I have had some wonderful comments come up in my classes. Women who were not too embarrassed to share a moment of vulnerability, a mistake in judgment, or a light bulb moment have all had great impacts on their listeners. I have come to love these women who have faced adversity in many ways and kept their faith, who have handled doubt and come out stronger. Without these students, my classes would have been ho-hum at best.
I haven’t much to add to this after the last subject we discussed. Comments can be motivated by practically all the things that questions can be, both good and bad. As we said last week, we won’t discuss the negative attitudes. No one who cares enough to read these things is likely to have bad attitudes. The same guideline goes for this topic as that one: think of your classmates when you make your comments. I honestly believe that love is what has made my best students so willing to share—to keep others from the same painful mistakes or help them through similar experiences.
I especially appreciate a student who sees that I have not communicated well and has a simpler way to say what she has understood. More than once it has instantly cleared confusion from the other faces. When you do this, though, please make it brief. Too many times we spoil what would have been wonderful by adding too many unnecessary words, words that dilute the effect of the simple explanation and make it once again muddled.
“Muddled” is the perfect word. When you put fresh mint, for example, in the bottom of the pitcher and pound on it with a wooden spoon, you are “muddling” the drink you are making. Instead of being plain tea, it will now be mint tea, or peach, or raspberry, or whatever else you “muddled.” It will no longer be plain and simple tea. In fact, you might not be able to tell what the initial beverage was before you “muddled” all those flavors in it. The simpler the comment, the fewer the words, the better.
And may I say this as kindly as I know how? Class is not the place to show everyone how much you know. I have been in Bible classes where people in the class practically took over and taught it from their seats. I call these “preacher comments.” I’m sorry, dear brothers. I have the utmost respect for what you do, but you are definitely the worst offenders. Then there are the ones who seem to think no one can say it as well as they can. As in the first instance, comments should be brief and to the point.
Comments should also be on the subject. Any time I hear, “I know this is off topic, but...” I groan inwardly. We are supposed to be learning what the teacher is supposed to be teaching us, not some other lesson someone in the pew decided on. The elders have a reason for the classes they choose—at least they should—and no one else should decide what needs to be taught. The shepherds are feeding the flock the things the flock needs, from careful observation and thought. The man in the pew may be feeding them what he thinks they need, and in reality, what he wants them to hear, usurping authority in the process.
And we should make this clear too—just because a class was full of comments does not mean it was a good class. It may very well mean the teacher completely lost control. If you remember nothing else, remember this: anything anyone can come up with off the cuff is far less beneficial than the things the teacher has spent hours preparing—at least it had better be.
So, comments? Yes, please. Brief, on topic, clear and helpful. Always think before you speak—but then that is perfect advice any time.
My students excel in all the areas we have discussed. They are excited learners who work hard and consider one another before themselves. Together we make a safe place to discuss the things we have all wondered about or that trouble us, without having to worry about anyone judging us or spreading our comments and private experiences beyond the classroom doors. What is said in class, stays in class—that is our rule. If every Bible class followed their examples, the church would be more knowledgeable and more loving, just as they are becoming week after week.
Let each one of us please his neighbor for that which is good, unto edifying. For Christ also pleased not himself; but, as it is written, The reproaches of them that reproached thee fell upon me, Rom 15:2,3.