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Teaching vs Training

By Dan Vis
March 04, 2019
Comments: 87

Note: This week, I'm reposting an old classic from our archives at FAST. It's the perfect introduction to this month's featured class: The Explosion Blueprint. To learn more about training, and how to transform your church into a true training center, be sure to sign up for this class. Grab it while it's free!

Over the years, I've become more and more convinced that one of our greatest problems today in the area of discipling is our failure to understand the difference between teaching and training. While both have a place in raising up workers, making disciples is primarily a process of training. Teaching will never accomplish what's needed.

“One of our greatest problems today in the area of discipling is our failure to understand the difference between teaching and training.”

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Think of it this way. I live in the state of Illinois. If I wanted to teach you various facts about my state, like its population or its capital, that is a relatively simple process. I just need to communicate that information to you in a way you can understand. And you just need to remember it. The population by the way is approaching 13 million, and the capitol is Springfield. I just taught you something. Easy.

But if I wanted to teach you to swim, however, simply transferring information would not be enough. I could give you hours of lectures, show you dozens of powerpoints, bring in scores of competent swimmers to share their favorite tips, and more--and you would still not know how to swim. To learn that, you are going to have to get in the water! That's because being able to swim is a skill, and skills are transferred through training.

In other words, teaching communicates information. Training communicates skills. Teaching requires the student to understand and remember. But training requires the student to implement and practice.

An Early Experience

This difference became obvious to me many years ago in one of my very first discipleship teams. I was meeting with a group of very dedicated young high school students to do some advanced discipleship training. They had all been raised in Christian homes, and had all freely chosen to be part of my team because they wanted to grow spiritually.

One meeting, when we got to the point where we were starting to talk about the devotional life, I asked a simple question: "How many of you have been told all your life you should study the Bible every day?" Every hand when up. Then I asked another question: "How many of you have ever had someone sit down and show you how to study the Bible so you can get something out of it?" Not one hand went up.

They had all been taught the importance of Bible study, but had never been trained in how to do it effectively. Unfortunately, their situation is not unique. Believers are told to pray, but not shown how. They are told to overcome sin, but not shown how. They are told to witness, but not shown how. Telling someone what to do, but not showing them how only creates frustration, guilt, and a sense of failure. Putting a stronger focus on training creates disciples who are fulfilled, competent and successful.

The Great Commission

The Great Commission calls us to make disciples. While that certainly includes teaching them the basic doctrines of the Bible, it is not limited to that. We must also train them in the basic skills of the Bible, how to "observe all things" commanded by Christ. We must help new believers not only know what the Bible says, but also equip them to do it. We do a fair bit of teaching, but not near enough training.

“The Great Commission calls us to not only help new believers know what the Bible says, but also equip them to do it.”

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This focus on training is one of our foundational principles at FAST. Our resources are all designed to not only impart information, but also skills. To show what the Bible says, and also how to do it. To make disciples today, we must understand the difference between teaching and training!


Can you relate to the story in this article? Have you been told various things to do, but not been shown how? How important is it for believers to acquire the skills of Christianity? What is involved in passing on a skill?

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Posted by Dan Vis on 10/25/22
I think you make a couple good points there Gail . First, that we should be careful to not minimize the importance, or difficulty of good teaching. Especially with complex concepts, teaching all by itself can be a significant challenge. Training is harder still, but because training builds on top of teaching, having that in place securely is essential too.

