EFFECTIVE teaching includes the use of repetition. When an important point is stated more than once, those in attendance are more likely to remember it. If the idea is restated in a slightly different way, they may even be able to understand it more clearly.
If your listeners do not remember what you say, your words will not influence what they believe or how they live. They will probably continue thinking about points to which you give special emphasis.
Jehovah, our Grand Instructor, sets the pattern for us in his use of repetition. He gave the Ten Commandments to the nation of Israel. Through an angelic spokesman, he caused the nation to hear those commandments at Mount Sinai. Later he gave them to Moses in written form. (Ex. 20:1-17; 31:18; Deut. 5:22) At Jehovah’s direction, Moses restated those commandments to the nation before they entered the Promised Land, and by means of holy spirit, Moses made a record of that, as found at Deuteronomy 5:6-21. Among the commandments given to Israel was the requirement that they love and serve Jehovah with their whole heart, soul, and vital force. This too was stated again and again. (Deut. 6:5; 10:12; 11:13; 30:6) Why? Because, as Jesus said, it was “the greatest and first commandment.” (Matt. 22:34-38) Through the prophet Jeremiah, Jehovah reminded the people of Judah more than 20 times about the seriousness of obeying him in all the things that he commanded them. (Jer. 7:23; 11:4; 12:17; 19:15) And through Ezekiel, God stated more than 60 times that the nations “will have to know that I am Jehovah.”—Ezek. 6:10; 38:23.
In the record of the ministry of Jesus, we also observe effective use of repetition. There are, for example, the four Gospels—each one covering important events that are reported in one or more of the other Gospels but viewing these events from slightly different angles. In his own teaching, Jesus covered the same basic point of instruction on more than one occasion but in different ways. (Mark 9:34-37; 10:35-45; John 13:2-17) And while on the Mount of Olives a few days before his death, Jesus used repetition to emphasize this vital counsel: “Keep on the watch, . . . because you do not know on what day your Lord is coming.”—Matt. 24:42; 25:13.
In the Field Ministry. When you witness to people, you hope that they will remember what you say. Effective use of repetition can help to achieve that goal.
Frequently, repetition at the time a matter is being discussed will help impress it on a person’s mind. Thus, after reading a scripture, you could emphasize it by pointing to a key portion of it and asking, “Did you notice how that text is worded?”
The final sentences in a conversation can also be used effectively. For example, you might say: “The main point that I hope you will remember from our conversation is . . .” Then restate it simply. It might be something like this: “God’s purpose is that the earth be transformed into a paradise. That purpose is sure to be realized.” Or possibly: “The Bible clearly shows that we are living in the last days of this system of things. If we are going to survive its end, we need to learn what God requires of us.” Or it could be: “As we have seen, the Bible offers practical counsel on how to cope with problems of family life.” In some cases you may simply repeat a quotation from the Bible as the point to be remembered. Of course, doing this effectively requires forethought.
On return visits, including Bible studies, your use of repetition may involve review questions.
When a person finds it difficult to understand or to apply Bible counsel, you may need to bring the subject up on more than one occasion. Endeavor to approach it from various angles. The discussions do not have to be lengthy but should encourage the student to keep thinking about the matter. Remember, Jesus used this sort of repetition in helping his disciples overcome the desire to be in first place.—Matt. 18:1-6; 20:20-28; Luke 22:24-27.
When Giving Discourses. If you give talks from the platform, your objective is not merely to present information. You want the audience to understand it, to remember it, and to apply it. To achieve that, make good use of repetition.
If you repeat the main points too often, however, you may lose the attention of your audience. Carefully select points that deserve special emphasis. These usually are the main points around which your talk is developed, but they may also include other thoughts that will be of special value to your audience.
To make use of repetition, you might first outline your main points in the introduction. Do that with short statements that provide a broad overview of what you will cover, with questions, or with brief examples that pose problems to be resolved. You might state how many main points there are and list them by number. Then develop each of those points in the body of your talk. Emphasis can be reinforced in the body of your talk by restating each main point before going on to the next one. Or it can be accomplished by using an example that involves application of the main point. Further emphasis can be given to your main points by using a conclusion that restates them, highlights them by using contrasts, answers the questions that were raised, or briefly sets out solutions to the problems that were posed.
In addition to the above, an experienced speaker observes carefully the individuals who make up his audience. If some of them find a certain idea difficult to grasp, the speaker is aware of it. If the point is important, he covers it again. However, repeating the same words may not accomplish his purpose. There is more to teaching than that. He must be adaptable. He may need to make impromptu additions to his talk. Your learning to cope with the needs of the audience in this way will determine to a great extent your effectiveness as a teacher.