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Youth ministry, student ministry, youth group, youth pastor, teaching

Repetition: Students Can’t Learn Something You’ve Taught Only Once

By Doug Franklin August 19, 2014

Experts say you need to hear something three times before you recognize the information. You need to hear something seven to eight times before you will believe it. So when you’re teaching students biblical content, how often do you go over the same material? How many times have you explained sanctification to students? What about salvation through grace? The confession of sins for forgiveness?

Most youth ministries might hit this information once in a confirmation class or a practical Christian living series. We don’t talk about these truths often because they are not fun, inspirational, or exciting. They’re deep, and deep stuff is boring. They don’t bring in the crowds.

But these truths are essential to making disciples. If we fail to go over the deep stuff, we will fail to give our students deep roots of faith. By the way, if a student isn’t inspired by biblical truth, I am not sure they understand what it means to be a disciple of Christ.

Does the idea of repeating the same lessons over and over steal your excitement? Are you yawning just reading this article? Don’t think of repetition like telephone poles on the side of a road as you drive by, each exactly the same as the last. Instead, think of repetition like a spiral staircase. You’re naturally progressing from one topic to the next, but they each build off each other. You come back around to those important topics because they’re so connected to the journey of faith that you couldn’t take another step without encountering them again. And all this repetition is focused in a direction: toward building disciples of Jesus.
I regularly meet students who make up their own beliefs. They call themselves “Christians,” but they have their own worldviews, cobbled together from things they’ve heard on the Internet or “new” truths based on their own common sense. These students have never internalized the truth of God’s word. They think Kool-aid drinking Christ-followers are fools stuck in the past. Of course, Scripture says, “For the foolishness of God is wiser than human wisdom, and the weakness of God is stronger than human strength” (1 Cor. 1:25). These “Christians” with their own worldviews are an inch deep. When the winds of life come along, they are blown away. They go off to college and stop attending church. We say they are leaving the faith, but the truth is, they never had a rich faith to begin with.

Consider the benefits of repetition. When we teach the core truths of Scripture, we must repeat and repeat until we see the fruits of faith: students internalizing the truth, sharing it with others through their personal stories of faith, and demonstrating it through their actions. This is hard work that requires deep relationships. Is it any surprise that parents should be the primary faith influencers in their students’ lives? They have front row seats to the actions of their children. But when parents are not doing this, youth workers are promoted to the front lines of disciple making. I hope that inspires you to teach the core truths of the faith again and again and again.

About the Author

Doug Franklin

Doug Franklin is the president of LeaderTreks, an innovative leadership development organization focusing on students and youth workers. Doug and his wife, Angie, live in West Chicago, Illinois. They don’t have any kids, but they have 2 dogs that think they are children. Diesel and Penelope are Weimaraners  who never leave their side. Doug grew up in…  Read More