The world throws so much data at us that we now forget more than the average person consumed 10-20 years ago. This has a direct impact on our teaching. How many Bible classes do you specifically remember over the last 5-10 years? If your answer is, not very many, it shows us that the goal of Bible class cannot be purely the retaining of data. I don’t think the answer is ever going to be that 100% of what we teach is retained. That is just not possible. I do believe that it is easy to frame this issue in an unrealistic manner and then come to some invalid conclusions. It is impossible to remember everything you have been taught. I studied for hundreds and hundreds of tests in college that I memorized thousands of pages of information for. Ask me questions from my notes and I doubt my % of recall would be all that high. That is not all bad. That is to be expected. The question is, what did that information do to me? If it helped me grow, mature, handle tougher challenges, etc then it was useful.
If we are teaching information for the sake of those in class retaining all of it we will fail. But if we teach toward transformation and spiritual growth, even when the specific details of the information have faded, the effect is still there. So while you don’t remember all the classes you have been a part of in a given congregation there is no doubt that some of those classes have had a profound impact on the way you live, the way you see the world, the way you serve, the way you treat others, etc. It is imperative that the goal of our teaching is not information retention. That is a losing game. But if our goal is transforming the lives of those present one step at a time, success is just that much more attainable.
Toward the end of the Gospel of John, John tells us why he recorded all those events,
“30 Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of his disciples, which are not recorded in this book. 31 But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.” – John 20:30-31
John says that he wants the reader to understand the information but that is not the end game. He wants that understanding to have a profound impact on the life of the reader by bringing them true life through Jesus Christ. That is transformation. So when you prepare a Bible class, sermon, or small group lesson ask yourself this, “When this lesson is over how will it lead toward one small or large piece of transformation in the lives of those present?” When we start thinking and creating things through that filter we will have more success.
More on information vs. transformation here – The Information to Transformation Shift