Another point that struck me is that of timing. Sometimes a concept (or skill) doesn't really click until we are ready for it, or in a position to use it. Which is why going over training more than once is often so helpful. We're at a different place in our growth the second and third time through...
Posted by Gail Lutton on 10/25/22
I love this, as I definitely learn better with/from "hands on."
This sentence from your article: "Telling someone what to do, but not showing them how only creates frustration, guilt, and a sense of failure," I can really relate to!
A favorite experience I recall is when I was in nursing school and struggling with a certain math concept. My husband could draw well and a lot of times when he was trying to explain something to me and he could see my eyes glaze over, he'd get out pencil and paper and draw me a picture/diagram which would usually clear up my understanding. This time however, with the math concept, his drawing didn't help with my understanding. It wasn't until I was a newly graduated nurse and had just started my first job. One day as I had two actual items in my hand and was working with them, that suddenly I remembered that picture my husband had drawn, and everything made sense!
Information, power point, teaching... all have their place, but teaching is definitely the way to go!
Thanks for offering these teachings!
Posted by Dan Vis on 10/05/22
Two great points Jo. We can't share a skill we don't have. But we can share whatever level of proficiency we do have! :)
Posted by Joanne Laing on 10/04/22
You have to be doing a skill before you can pass it on. I learned today that even though Apollos only knew the baptism of John, he taught that. I don't have to be thoroughly proficient in a skill before demonstrating it, I can share it now with the little I know.
Posted by Dan Vis on 09/26/22
That's such a valuable point Julio. That this difference between teaching and training not only applies to our ministry to others, but also Christ's ministry to us. Or perhaps I should say how we relate to Him. We can approach Him as a teacher dispensing information (true), or as Master that we loyally follow (even more true). And our approach will determine what we get out of our walk with God.

And of course, the kind of discipleship we practice determines what we have to give to others. This site, for example, is largely the result of trying to follow Jesus as Master. It's simply sharing what He has trained me to do. Our ministries will bend this direction as well, the more our walk with God bends this way. Great post!
Posted by Julio Useche on 09/26/22
So many of us (myself included) often read through the Word and gain valuable insight into it's teachings, but never write those insights down and repeat them to others because we've not been trained to do this, and sometimes because we're just lazy. Psalms 32:8-98 I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go: I will guide thee with mine eye. 9 Be ye not as the horse, or as the mule, which have no understanding: whose mouth must be held in with bit and bridle, lest they come near unto thee. says "I will instruct thee and teach thee in the way which thou shalt go: I will guide thee with mine eye. Be ye not as the horse, or as the mule, which have no understanding: whose mouth must be held in with bit and bridle, lest they come near unto thee". Often times we just want to be told what some verse means or to be led as a horse, but God wants us to use our minds with the wisdom that He has given us and with the instruction we find in God's Word. When we do this, then we are able to train others in doing the same.
Posted by Dan Vis on 09/25/22
The difference is super obvious once you see it, Rebecca. But because the general culture sort of goes a different way we don't even think about it. I'm praying God will wake many people up to really pursuing a deeper experience. Soon! Time is short...

Thanks for another affirmation of the importance of this Belain. How many have been discouraged, or just given up on trying because no one every explained the nuts and bolts. I'm praying this class will answer many of those kinds of questions!

I really appreciate both of you for your commitment to be an instrument of change--in helping others to grow!
Posted by Belain Kinfu on 09/25/22
I can relate to what you’re saying Dan. I grew up a Christian being taught that I need to read my Bible and pray but didn’t get a training how. I feel like a big part of my life has passed wanting to but not knowing how. I pray that this will change for me and God will use me to train others.
Posted by Rebecca on 09/24/22
Wow can I relate!! Being brought up through Christian schools, knowing doctrines but never knowing how to study the Bible, or how to apply it to my life! How can that be? Being convinced of truth but never convicted. I’m praying God will use me as He sees fit to help in teaching and training.
Posted by Dan Vis on 09/24/22
I'm sure we've all been there Barbara, where we were told to do something but not really shown how. Or not given time to really internalize the requisite skills. Definitely frustrating. We can do better with those we are trying to help grow. In the long run, slow and steady wins the race...
Posted by Barbara E. LaRose on 09/24/22
Yes, I’ve been shown something once and expected to understand at one of my jobs. I learned to carry a pad and pencil with me to remember and often times asked another employee to help me understand and show me. It’s very important to understand the skills of discipleship, you don’t want to loose one soul if you can help it. To pass on a skill is to know how to teach but most importantly, how, as you said Dan, how to help the student to know how to understand and remember.   
Posted by Dan Vis on 09/23/22
Ha, I think that's kind of what happens sometimes in our church, isn't it? Nice story Louise! :)

And I love that last point. If we don't teach someone first how to follow, teaching is less likely to make much of an impact.
Posted by Louise P on 09/23/22
Training versus teaching reminds me of the cartoon about two boys and a dog:

First boy: “I taught my dog to whistle.”
Second boy: “I can’t hear him whistle.”
First boy: “I said I taught him, not that he had learned.”

