Inspiration for Health Ministry, by LEM

Knowing the Teachable Moment

Effective Educational Methods in Health Ministry

(For this study, read also: Ministry of Healing Chapter 9)

Health ministry should be patterned after the example of Christ, the Master Teacher.  Whether you are teaching someone one on one or talking to a group, there are some basic principles involved.  Jesus taught us the most effective teaching principles by His example!


1. What are some common mistakes people make in trying to teach others about health?


     Sharing very deep or complex information to those with no background in the subject (leads to boredom and lack of interest).

     Not being sensitive to the individual’s needs.

     Doing too much talking and not allowing questions or feedback.

     Assuming we can change someone by feeding “information” to them

     Suggesting ideas that are impractical, such as recipe ingredients that someone can’t afford or can’t find in their local area.


2. What are some tips for getting your message across?


     Remember that people will not make changes unless they take ownership of the information and have a personal experience of discovery, fueled by the power of Christ’s love and Grace to enable them to change.  So, it’s absolutely important that you allow interaction, questions and allow them to talk and take hold of the information you are presenting – rather than just doing all the talking and trying to tell them what to do or how to change. Let people figure things out for themselves about how they will make changes works better than telling them what to do.  So, asking questions to facilitate their thinking process is more effective than giving statistics about why they should change.  


     For example, ask them questions like “what do you think is a barrier to your making a change on this?” and let them think about it and answer.  Ask other thought questions, leading them to make a decision to change.


     People may often have difficulty understanding your point, especially if you use technical language of health.  Use the tips below to make sure people are more likely to understand and learn from what you are saying;


     Be sensitive to the person listening, your audience.   Are they bored?  Are they interested?  Watch their face for responses and adjust as needed.

     Try different approaches.   Consider that people have different learning styles.

     Be Creative. Most people aren’t interested in a lot of dry facts.  Try to find ways to involve people’s 5 senses in learning (e.g. have colors and flavors, let them get their hands on things instead of doing all demos yourself

     Keep it short and use examples to show what you mean

     Ask feedback questions, such as “do you understand what I’m saying?”

     Keep it fun and relaxing, never be critical or forceful of somoene as they learn

     Use illustrations. Use things from daily life, draw pictures, things in simple language (with the “Woman at the Well” Christ used the practical illustration of what the lady was doing at the moment to teach a spiritual lesson).

     Use parables. Take something people already know about and connect it with something that they don’t know about.

     Ask questions all throughout your teaching – this is one of the best ways to draw people in and get them actively involved!



3. What is a “Teachable Moment” and why is that important?


     A teachable moment arises when people sense a strong need or desire to change.  Usually because they are feeling pain, sorrow or a sense of weakness, etc.  For example, after someone has lost a family member to heart disease they may be more open to learning about foods that can prevent heart disease.


     Teachable moments are important because people often won’t listen if they don’t feel a personal need for the information you are presenting.   This is why general information about heart disease presented to a crowd of people won’t be that likely to help them prevent heart disease.  But if you know people personally and can gently share a little information as they are ready to hear it and as they seem to be in need of it you can make a much bigger difference in their lives!


This shows the importance of getting to know people personally in order to do effective teaching!


You can bring about a teachable moments, and this is important for helping people more learn effectively.  Because of the way our brains work, teachable moments can often come from a physical experience which causes them to think about their health.  For example, squeezing someone’s arm to take their blood pressure and then sharing the BP results with them will cause them to be more interested in learning about health measures to maintain good blood pressure, much more than if you tried to just give them the same information without checking their blood pressure!


This works because our brains are usually busy thinking about hundreds of different things, but when you create a physical experience that is very personal and related to the subject you will teach about it has a powerful effect to get their interested in hearing about it.


     Jesus did this same thing by washing the disciples feet. The disciples were often bickering about who was the greatest, even though He tried to show them humility.  But when He washed their feet the water was a strong sensory-neuro experience that riveted their attention, along with demonstration of humility and His caring and personal attention to them in that moment – so they calmed down and became ready to listen to Him.


     Besides checking blood pressure, other ways you can help bring about a teachable moment by causing someone to feel a personal need of the information before you share it include;


- Asking health questions which including personal feelings such as energy level, ability to sleep, level of pain, etc.

- Asking them to talk about their family history of disease (might be effective to help them think about wanting to change if they personally see a family member suffering from a disease, for example).

- Massaging knots in shoulders (anything that involves a slight bit of pain might draw their mind into an awareness of their physical needs and an interest in general health improvement).

- Giving an exercise test (if you’re qualified to do that)



4. What are some barriers that keep people from wanting to change?


     Problem; not liking to try foreign or strange new things

                  To help reduce this problem, try to keep things as similar to what they’re already used to as possible.   For example, don’t introduce them to totally new recipes which they have never tried before.  Instead, try to find healthier ways to make the same recipes that they already love, but with substituted healthier ingredients.


