Can members pick up on dishonesty by a teacher? Do they know the difference between example and words? Several of LifeWay’s resources, including the Ten Best Practices, state that the leader is the lesson. No, not all class attenders will know when a teacher is less than honest. But many will. And that is a problem!
What about openness? Can classes detect when a teacher is not open? Does it matter if they know he/she is hiding something? What is the impact when the teacher never reveals any personal information, struggles, or feelings? What if he/she acts invulnerable?
What are the benefits of honesty, openness, and vulnerability for a Sunday School teacher? I enjoyed reading an article recently by Rick Warren entitled How Vulnerability Can Make Your Ministry More Effective. In the article, he lists five reasons why a [teacher] should be honest, open, and vulnerable. Consider his reasons in bold followed by my comments:
- IT’S EMOTIONALLY HEALTHY. Honesty, openness, and vulnerability benefits from confession. Confession is good for the individual and for the body of Christ. It is so much healthier for teachers to be themselves rather than constantly putting on the “perfect” facade. Wearing a mask is distracting and tiring.
- IT’S SPIRITUALLY EMPOWERING. How can a teacher try to hide problems from God? Honesty, openness, and vulnerability should begin with the individual before God. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9, NIV). Dishonesty before God causes the believer to shrink before God much as did Adam and Eve who tried to hide from God in the face of disobedience. Honesty, openness, and vulnerability before God empowers the teacher as an individual and as a communicator of His Word.
- IT’S RELATIONALLY ENDEARING. Some teachers are afraid if they admit they are not perfect that class attenders will think less of them as teachers. But the opposite is true. Attenders will realize they are not the only ones who struggle. The perception of perfection creates a barrier, but honesty, openness, and vulnerability creates connections. Attenders will identify with the teacher. They will pray more for him/her.
- IT ENHANCES YOUR LEADERSHIP. Attenders will learn more from how the teacher deals with struggles than from any perception of perfection. The teacher’s example and realness become powerful and motivating. Following the example appears to be possible.
- IT INCREASES THE IMPACT OF YOUR [TEACHING]. When a teacher honestly, openly, and vulnerably shares about living through a sin, problem, or struggle, it is a personal testimony. Testimonies are compelling. The teacher shares with conviction. The attender listens with interest and support. Teaching then becomes motivating.
How could your teaching benefit from honesty? How could you work some openness into your next lesson? What could you do to be a little more vulnerable this week? Pray. Seek to be honest, open, and vulnerable. Be revolutionary in your teaching!