Maybe that’s why the Great Commission exhorts us to make disciples before it mentions teaching...
Posted by Dan Vis on 09/22/22
Posted by Richard on 09/22/22
So true thank you
Posted by Dan Vis on 09/22/22
Thanks for sharing Tonya. You are definitely in for some treats in the coming months. We are going to go through each aspect of discipleship from the perspective of training. I believe it has the potential to change all our lives. Learning how to live as a Christian is so much more than just knowing what a Christian is supposed to know. Can't wait!
Posted by Tonya Anspach on 09/22/22
Thank you for sharing the difference between teaching and training. It makes me think of my daughter who is in her second year of nursing school. She is now being TRAINED on what to do. Trust me, I know, because she is coming home every day asking to get my vitals etc...LOL.

I can see the real value in training and realize that is what is completely missing in my Christian life. Only I didn't realize it. Digging into the Bible has been difficult for me. I see the joy on others' faces when they study their bible, but have yet to really experience that total joy myself. I know now that it is because I have never really been trained on how to do it. I look forward to the rest of this class. THANK YOU!
Posted by Dan Vis on 09/21/22
Most theology programs, are just that: theology. It's intentional so the pastors are prepared for any theological challenge--which is important. But there's a real place for practical discipleship training too, and I fear sometimes that is neglected. Thanks for your commitment to growing as a disciple-maker Mike!

Oh, and I like your training progression! We teach something similar later in Basic Training.
Posted by Mike Carner on 09/20/22
I can definitely identify with the story. Sounds like my upbringing. Even taking theology in college was mostly teaching with much less practical training. So it is something I have struggled with even in my ministry. I learned lots of facts I could teach others, but the practical has been a challenge. Always looking for opportunities to become better a training people.

I think it is very important for people to learn the skills of living out the Christian life.

The basic steps in training in a skill are:
  • Watch me as I do it
  • We do it together.
  • I watch you as you do it.
  • You find someone else to train.
Posted by Dan Vis on 09/20/22
Yes, exactly Sam. Demonstration is a critical part of the training process. We can teach without demonstration, but not train!
Posted by Shawnda McKnight on 09/20/22
Demonstrating is required in order to pass on a skill. That is why it took me so long to fall in love with Jesus when I grew up in the SDA religion. I didnt have anyone to show me how it was supposed to look.
Posted by Dan Vis on 09/24/21
That's a good word Colette: apprenticeship. Too often we think of them as students and just give them a teacher. But an apprentice is expected to learn a craft or skill. They need a trainer. A very different process!
Posted by Colette Guthrie on 09/24/21
Dan I heard of this concept in a leadership development seminar which zoomed in on equipping leaders for success.

Becoming a Christian is like being an apprentice. It sure helps if you put that spiritual babe in the care of an experienced worker. II Timothy 2:2And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also. (substitute train for teach).😇
Posted by Pathy Neijo on 03/13/19
Very informative, encouraging and inspiring! Thank you very much!
Posted by Dinah Robles on 03/13/19
this is very relevant— the “how to” will help me/us to learn not only the facts but how to put into action the facts learned. Many times we assumed that the skill is already part of the teaching but as I am learning teaching is different from training. Thanks Dan.
Posted by Floride Leonce on 03/04/19
Hi Dan,

I can relate well with that story. The funny thing is that I sometimes repeat the same thing with my children. I’m happy to have the opportunity to learn and get the skills needed to practice and teach others. I will sign up for the Explosion Blueprint class.

