In most of our classes, there is much collected experiences and knowledge. And yet, that can be ignored by a teacher using the entire Sunday School hour to share about his study and experiences. Teaching is more than talking; it is also listening. Consider the following:
- Asking Questions. An active way to listen is to ask good questions. Jesus liked questions. Check out Jesus on Asking Good Questions. The best questions require thinking. Questions allow external thinkers to process out loud while internal thinkers process silently–unless given enough time. Questions check on understanding. Responses help attenders own what they are learning.
- Allowing Struggle. Silence after a story or a question can cause some to struggle. Sometimes that shows in listeners asking questions. Don’t always be quick to respond. Let them answer each others questions. I think of Jesus before Pilate. Many of Pilate’s questions were left unanswered, causing Pilate to have to struggle with decisions he had to make.
- Using Silence. Some people are uncomfortable with silence. If you wait long enough after a question, they will fill the silence with an answer–whether right or wrong. I can picture Jesus asking the disciples questions, and Peter could hardly stand for 5 seconds of silence to pass before he needed to respond. Sometimes, however, it is essential to ask the group to wait. Ask questions and ask everyone to wait 30 second to think. That gives internal thinkers time to process and consider a good response. Occasionally, you may also need to ask a talkative attender to allow others to respond.
This might be the most important point. When you listen, do it well. Listen with care. Look people in the eyes. Don’t think about what you will say, but fully listen. Be patient. Listen and try to understand. Ask questions to help understand even more completely.
Teach your class the value of listening. Help them to understand how to listen well. If you rush, they will. If you barely heard what was said, they will. And what you teach about listening will go beyond the classroom. Your example in listening matters much.
Ask questions. Allow struggle. Use silence. And model listening. Make disciples. Be revolutionary!