My classes are peppered with questions. I am thrilled that these ladies are not too embarrassed to ask, and confident in how I will accept those questions. Yes, there are unwelcome questions, but the difference between them and the good questions should be obvious to anyone.
This guideline takes care of almost everything: don’t be selfish in your questions. Consider the effects on the other class members. Consider who might be listening to you, including babes in Christ and outsiders from the community. Remember that there may be visitors passing through or people moving in, “shopping” for a new church home. Consideration for others should be the main characteristic of a Christian, even in Bible classes. I seldom have a problem with questions like that, unlike my brothers who teach auditorium classes, and my wonderful students deserve all the credit for that. Here are some other guidelines, most of which I have never had to deal with.
Questions that are so far off the subject they give everyone mental whiplash are not appropriate. One wonders, in fact, if the student has been listening and considering the class material at all, or simply letting his mind wander. A good teacher arrives with a goal and a plan to reach it. When you dig a pothole in the road with an unrelated question, you can seriously hinder progress in the journey to that goal.
Recently a teacher I know was asked, “Would you please comment on…” and because the subject was totally removed from the point of the lesson and not one he could have intelligently answered without study, he simply said, “No, that’s not something I am prepared to talk about.” Some might criticize him, but I won’t. He had the best interests of the class at heart. As their leader, it was up to him to reach the goal of the lesson, not be sidetracked by something that didn’t even have a black and white answer in the scriptures. It’s time we supported our teachers and the risks they take to their reputation, when anything they say can be misconstrued and often is, instead of sitting back taking the easy, judgmental way out and joining the bandwagon in criticizing them. If you have one of those questions, please save it for private conversations with the teacher. Do not disrupt the learning of others because you have a private problem.
This is especially true in the Sunday morning adult class where you never know who may be there. A smaller class with a defined sub-purpose of encouragement may stop for a moment if someone is in need. Many of my women’s classes have done exactly that, but even then, we were conscious of who was present. If I deemed it inappropriate at that particular moment, I gently suggested a private moment after class. Usually several others, mature women who made it a point to be aware of what was going on, stayed with me and the one in need received the attention she required. I learned this the hard way, after allowing classes to continue on a distracting course, which ultimately led to damaged relationships because I was too afraid of hurting feelings. Tell me which is worse, a permanently injured bond between sisters in the Lord or a momentarily bruised ego that was soothed as soon as possible? We have said this before—teachers must sometimes make hard, spur-of-the-moment decisions. If you can’t, then you shouldn’t teach.
Then there are those who seek to mask an agenda with their questions, or who have a major hobby they wish to broach at every opportunity, or who have a vendetta against the teacher. I would assume that none of those even care to be reading this, so we won’t deal with them here. Let me just add this: I have seen young teachers in adult classes discouraged to the point of never teaching again because no one but him was brave enough to take on a sinner. Shame on the leadership of a church when that happens.
As I said, the wrong questions are usually obvious. Sometimes, though, an honest person simply needs a little direction. It is easy when you are in the middle of a personal problem, to forget one’s obligations to others.
A class full of questioners is a teacher’s dream, a dream I have fulfilled every week by some wonderful women. Don’t be embarrassed to ask the questions that need asking.
After three days they found [Jesus] sitting in the Temple, listening to them and asking them questions, Luke 2:46.