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Visual Learning

Visuals aids in sermons have come a long way. Years ago preachers wrote on burlap sacks or cardboard boxes with a paintbrush. Then came flannel boards followed by overhead projectors. When PowerPoint came along we were beside ourselves in view of the capabilities. Now digital possibilities in teaching seem endless. If you can think it you can show it—almost.

We live in the age of screens. Future generations will probably poke fun at this generation because of how often we stare at them. We do remember what we see. Visual learning is important. It helps us in teaching and it can be useful in preaching. But seeing is not the only way we learn. In fact, it is not always the best approach. A slide presentation cannot take the place of a heartfelt story. The audience needs to make eye contact with the preacher and not just watch his presentation on a screen. Technology can be good, but we need the human element. Besides, visual aids are not even appropriate for some biblical subjects. How can a preacher do a chart lesson on the sin David committed with Bathsheba in II Samuel 11?

Sometimes we say, “Children are visual learners. We need to use more visual aids to help them understand.” Of course children use their eyes to understand—some more than others. Some are also blind or legally blind and yet they comprehend exceedingly well. But children also have ears to hear. They may have a notorious reputation for not remembering what they hear, but any parent knows they don’t have to see something to remember it and remember it well. How many times has your child said, “But you said I could…”? They know how to pay attention.

Some say children can’t learn from a sermon without lots of visuals. Really? Then why are children able to tell preachers what we said even when we don’t use charts? Back in the days when there was no electricity, brother J. W. McGarvey was greeting his audience after his sermon. A little child came up to him and said, “Brother McGarvey, I understand you.” Though many had praised him for his vast knowledge of the Bible and his ability to examine difficult subjects, he later said that was one of the best compliments anyone every gave him. Children do learn by listening.

All this being said, children do need to see more in order to learn more about God and the Christian life.

They should see that going to every church service is a great joy to their parents and not a burden.

They need to see their parents bowing their heads in prayer at home and not just at church services.

They need to see their parents reading the Bible in the house or listening to good biblical programs on the road.

They should see their parents treat each other with kindness and respect on a daily basis.

They should observe mom and dad taking food to a family in need, going to check on the aged and the sick, and giving money to help the poor.

They need to see that church members are serious about their Christianity by the way they worship and live.

They need to see enthusiasm and love in the eyes of their Bible class teachers.

They need to see older people acting with dignity, self-respect and compassion for others.

They need to see Christians come to church services in spite of health problems.

They need to see elders of the church greeting the congregation, dealing with emergencies and tragedies, and being leaders of the flock.

They need to see parents making their children mind and members being respectful and interested during worship.

Yes, children are visual learners and we are the screens they see every day. The files of our hearts are displayed on those screens. If our hearts are right, we won’t have to prepare a presentation. Our actions will naturally follow. This is why Moses said, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength. And these words which I command you today shall be in your heart. You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up” (Deut. 6:5-7). This is not the virtual world of imagination in digital form. It is the real world where children and adults should be more often.

Kerry

West End church of Christ bulletin article for October 15, 2023

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