“Similarly, Jesus understood that the more of ourselves we bring into relationship with God, the more intimate and enduring this relationship becomes.”
How We Learn
Experiential learning is the way we learn in real life. It is the way that young children acquire an amazing “data base” of skills and information in the first few years of life. (From ages 2 to 4, our vocabularies alone grow from about 50 words to 10,000 or more.) Experiential learning is how we learned to speak and how any of us have learned most of what we do.
By becoming acquainted with new ideas experientially allows us to make them our own. Memorization, reciting, listening, and taking notes about facts are not enough to evoke intuitive, feeling responses to learning. Remember the maxim: I hear and I forget; I see and I remember; I do and I understand. The more of ourselves (body, mind, and spirit) we can use to explore an idea, the more the idea becomes our own. And this includes our understanding of God and relationship with Jesus.
Similarly, Jesus understood that the more of ourselves we bring into relationship with God, the more intimate and enduring this relationship becomes. He taught that we are not far from the kingdom of heaven if we love God with all our hearts, all our souls, all our minds, and all our strength.
Experiential learning in a Christian setting beckons us to sing, dance, and clap. It beckons us to construct a scale model or act out a skit. It beckons us to play. When planning your educational program or lesson plan, keep the following in mind:
- Use all modalities of learning, not just the intellect alone
- Involve the whole person – senses, emotions, mind, and spirit
- Make learning fun!
- Provide opportunities for participants to discover and use their talents, to learn to work together, and to develop skills of leadership and creativity
- Welcome the Holy Spirit to lead us to unexpected insights
Experiential methods require careful planning and sometimes more effort than preparing a lecture or oral presentation. Inviting all ages to participate in their own education can produce a rich harvest of responsible attitudes.
Sharon Ely Pearson is a 30+ year Christian formation veteran, currently serving as an editor and the Christian Formation Specialist for Church Publishing Incorporated. Wife, mother, grandmother, and author, she enjoys connecting people with each other and the resources they need for growing in the knowledge and love of Jesus.