The “Brave New World” of the 21st Century requires a “Brave New Discipleship” strategy.

When is Less More?

Posted on: May 19, 2015

Less Is More Blog Image

Research shows that the mind retains more from a summary than a full presentation.

A 1982 study by Carnegie-Mellon University demonstrated that learners retain more from a tight summarization of a subject than they do a full presentation.

For this reason, when we teach less, learners may retain more.

In addition to that, most learning is self-generated. Therefore, we must teach the basics and teach them well. That way, the learner has the foundational information he needs to go on with his self-generated learning.

Finally, repetition is the key to mental ownership. So, when these ideas are strung together, we learn that… most people find it easier to get their minds around a concise body of information. If that concise information is complete… that is, gets out to all four corners of the subject even though it may not be very deep… and if that information is repeated enough times… then! a learner can truly master the basics, and possess the tools to go as far as the Lord’s will allows.

There are those who conclude that this results in “dumbing down” the faith. Such, however, is not the case. If done correctly, it creates a foundation for greater learning than otherwise.

In one season of my life, I was with a ministry that was located in downtown Atlanta. Right outside my office window, I witnessed AT&T build their international headquarters. They spent nearly a year digging and creating the foundation. I thought they were never going to finish. I once thought to myself, if they spend that much time on what’s underground, how long is it going to take for them to build the rest of the building.

To my surprise, the 47-story building went up in its entirety in approximately another year. The reality is, the size of the foundation determines the potential of the superstructure. The deeper the foundation, the taller the building. So it is with learning. The deeper the foundation of learning, the higher a person can grow.

When we boil a subject down to its irreducible minimum, teach it well, and supply sufficient repetition, the learner owns the subject in a way not possible before. That foundation is not the most they need to know, it is the least. That learning experience is not the end, it’s the beginning. It’s not the superstructure. It’s the foundation. When we have done our job well with the foundation, it can be a marvel to see the superstructure that is built on it.

When it comes to learning, there are times when less is more.


If you know someone you think may find this blog valuable, please share it with them. I am always glad to hear from readers and you can write to me at max@bravenewdiscipleship.com. I will not be able to reply to all emails, but I will answer some, and I may address in future blogs the questions/issues you raise.