How to Maximize Your Student’s Memory


I believe our student ministry has experienced a breakthrough in maximizing our students’ ability to remember what we preach and teach.

Let’s be honest. We can spend hours upon hours on studying for sermons and lessons. Then we all have the same haunting questions, “Was it worth it? Will my students remember this stuff? Am I making a difference? Am I wasting my time?”

On one hand, we have to remember that God’s Word is never returned void (Isaiah 55:11). On the other hand, we have to be honest with ourselves by asking, “What are my students actually retaining?” 

I do believe this old story is true (paraphrased): A man asked why he should come to church if he doesn’t remember any sermons points from the prior weeks. The pastor answered: I don’t remember one meal my wife cooked last week, but everyone one of them gave me what I needed to make it through my day.

At the same time, our calling is to make disciples by teaching our students to “observe everything Jesus has commanded them (Matthew 28:20).”

I realize this is very simple, inaccurate math, but I believe it will prove a point. The more different lessons we teach them in a week’s time, the less they will remember.

Let’s say they remember what we preach to them on Wednesday night, but when we teach them something different on Sunday morning, they will only remember half of each lesson (that is optimistic). When we encourage them to do different daily devotions, they decrease their chances to remember everything to a third. Then when we encourage them to be in a discipleship group, have we reduced their chances to remember everything to a fourth?

I believe our student ministry has experienced a breakthrough in maximizing our students’ ability to remember what we preach and teach.

Here’s what we’ve experienced: What we preach on Wednesday nights, we also write curriculum for Sunday mornings around the same theme. We also give our students daily devotions to read around the exact same passages and themes that we preach and teach. Not only that, but we also encourage them to join in on our discipleship groups which get very personal, intimate, and deep about the same theme and from the same passages.

We believe this has a compounding effect. If we teach what we preach, they are twice as likely to remember it. Then if we add on their daily devos around the same passages and themes, we are multiplying their chance to remember it all that week by 3. Then if we tack on discipleship groups, they have 4x’s the chance to remember the themes and passages from that week.

If I were you, I’d be asking at this point, “Isn’t that too repetitive?” Did you remember that repetition is the key to memory, or do I need to repeat myself? Pun intended.

The way we keep it from being too repetitive is by looking at each of these four opportunities as a different learning style. While Wednesday night preaching is more monologue and lecture based, Sunday morning small groups are more facilitation and discussion based. Of course devotions are more self-learning and discovery on a daily basis. Then discipleship groups are more conversational, personal, and life applicable.

Integration is hard work, takes planning, and requires thinking ahead. It will not float for the “fly by the seat of your pants” youth pastor. But for those of us serious about making disciples who retain the Word of God, we will do whatever it takes to maximize our students’ memory.


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