend walking alongside them through the joys and challenges of parenthood.

With parents of preteens, it’s often us as parents who have a hard time letting go of the bike, even though our children are more than ready for the opportunity! So, sometimes I make a simple suggestion that helps a parent like providing a simple tool that their preteen can choose to use in developing a quiet time. Or, it might be that I bring parents in to a service to play games alongside their preteen and see just how much fun this age group is.

And with parents of middle schoolers, I ask for directions when I get lost in the school myself! (It’s helpful to show humility and realize that sometimes the best ministry we give families is allowing them to minister to us “experts.”) Sometimes I remind them of the importance of us as parents being parents and knowing that being our child’s friend comes much further down the road. Other times I pray with them and recommend a Christian counselor when problems are beyond what we can handle.

You won’t find much of this in my blog, on our church website, or in any printed material you might pick up. But these things are part of the DNA of how we do ministry with families. And keep in mind, these are all different kinds of families with various joys and struggles. For me, especially as I work with families of preteens and middle schoolers, family ministry is not so much about any one specific thing we do as it is about keeping Deuteronomy 6 in mind and helping families live that out themselves in the context of a church community.

(Books have endnotes. I haven’t quite seen how to do that well in blogs. So, although I’m probably breaking some blog etiquette, here are my endnotes.)

Although I regularly contact them to voice my thoughts, concerns and suggestions on how they can better help those of us ministering specifically to preteens and middle schoolers, I owe a HUGE amount of thanks to Orange and all they have done to help me and so many others reThink ministry, especially family ministry. Their “orange” concept is brilliant in its simplicity. I highly recommend reading Parenting Beyond Your Capacity. I’m reading it right now!

If you are working with 4th-6th graders in your church, I know I am biased, but I really believe you can find so many people and resources to help you at

Another book I am reading right now, and the best I have come across for parents of middle schoolers, is Mark Oestricher’s Understanding Your Young Teen