Church Health: How Do People Learn?

Kim Martinez 2Editor’s Note: This is the third and final in a series of articles by Assemblies of God Pastor Kim Martinez on church health. Part 1 Part 2

Jeffrey squishes his car into a parking spot, grabs his bible and heads for the church.

He is on his Sunday-best behavior. He dropped his wife and kids off at the door before parking on the back 40 and slogging through the slush to get into the sanctuary. As he enters the church, his brain starts to switch off. He has walked into the presentation zone. Jeffrey wants to engage in church, and he works hard at it, but every Sunday, he fights a simple problem—his mind tries to turn off when he enters the building. He hasn’t figured out the cause, but perhaps with a bit of thought, we can change the environment so that he finds himself energized and focused instead.

For this week’s church health review, we are going to look at how you engage people in their learning style.

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According to experts, there are three primary learning styles:

Audio Learning—These people learn by hearing. Sermons, discussions and music all hit their input sensors just right. In worship, the music is the key point of inspiration.

Visual Learning—People who learn visually need to see it. Reading, note taking, pictures, slides and even internal pictures (like when you paint a picture with your words) reach them best. In worship, they are affected deeper by the ambiance, the PowerPoint, the visual pictures in the music than by the notes.

Kinesthetic Learning—Why talk about it, when you can do it? Kinesthetic learners need multiple sensory input. They learn best when they are moving, doing, experiencing. Worship that requires movement—even standing or raising their hands works really well.

We are going to take a different approach to church analysis. Typically, we would look at each event and determine how we were helping people learn or receive information. Instead, today, let’s look at the typical church attender’s experience based on the rooms he or she might enter.

This is the last of three articles using the coaching circle. To do today’s exercise; you will need a pen, paper, and your team (at least two other people with different learning styles).

Draw a circle in the middle of your paper and divide it into five parts. Now, imagine you are Jeffrey and Jessica with their two kids aged 3 and 8 walking into your church. What five areas of the church will they visit? (Hint: I gave you a couple with kids so that you will consider all parts of the church.)

Label the five parts of your circle with these five areas of the church. Now, take your team and enter each of these areas.

Let’s start in the entry area. What would a visual learner see? What would an audio learner hear? How would a kinesthetic learner experience this room? Rate each of these areas on a scale of 0 (that being the inside of the circle) and 10 (the outside of the circle)—how well are you doing at reaching all three learning styles? Fill in the part of the pie pertaining to the part of the church you are in.

After you have gone to the five areas of the church you are focusing on, return to your team meeting room.

Let’s say that you realized on field trip that the entrance to the church doesn’t have a lot of visual, the piped in music gives you a six, and you gave yourself a three because you have arrows pointing the kinesthetic learner toward possible destinations (arrows denote movement). What would it take for you to bring each of those areas up to a six? List a couple of things that would help someone who receives information visually connect with the church on entry. How could you change the entrance to show movement and activity for the kinesthetic information gatherer?

Now move on to each of your areas, seeing it through the information input sensors of other people, and looking for ways to connect them.

A note on overload: Have you ever walked into a place and were so overloaded you had to leave? Your goal isn’t to make sure that every person who walks through the door is 100 percent sensory engaged. They walked through the door for a reason, and they want to engage. Engagement goes two ways. If you are doing all the work, this leaves nothing for them. Instead, look for a healthy balance of engagement, providing opportunities for people to connect through their learning style without overwhelming them.

Here are some ideas that might help:

• Quality large pictures of people in your congregation serving in various capacities help those who are visual and kinesthetic because they engage visually, but show movement.

• Video displays, perhaps with audio, that show places to connect with information online will draw the eye of all three learning styles.

• In the worship center, the ability to move, take notes, express thoughts to a friend or online might help.

Truthfully, I don’t engage through audio well, so I am at a loss for ways to enhance the church environment for audio learners beyond the obvious. Would you mind helping me out in the comments section below? How do you design the worship experience and environment to help people connect with God through their learning style?

Kim Martinez is an ordained Assemblies of God pastor with a Masters of Theology from Fuller Seminary. She is a ministry and life development coach, and can be found online at

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