Improve Learning Retention in Sunday School

Sunday 15th July, 2007

In the Great Co-mission (Matthew 28:18-20), Jesus commanded us to "go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them...and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you." If they don't remember what we teach, how can they "obey?" Well, what can we do to improve the likelihood they will remember? What can we do to increase the amount of what we teach that they remember?

Research has shown the following adult retention rates after 72 hours:

Learning MethodRetention %






Seeing and Hearing




Saying and Doing


Looking at these numbers, it is obvious we want to do something in addition to having them read or lecturing to them. What do we need to do, then, to move more toward saying and doing, to move them toward greater retention? Here are a few of hundreds of possible suggestions:

  • The more we can get them to participate in the learning experience, the more likely they are to retain what they have learned.
  • Rather than trying to teach ten different things, focus on one or two.
  • Overview what they will be learning and why it is relevant and important.
  • At the end, review what has been learned.
  • Ask questions throughout the lesson to lead them do some critical reflection on the truth.
  • Allow time to think before calling for answers.
  • Allow time to listen to God and pray about what He wants them to learn.
  • Reinforce the major points that were covered through different teaching methods.
  • Give individual assignments.
  • Give homework.
  • Assign an application exercise and ask them to report next week.
  • Ask them to memorize a verse and then check on it.
  • Ask them to paraphrase a verse.
  • Break them into small groups and give the groups assignments.
  • Tell them that they will need what they learn in order to do a job.
  • Tell them you will be giving them a test at the end of the class or unit of study.
  • Begin the next class by asking them to tell you (1) what the lesson was about last week and (2) how they applied the truth during the week between.
  • Get them into pairs to share about how the lesson truth applies to their lives and pray together about living it out.

Can you think of more to add to the list? Press the comments button and share with others who desire to increase learning retention. Don't go through another lesson resulting in a low percentage of retention. Increase efforts to increase retention. Work to change lives. Be revolutionary!

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