Thank you and may God bless you!
Posted by Dan Vis on 03/04/19
Thanks everyone for your comments!

Thanks for pointing out how the method we use definitely impacts the outcome Claudette! Definitely appreciate your perspective on this as a professional in this area.

Information certainly starts the process, doesn't it JoDee. But the process can sometimes go along slowly without access to good training resources.

Praise God for that family Tanya! I had a family like that in my life too.

Like they say Carole, it's better to teach someone to fish than to just give them a fish. Glad to hear your pastor is modeling good study methods. In our Explosion Blueprint class we define 4 biblical steps to training. Showing how is step 2.
Posted by Carole Bliss on 03/04/19
This comes right to the point. I am in a Bible study at prayer meeting, where my Pastor is showing us how to read slow, digest it, and discuss it with the help of the Holy Spirit. So important.
Posted by Tanya Telis on 03/04/19
Yes, I certainly can. I wanted a true Adventist home for myself and my children, but I did not have a clear picture of what that would look like, or how to go about creating it. I had read EGW and had the information, I needed the loving family in my church that took us under their wing and showed me all my home could be AND how to go about getting there. They encouraged each positive step and were there to guide when I was heading the wrong way. I thank God for them every day!!
Posted by JoDee Shoffner on 03/04/19
Yes, I was truly wanting to be a Christian. I believed the information and that began a transformation of the way I think. Slowly I knew that Word was reparenting me. I belong to a small church of mostly elderly people with one young couple and a few younger ones. We certainly don’t have the training. ...
Posted by Claudette Haynes on 03/04/19
As a certified trainer, I can certainly attest to the premise of this plan. I find that when I teach vs. train, I receive a very different response from the participants to when I train vs. teach. Yes, I’ve discovered that there is a very big difference.
Posted by Dan Vis on 03/01/19
Looks like I missed a few posts, below. Sorry about that! :) But it's pretty clear this article strikes a common chord. I appreciate Danny's comment below about the combination of classroom teaching and clinical training in preparing nurses for their profession. That's much closer to what we need in the church. Good post!
Posted by Nancy on 10/31/18
Yes, i can relate, learning from others who have walked the path before you is helpful, but putting things into practice is getting the training that is needed.
Posted by Linda on 10/24/18
I can definitely relate the this story. To be successful in discipleship you truly have to be trained.
Posted by Danny on 10/21/18
Yes, I can relate to the story very well. I am a nurse teacher. In nursing, I give my students theoretical knowledge. After that, we apply theoretical knowledge in the clinical area and showing students how those concepts they learned can be applied while taking care of their patients. They do these things repeatedly while in the clinical area until they can do it on their own. This is how it should be when teaching on how to study the Bible. Looking forward to the class.
Posted by Lillian E. Cepeda on 07/18/17
I am very sure I will enjoy the Bible Class.

In reference to my Mom, unfortunately, she has gotten to a point where she can no longer take care of herself. Everything is in God's hands now.
Thanks for caring!
Posted by Dan Vis on 07/16/17
Hope all goes well with your mom, Lillian. My prayers are with you. Excited to hear about your new study.

I mentioned it somewhere else, but thought I would repeat it here: our next challenge is going to be part of a future course I'm building on how to give Bible studies. I think you will enjoy it!
Posted by Lillian E. Cepeda on 07/15/17
Thanks Dan
Posted by Lillian E. Cepeda on 07/15/17
I am beginning to work with a family. Please pray for them. I am also talking to my neighbor. For now, it's interrupted due to an emergency / my mother is critically ill. I am traveling there now.
Blessings! And pray for these people.
Posted by Dan Vis on 07/14/17
Glad this was a blessing, Chidinma, Vani, and Kathy. If you haven't already, make sure you sign up for the Blueprint class. It goes into how we can transform our churches into training centers in even greater detail.

