I titled this section Bury Dead Tradition because we have got too much dead tradition weighing down our churches. Many people admit this, but few do something about it. For decades, we have all been milling around the wake at dead tradition’s coffin. Will we ever get to the burial? Dead tradition is like dragging around Jacob Marley’s ponderous chain [Ebeneezer Scrooge]. I advocate keeping whatever is effective and cheerfully dumping the ineffective.
Not all tradition is bad. Do you know the difference between ordained tradition (“do not remove the ancient landmarks”) and dead tradition (“blind leading the blind and they both fall in the ditch”)? Do you pray for the discernment to know the difference? Perhaps we are so steeped in blind repetition that we need to stop and assess, and quit trying to keep alive that which is dead and has been for a long time. That is insanity! The definition of insanity is when you keep doing the same things that in the past have proven to be ineffectual, but you keep hoping for new and improved results! Or another way of describing insanity is rearranging the chairs on the deck of the Titanic!
How about the dead tradition of TALKING ABOUT God’s Word instead of DOING it (discussed in Talking About vs. Doing)? What else can a church DO to produce active participation instead of just TALKING? Let us consider improved ideas for (1) physical layout, (2) style of presentation, and (3) planned activities. Society and learning styles have radically changed. The education realm has noticed these changes, but churches have not. They are still using physical layout and sermon presentation styles that died about a century ago. The way people now learn is far removed from back then.
Let me describe how I buried dead tradition in my music classroom regarding physical layout. Most classrooms are nicely ordered rows one behind the other. I discovered that this set up makes it too easy for reluctant students to be invisible. When given the opportunity, humans will predictably take the path of least resistance and most comfort. The path of least resistance equates to being complacent, non-productive, and regressive (in that order). I investigated various classroom layouts and the proven teaching and learning effectiveness of each. I quickly discovered that desks, pews, and chairs all in straight, parallel rows are mostly ineffective.
The most effective is having all seats in a large U with the instructor located between the top of the two prongs. In a U, instructor and learners all have a direct, individual connection with each other on a one-to-one basis. Physical eye contact is made at all times. Attention is at its highest potential. All verbal and nonverbal communication is direct and interpersonal. The instructor has an efficient focus on the group in a triangular pattern from the upper right top of the U, to the middle of the bottom, to the upper top left of the U. Learners of all styles are successful in a U. No learner can “hide” behind another as in rows. The open space inside the U is immediately available for standing and demonstrating skills. A U is a direct psychological connection that affords the strongest teacher-student relationship (trust). I can guarantee no one in a U is likely to sleep while you are “presenting.” This is quite different from rearranging Titanic’s chairs!
In the 1800s and before, verbal lecture was an effective presentation style. But with changes in society’s communication methods and what we have learned about learning styles, aural learners are in the minority! Nearly 80% of all learners are visual, with aural and kinesthetic learners comprising the remaining 20%. A visual learner says, “Show me.” An aural learner says, “Tell me.” And a kinesthetic learner says, “Let me put my hands on it.” If you want to produce lots of frustration, try telling a visual learner more than 3 instructions and have him/her remember them in order. Or have a kinesthetic learner follow a detailed procedure written on paper. Have you ever noticed that visual learners dislike stopping at gas stations to ask for verbal directions, and if more than 3 are given, the visual learner pulls out a pen and paper and says, “Would you please go over that again from the beginning?”
The three learning styles each have their levels of learning effectiveness. A Chinese proverb, quoted in a previous discussion, speaks of the various comprehension levels each of the styles produce:
“I hear (Tell me), I forget.
I see (Show me), I remember.
I do (Involve me), I understand.”
After reading this proverb, I changed my teaching style from speaking to showing and doing. I now challenge music student teachers to teach a whole lesson in instructive sentences that are no more than 4-5 words long and no more than two sentences in a row. The rest should all be non-verbal modeling and copying. Super creative teachers can teach an entire lesson without saying a word.
Since involvement produces the greatest comprehension level, I changed from talking to doing (active participation). Active participation fits music quite well because at its core, music is a performable art form. Ineffective verbosity turned into showing and doing. Sitting, listening, and filling in the blanks on worksheets about music knowledge turned into “first watch me do it,” then “copy me step by step,” and “practice it into perfection” (also known as whole-parts-whole). I changed a lot of my music education and teaching paradigms, including the one that says, “Practice makes perfect.” Not so! Only “Perfect practice makes perfect” or else mistakes are simply repeated ad nauseam and more strongly planted into long-term memory.
