My wife has a saying posted in our kitchen, “Always Assume Positive Intent.” I like that, especially when it refers to her assumptions about me!
I’d like to have that same attitude toward my class members. After all, if they’re attending, it must be for all the right reasons, right? Well, maybe…
In workshop settings, I have asked teachers, “why do your class members attend?” Responses often include, “to see friends,” “out of habit,” or “their spouse makes them.” “Meantime,” I ask the teachers, “what are you hoping will happen?” Common answers include “insightful discussions,” “deep Bible study,” or “relevant application.”
Those are very different sets of expectations!
If class members come expecting nothing – if they are present because of the force of habit or the force of haranguing – you’ve got a real uphill climb to get them involved in an insightful discussion.
How can you transform your attitude about their attitude?
1. Assume positive intent. Assume that there is something about this class and this lesson that is good for the soul and that this class member wants “good for my soul” experiences – even if this is not evident on the surface.
2. Assume that something will be said or experienced in each class session to deepen our love for God and our neighbors.
3. Assume that you’re not the only one working on this session. God’s Spirit is also at work. God can work through the Biblical text, through a fellow class member’s participation, through bringing a memory to mind – and in ways you cannot predict.
Teach as a partner with the Spirit of God and assume that the Spirit of God has positive intent for your class session.
In 2017, I published the book, An Alphabet of Errors: How to Teach the Bible Better. This excerpt is the first letter and first chapter of twenty-six. You can purchase the book from Amazon here. – Rick Jordan