Lillian, that's a beautiful picture of seeing everyone who learns some skill instantly going and sharing it with others. If we all did that, how rapidly the church might grow!
Posted by Kathy Rosenberger on 07/12/17
I have never heard this concept put so clearly and simply. It has helped me greatly. Thank you.
Posted by Lillian E. Cepeda on 07/10/17
This topic brought to mind the story found in the Book of Acts 8:26-4026 And the angel of the Lord spake unto Philip, saying, Arise, and go toward the south unto the way that goeth down from Jerusalem unto Gaza, which is desert. 27 And he arose and went: and, behold, a man of Ethiopia, an eunuch of great authority under Candace queen of the Ethiopians, who had the charge of all her treasure, and had come to Jerusalem for to worship, 28 Was returning, and sitting in his chariot read Esaias the prophet. 29 Then the Spirit said unto Philip, Go near, and join thyself to this chariot. 30 And Philip ran thither to him, and heard him read the prophet Esaias, and said, Understandest thou what thou readest? 31 And he said, How can I, except some man should guide me? And he desired Philip that he would come up and sit with him. 32 The place of the scripture which he read was this, He was led as a sheep to the slaughter; and like a lamb dumb before his shearer, so opened he not his mouth: 33 In his humiliation his judgment was taken away: and who shall declare his generation? for his life is taken from the earth. 34 And the eunuch answered Philip, and said, I pray thee, of whom speaketh the prophet this? of himself, or of some other man? 35 Then Philip opened his mouth, and began at the same scripture, and preached unto him Jesus. 36 And as they went on their way, they came unto a certain water: and the eunuch said, See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized? 37 And Philip said, If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. 38 And he commanded the chariot to stand still: and they went down both into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he baptized him. 39 And when they were come up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught away Philip, that the eunuch saw him no more: and he went on his way rejoicing. 40 But Philip was found at Azotus: and passing through he preached in all the cities, till he came to Caesarea., the Ethiopian Eunuch reading in the Book of Isaiah 53, and the Holy Spirit sent Phillip to explain it to him.

How wonderful it would be that after taking the training, the Holy Spirit takes control and help us train others too. I do know that the Holy Spirit is our Helper, because Jesus sent Him. The more we learn,memorize, and study the Scriptures, the better equipped we are to teach and train others.
Posted by Vani Kaisuva on 07/10/17
Very clear. Thank you. Pray the Lord will keep the above in mind as I continue to minister.
Posted by Chidinma Jenny Ukoh on 07/08/17
This is really eye-opening. Thank you for this site. God bless.
Posted by Dan Vis on 07/05/17
That's the difference exactly, isn't it Carole. Not just telling someone what to do but showing them how... And it applies to some many areas beside just Bible reading. Thanks for the comment!
Posted by Carole Bliss on 07/04/17
Telling one to "read the Bible" and showing them how, is so important.
Even at my age, I am learning to go slower, and digest each word, instead of reading a chapter, just to say, I read a chapter.
Thank-you for this training series.

Posted by Angie Leimena on 07/04/17
Thank you Dan. I am encouraged.
Posted by Dan Vis on 07/04/17
Great posts everyone. Joyce, I think you described the process of training quite well. Kendra, so happy you are having such a wonderful experience.

Angie, you are right. Leadership is so important. I'm sure God will use you as you continue to look for opportunities to share. Stay encouraged! :)

I talk more about the process of training in our Blueprint challenge. Hope you all get a chance to take that...
Posted by Angie Leimena on 07/04/17
It is very essential to have training skills to practice what the Bible says, and manifest genuine true results. Yet in my church surrounding, the response to invitation to join training seems unappealing. Have tried to give them inserts in bulletin about join a fast training, but no results so far. Seems it requires a permanent standby leader to demonstrate excitement, and proven results in order to contaminate. I do not have such leader, GOD willing there will be more young people joining the church plant. As for me I am very thankful to Fast ministry even I am not good enough.
Posted by Kendra Jumbo on 07/04/17
This is really true. Bible study used to be very boring for me until Elder Johnny Wong taught me how and how to memorize scripture. Since then, every word in the Bible seems so fresh and new. I hope God uses us to teach others. Thanks for this post.

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