Imagine being an expectant first-time mother or father taking a parenting class. The instructor starts out talking about early infancy, and all of the pregnant women and their husbands are nodding and taking notes. But then their expressions become increasingly puzzled as he moves on to academic difficulties in elementary school, dealing with rebellious teenagers, the importance of saving for college, and empty nest syndrome. By the time the class is over, they’re looking stunned and glazed over, and the instructor dismisses them with, “Okay, now go out there and parent!”

We can’t frontload content like that and expect it to be effective. Just when a parent masters the baby stage, that baby turns into a toddler. What we need is follow-up at each stage along the way, step-by-step. Some form of relational coaching—monthly or more frequent—needs to be offered as a piece of that follow-up. Often people aren’t sure what the next step is after learning some information; they need someone along the way to help them figure it out and help them stay on track. Life itself has a tendency to distract us from what’s truly important. How we use the information we have learned is, in a sense, more important than the information itself.