Instruction vs. Training

When I worked in business services at a local community college, I helped companies set up customized training programs for employees. During that time, I also witnessed the shift from instruction to training in many traditional college classrooms as well. Community colleges as a whole began to understand the value of instruction plus training rather than just instruction alone.

Instruction involves knowledge imparted with the onus on the person teaching. Those receiving instruction choose either activity or passivity, but instruction takes place regardless.

Training also involves instruction but holds the added element of acquiring knowledge, skills, and competencies as a result. Training requires active participation by both instructor and student.

Training also involves assessing needs and customizing learning. While all individuals may receive the same information, training allows for individuals to receive information in a way unique to how they learn.

Needs Assessment

As a parent, I learned the valuable difference between training and instructing when we adopted our youngest son. Up to that point our oldest son had received a lot of instruction, but his comfortable life failed to involve the practical application that training brings.

Our youngest son, on the other hand, lived through a rather brutal training program called “survival.” But, a huge void existed in the area of instruction in character.

Seeing the contrast between our two boys taught me the value of training based on individual needs. Bob Sorge gets at this idea to in The Fire of Delayed Answers:

“We need more than instruction – we need training. And training means pain. [God] gives us the pain of His merciful intention to preserve our souls to the coming of the Lord Jesus.” (Chapter 4)

Our oldest had plenty of instruction. He lived a comfortable life as an only child, going to church regularly and learning right from wrong. He knew little of pain, though, and as a result struggles today with change but does so with consistently solid character.

Our youngest had pain but not instruction. He lived life not knowing where his next meal would come from or where he would sleep at night. He knew discomfort, but he had little instruction to help that training shape him positively. Today, he struggles with consistently maintaining solid character when life gets tough.

Customized Training

While both our boys needed training and instruction to teach them to not allow circumstances dictate behavior and attitude, they needed that training customized based on their unique needs. Both received instruction on living according to God’s Word, but our oldest needed more hands-on training through struggle while our youngest needed more instruction on handling struggles with Godly character instead of merely surviving them.

Sorge emphasizes the importance of training by saying:

“Instructing and teaching our kids will never be sufficient. We need to find ways to train our kids and to allow God to train them as well.” (Chapter 4)

We mistakenly protected our oldest too much at times, not to the extreme as David did with Solomon, but enough to handicap his ability to handle change well. Fortunately, we learned our lesson, made the necessary adjustments, and he received more Godly training.

Sorge expresses that lesson by saying,

“God fashions caves for His choice sons; wise parents would do well to permit their children cave experiences within God’s purposes as well, rather than asserting the instinctive tendency to try to steer them clear of pain.” (Chapter 4)

For our oldest, we encouraged challenging situations by letting him make more of his own choices. For our youngest, we used his many cave experiences to instruct him on living with Godly character. For both, we instructed along the way but allowed God to provide the training opportunities.

The long-term success of an individual lies with submitting to God’s training program, which allows for applying instruction received to real-life situations. God’s training through brokenness, while incredibly challenging, produces true faith.

“God wants us to see that our faith should not waiver whether we feel good in ourselves or whether we feel completely undone.” (Sorge, Chapter 4)

Truly, a consistent faith that honors God above all lies at the heart of God’s training program. Actually, that type of faith is God’s heart for us.