Why listening to sermons doesn’t necessarily help you change

Many people have this kind of experience.

You go to church. You’re super inspired by the sermon. You go home, and nothing changes over your week.

You’re still battling anxiety.

You still have to care for a sick child, spouse, or parent.

You still have to face that difficult work situation.

If we’re honest – and this IS an honest space – sermons don’t necessarily lead us to change.

Even if you take notes, you’re likely to never look at that page again or remember what was said.

Or where to start.


3 steps to change

Change is hard.

It involves struggle, and most of us avoid that like the plague.

Research has shown that three specific things make it hard for people to change:

  • They aren’t sure exactly what steps need to be taken.
  • They aren’t emotionally connected to the idea of change.
  • They face obstacles that make it difficult to change.

If you want to experience lasting change from the teachings you listen to, here are some steps to follow.

1. Digest learning in small chunks

Big changes aren’t made with big solutions.

They’re made with a sequence of small steps, usually made over a series of weeks, months, and years.

Here’s a real-life example of this principle at work.

During his team’s practices, John Wooden, the legendary basketball coach of UCLA, ran a series of short 5- to 15-minute drills where he would explain in precise detail what to do, demonstrate it, and then have the players repeatedly do it until they got it right.

His philosophy was to break the game of basketball into small chunks and teach one chunk at a time.

One of his sayings was, “Don’t look for the big improvement. Seek the small improvement one day at a time. That’s the only way it happens—and when it happens, it lasts.”

If you really want learning to lead to transformation, the best way to approach it is to learn in small chunks.

Grab hold of one or two concepts in the message you listen to, and review them throughout the week or month.

Incorporate action steps alongside these concepts if possible.

2. Learn from stories

Teaching in small chunks removes uncertainty, but on its own, it usually isn’t enough to motivate you to begin to change.

To do that, you need to appeal to your mind and heart.

The best way to make an emotional connection is from stories that provide a mental image of a better future.

These kinds of stories will lead you to think things like, “If that person can do it, so can I,” or “I want to be like that.”

The Draw Near app uses stories in our proprietary learning method. Check it out!

3. Get mentoring support

Coaching or mentoring is the final key to lasting change.

A personal mentor or pastor can coach you through the process of change.

Another way to support your growth is to set an “action trigger,” a pre-made decision to do something when a particular scenario or circumstance arises.

This will make it easier to deal with the obstacles you face.

For example, if you’re dealing with a difficult person at work and meetings are a challenge to get through, work through past scenarios that have led you to become angry or respond in a way you didn’t want to.

Create some ready-made responses you can rehearse (and perhaps store in your phone) and have access to in the moment.

The Draw Near app is built on these three principles. Try the app for free for seven days to learn in small chunks, digest stories that support the learning, and take advantage of in-app mentoring to guide you to interact with God.

Check out the Draw Near app. It takes practices from the Bible, each one connecting us with God, so that our burdens can become God’s burdens. Each practice includes a set of simple, straightforward steps, as well as entertaining and inspiring stories to illustrate someone using the practice. In addition, the app offers numerous sessions guided by mentors, each deeply grounded and experienced in using the practices.