    Problem; lack of follow up with health goals

                 Sometimes people don’t change their health practices because they didn’t make a detailed plan for how they will change, and run into problems.  You can help prevent this by sharing with them that you will be checking with them to see how they are doing an encourage them.  Also encourage them to keep a journal of their progress and how they feel so that they can see the difference on paper.  Encourage a family member or friend to check with them about their plan also, to help encourage them.  Encourage them to discuss their feelings and thoughts when they think they have had a relapse into old behaviors.  Don’t be pushy, just gently encourage them to explore what happened and what they would like to do differently next time.  Encourage them to stay connected to God and develop a strong relationship with Christ, as this has been shown to be very effective at helping people make lasting health changes.


     Problem; social environment/influences promote continued unhealthful behaviors

                For example, it’s harder to quit smoking when people around you smoke also.   Sometimes its good to encourage someone to seek a different environment, such as to seek friendship among non-smoking church members more than buddies who smoke, for someone who is trying to quit smoking.  Family members can sometimes become willing to participate in supporting efforts if they understand that the person’s health is at risk (especially in cases where someone has been diagnosed with disease related to the lifestyle behavior they are wanting to change).


     Problem; lifestyle changes seem impractical because people are to busy to exercise, or can’t seem to afford new, expensive ingredients for healthy foods they feel they should need to make.

                You can help people work through these problems by discussing practical and simple options to make changes that will require minimal effort.  For example, if someone doesn’t seem to have time to exercise, encourage them to think about parking further away in the parking lot to get a little walking done when coming and going to work.  Also, help them find ideas for very simple and quick, but healthful as well as inexpensive foods they could make which also are similar to the types of things they like to eat and have familiar flavors.


5. What are some ideas for encouraging people who are trying to make health changes?


     Encourage them to make small changes step by step

     Use transitions and substitutes (for example, foods must be richer in things such as oil, sugar, salt at first when transitioning from unhealthful diets, otherwise they might be in danger of rejecting it altogether.  It’s better for someone to eat healthful foods and vegetables, etc. which are richer in salt and oil than to continue eating more junk food.  As they get used to the more healthful foods they can gradually reduce oil, salt, sugar more toward ideal)

     Encourage self-praise for small victories instead of shame and guilt for small failures

     Emphasize keeping connected to Christ’s love and kindness as the strongest Source to help them change

     “See one, Do one, Teach one.”  One of the biggest motivators for change is to get people teaching others the new things they’re learning.


6. What’s the most important part of any Christian health program?


     To keep the Gospel in every presentation!  Making spirituality a strong part of any efforts to change is essential to success, as well as to helping people find eternal life and salvation!  Our goal is not just to help people live a few more years on earth – it is to help them live for eternity! 


     -Pray with those who are willing before starting to perform any health care

     -Make spiritual points sometimes when talking about the health matters.  For example, when talking about blood pressure you can mention how trusting in God can help people relax which will reduce their stress hormones.

     -Set an example of the kindness of Christ to those you are working with.

     -Helping people realize their great worth and value in God’s eyes can be a strong motivation.  Sometimes people don’t take care of their bodies because they have low self-worth and feel they aren’t very important to anyone.


Ellen White Quotes:

Who was Ellen White? ; Ellen White named by Smithsonian among the 100 most significant Americans of all time , EGW Link 2



His messages of mercy were varied to suit His audience. He knew "how to speak a word in season to him that is weary" (Isa. 50:4); for grace was poured upon His lips, that He might convey to men in the most attractive way the treasures of truth. He had tact to meet the prejudiced minds, and surprise them with illustrations that won their attention. Through the imagination He reached the heart. His illustrations were taken from the things of daily life, and although they were simple, they had in them a wonderful depth of meaning. The birds of the air, the lilies of the field, the seed, the shepherd and the sheep,--with these objects Christ illustrated immortal truth; and ever afterward, when His hearers chanced to see these things of nature, they recalled His words. Christ's illustrations constantly repeated His lessons. {Desire of Ages 254.2}   



Jesus met the people on their own ground, as one who was acquainted with their perplexities. He made truth beautiful by presenting it in the most direct and simple way. His language was pure, refined, and clear as a running stream. His voice was as music to those who had listened to the monotonous tones of the rabbis. But while His teaching was simple, He spoke as one having authority. This characteristic set His teaching in contrast with that of all others. The rabbis spoke with doubt and hesitancy, as if the Scriptures might be interpreted to mean one thing or exactly the opposite. The hearers were daily involved in greater uncertainty. But Jesus taught the Scriptures as of unquestionable authority. Whatever His subject, it was presented with power, as if His words could not be controverted. { Desire of Ages 253.5}


Yet He was earnest, rather than vehement. He spoke as one who had a definite purpose to fulfill. He was bringing to view the realities of the eternal world. In every theme God was revealed. Jesus sought to break the spell of infatuation which keeps men absorbed in earthly things. He placed the things of this life in their true relation, as subordinate to those of eternal interest; but He did not ignore their importance. He taught that heaven and earth are linked together, and that a knowledge of divine truth prepares men better to perform the duties of everyday life. He spoke as one familiar with heaven, conscious of His relationship to God, yet recognizing His unity with every member of the human family. { Desire of Ages 254.1}