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7 Laws of the Learner: Equipping in all areas of life

“Equipping in all areas of life”

At Walk Thru the Bible, I regularly encourage our leadership team with the motto: When you want a perfect product, then perfect the underlying process.

When you want effective teachers (perfect product), you must develop and manage an effective and ongoing teacher-training curriculum (perfect the process).
The five steps of the Equipping Method are universal and work for any person in any place with any students and for any skill. They are equally effective no matter if you are training a person to play tennis, ride a horse, preach a sermon, witness in the community, or run the household budget. This process works between teacher and student, parent and child, boss and employee – in virtually any relationship.
You are undoubtedly already using some or all of these steps, but bringing them all to your attention will enable you in the future to sense exactly what needs to be done and in what order. Often when the training process is not working well, it’s either because a major step has been left out or because a step has been presented in the wrong order.

Step 1: Instruct
The first step in teaching a skill is to “instruct” the students with the basic facts and information regarding the skill. The teacher is to “educate” the students and “prepare” them with the required foundational truths upon which the skill is based.
By the end of this first step, your students should feel relaxed about how the skill you’re equipping them with works. Up to this point, you should stay in the factual presentation stage.

Step 2: Illustrate
The second step of teaching a skill is to “illustrate” to the students what the skill actually looks like when it is being used. “Expose” them to the use of the information of the first step as the skill is practiced. Give them an actual “preview” so that the words of the first step become a living picture in this step. You should move them from “I understand” to “I see”.
We must not allow ourselves to define equipping as merely the ability to repeat information from memory. Knowing how to do something in our mind is not the same as doing it in real life.

Step 3: Involve
The third step of teaching a skill is to “involve” students in actually doing the skill themselves. At this point the students need to “experience” the skill firsthand. Lead them in a “practicum” so that you move them from “I understand” and “I see” to the “I’m doing it” stage.
Until this step, the students remain passive. In the first step they head about the skill, and in the second they watch the skill. Now they practice the skill themselves.
This is when the ideal becomes real. School knowledge transitions to street knowledge. As the teacher, your responsibility is to practice the skill with them as a player-coach. be close to them, always encouraging their every effort.
This middle step, then, is the important pivot or hinge of the equipping method. It greatly determines the degree of success your students will ultimately enjoy. Therefore, more than any other step, you must pay careful attention to the progress and emotional stability of your students during the practice stage. If they experience a disaster full of embarrassment and disappointment, you can be sure your equipping won’t be very effective. But if you can insure that they enjoy a wonderful learning experience, that they feel good about themselves and their achievements, then the remainder of the process will be a pleasure.
Make sure your students succeed! Don’t count the score at this stage, only sheer the prices. Normal students are full of insecurity and anxiety, so affirm everything they do. Guarantee the success of this step by taking all risk of failure and embarrassment out of the picture. Never throw students into he deep end to sink or swim. They should leave this third step loving the process and wanting more!

Step 4: Improve
The fourth step of teaching a skill is to “improve” the students’ newly obtained skills. At this point the students need to develop and become more “efficient” as they “perform” the skill over and over again. You should move them from “I understand” and “I see” and “I’m doing it” to the “I’m getting much better” stage.
The process of improvement is an unending one for all who wish to be champions, so this step could be viewed as never being completed. The acquisition of a skill beckons all of us to grow from the novice to the intermediate to the expert to the champion. At Walk Thru the Bible, we call this “The Relentless Pursuit of Excellence”.

As equippers, we want to bring out the highest and best in the natural talents and gifts of our students. Our calling is to cause our students to blossom to their fullest potential.
The needs of our students vary. Some need to be pushed out of the nest while others need to be held in the nest until they develop a few more feathers. As the teacher, we must be aware of the needs of each student and risk her momentary displeasure if we have to hold her back or push her forward before she thinks she is ready.
The goal of this fourth stage is to develop students to the point of competence so that without our guidance or even presence they can fully perform the skill with excellence.
When we equip someone, we train him to the level of competence.
Since the goal of true education is to train a person to the point of competent and independent use of that skill, this step is absolutely crucial. Ephesians 4:11-16 doesn’t present us with the challenge to equip the saints to “know” about the work, but to equip the saints to “do” the work. Therefore, shouldn’t we validate our equipping not merely on the basis of factual answers on test, but also on the basis of our students’ specific achievements?
Further development must include equipping in advanced skills as well as the accompanying strategies necessary to become an outstanding user of the skills. The more advanced our students become, the more we must help them refine their techniques and advance their personal style.

Step 5: Inspire
The final step of teaching a skill is to “inspire” students to continue using their skill. Over time, your influence becomes much more indirect and your role will be to “encourage” a lifestyle of not only using the skill but also of “passing it on” to others.
You should move your students from “I understand”, “I see”, “I’m doing it”, and “I’m getting much better” to the “I’ll keep it going” stage.
Teachers who train at this stage are the real equippers – the champions of the cause. They have the vision to pass it on. They skillfully guide their students from being spectators to becoming learners to becoming teachers and eventually becoming equippers of the other teachers. They understand that there is far more power in reproducing oneself that just in doing it yourself.  They do anything and everything to continue the ongoing development of their students. They won’t let their students go when they threaten to quit. They continue to nurture and encourage and cajole and do whatever it takes to coach a team to the top.
It’s a delight to realize that our players have outdistanced their teacher. Isn’t that the whole point of equipping – to help our students run faster than we can, run farther than we can, run smarter than we can, and run with more resolve that we do?
The optimum aim of equipping is to train students who outperform their coach.
May your heart respond with deep commitment to “train the faithful to teach others also.” May you enable others who look to you for leadership to stand on your shoulders. May the fire that burns in you heart kindle the coals of others who follow you.
Do this and you will realize you are expending your life in ways that will far outlive you – and make an impact that will last forever. Then perhaps a century from now, when we watch from glory our “spiritual great grandchildren” bear fruit that lasts forever, some of the will say, “It all started back a hundred years ago when (your name) equipped my great grandfather in the faith.”

Taken from The 7 Laws of the Learner Textbook Edition. Bruce H. Wilkinson, Sisters, Oregon: Multnomah, 1992.

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