DEMANDED BY MY STUDENTS.
So I began collecting “doing” activities for teaching each of the music skills and concepts. It took a while for me to enact this paradigm shift for planning and creating activities for total involvement, and to be 100% comfortable with it. But after a while it became second nature, and in a very short time, it was very much expected and demanded by my students.
My severe inexperience for planning activities caused me to become a skilled professional thief. I attended conferences, clinics, training sessions, certification courses, and inservices of all kinds. I engaged many teachers in conversations, traded my ideas with them, brought theirs back my classroom, and adapted and facilitated them into my particular teaching style. The students became my guinea pigs for experimentation.
Three ideas of where to begin change are presented above. The application of them becomes the ultimate thrilling theme park ride. Determine what goes on in your church that is dead tradition, and bury it! Then let God’s Word and His Practices (“doing”) become your unmovable landmarks, not your traditional ways of “having” church!
CHANGE YOUR SETTING.
Are your pews or chairs in parallel rows? Reposition them into a U. Position yourself at the top of the U. While preaching, walk into the inside of the U as needed. Get out from behind your pulpit. Pastors can hide behind pulpits the same as learners hide behind chairs, desks, and other learners. Know your presentation so well that it comes from your heart, not from your notes. Maintain smiling-eyes contact with all attendees.
When you meet regularly with other pastors to trade and steal great ideas among you, have you noticed that one person’s creativity will spark further creativity in another? Do everything possible to broaden your practices of teacher effectiveness. Then practice your creativity on your “students.”
Try teaching non-verbally. Can you present an entire sermon without saying a word? Demonstrate your activity as a whole, break it down into its component parts, and then put all back together in a performable whole. Have your “students” imitate each of your steps.
For every principle, concept, or point in your sermon, carefully plan out a “doing” activity. First demonstrate it yourself with excellence. Then ask for an eager volunteer from the members to demonstrate what you just showed. Guide him/her into “doing” it perfectly. When excellence has been established, have everyone stand up, go to the inside of the U, and copy.
As King Solomon prayed for wisdom to know how to go in and out among the people, pray for Holy Spirit answers and activities as you grow your church into 100% active “doing” participation. Overcome your fear of change and risk of failure. How much are you willing to UNLEARN?
Your Belief System and Your Church: (1) Introduction
Your Belief System and Your Church: (2) Your Paradigms
Your Belief System and Your Church: (3) Bondage or Freedom
Your Belief System and Your Church: (4) Gateway Skills
Your Belief System and Your Church: (5) Teacher Accountability
Your Belief System and Your Church: (6) Talking About vs. Doing
Your Belief System and Your Church: (7) Student Accountability
Your Belief System and Your Church: (8) Assessment
Your Belief System and Your Church: (9) Bury Dead Tradition
Your Belief System and Your Church: (10) Teaching vs. Learning
Your Belief System and Your Church: (11) Teachers' Three Phases
Your Belief System and Your Church: (12) Excellence is NOT a Goal
Your Belief System and Your Church: (13) My Teaching Limits Were Their Learning Limits
Your Belief System and Your Church: (14) Unlearning Creates Success
Your Belief System and Your Church: (15) Pioneers vs. Settlers
Your Belief System and Your Church: (16) Real and Lasting Learning
Your Belief System and Your Church: (17) Problems With Memory
Your Belief System and Your Church: (18) Ownership Creates Success
Your Belief System and Your Church: (19) Not Perfect, But Honest
Your Belief System and Your Church: (20) Take Risks and Give Away Control
Your Belief System and Your Church: (21) Out of a Job
Your Belief System and Your Church: (22) KCAASE and Proverbs 24
Your Belief System and Your Church: (23) Responding vs. Reacting
Your Belief System and Your Church: (24) Only When Performed
Your Belief System and Your Church: (25) A Supervisor's Vision
Your Belief System and Your Church: (26) Glimpses Into the Spiritual
Your Belief System and Your Church: (27) One Reason Alone