The Art of Welcoming & The 7 Laws of the Learner, Law No. 1

***My #1 love in ministry is teaching and helping people learn (which, at its root, is ‘making disciples’).  Recently, I led our teaching faculty in a workshop where we looked at The Art of Welcoming and The 7 Laws of the Learner (Law No. 1.) 

This content comes from almost 40 years of ministry.  But I am still learning.  And the more I learn, the more I discover I don’t know.  I do reference a few other articles and references such as Thom & Jonai Shulz’, ‘Why Nobody Learns Much of Anything at Church and How to Fix it.’ 

I am always reading, asking questions, and looking for ways to improve what I do.  So, it occurred to me that, perhaps, some might enjoy taking a look at the notes I prepared for our teachers.  Maybe it will provide helpful food-for-thought?  Maybe not. 🙂

Enjoy, nw

7 Laws of the Learner with The Art of Welcoming & Law No. 1

Student Notes from our Recent Time of Learning & Training

PART 1:  THE ART OF WELCOMING

PART 2: A THEOLOGICAL FRAMEWORK for LEADING SMALL GROUPS

***CAVEAT: We can’t control what a student can, or chooses to, learn.

  • Sure, Mr. Myagi told Daniel in the 1984 film, The Karate Kid, ‘No bad student; only bad teacher.’  I wish this were true, but it’s not. This is a fallacy, having no truth whatsoever.
  • You can assign a poor teacher to the best students and find the students still excel, while you can assign the best teacher to the worst students and find the students still fail.
  • We all know multitudes of fantastic teachers who pour their heart and soul into students only to discover that a student has learned little, if anything at all. Why is that? It could be one, or a combination, of many factors.
    • Of course, it could be due to a learning disability.
    • Or, that student may be from the kind of home context in which I grew up i.e. extreme violence, addiction, zero parental involvement, fear, anxiety, an acute inability to focus or comprehend, etc.
    • Or, they may have simply made up their mind they have no interest in learning. It’s the old, “you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make them drink,” principle.
    • Bottom line, sometimes the ability for these types of students to learn has nothing to do with the valiant effort of their teacher.
  • Wilkinson affirms, “While we unequivocally state that the teacher is responsible, we must quickly add that this responsibility is shouldered by others as well: the students, their parents, other related and interested individuals, and society in general. The teacher is not solely responsible for the students.”
  • Wilkinson serves up some clarification by contrasting the Law of the Learner with the Law of the Student.
    • The Law of the Student states that the student is responsible to learn, regardless of the quality of the teacher.
  • So rest easy. If you know you’re leading with love, warmth, compassion, as well as preparing responsibly – and your students aren’t learning – there’s a reason for that.  And we all understand.
  • In sumEven the Master Teacher Himself had students with no intention of learning.
    • The Rich Young Ruler (Mark 10:17-27) represents the entitled and arrogant.
    • The “many” in John 6:66 who, in essence, told Jesus “whatever” and never followed him again represent the indifferent, the “who cares?” attitude.
    • Finally, on a more intense level, the Sadducees and Pharisees, who represent anger and pride, attacked not only Jesus’ content but also His reputation and eventually His life.
  • Wilkinson adds: “Don’t allow yourself to retreat into the false conceit that when you teach for the right reasons and with all your heart, everything is automatically going to be wonderful.”

CONTENT vs. COMMUNICATION

  • Wilkinson writes, “Much has been written about teaching that is Christian, but even a brief survey of the material quickly shows that the literature focuses upon the content of what is taught rather than the communication of how it is taught. Certainly, the basis of all life change is the truth which sets one free, but how that truth is communicated has a great deal to do with how much freedom is enjoyed.”
    • In other words, the best content is neutered if the students can’t understand it as it is being taught.
  • But we pride ourselves in appearing ‘scholarly’, right? Well, we all know some who do.
    • Galli & Larson – “When we are more impressed with our teaching than the student it becomes a slippery slope.”
    • At its root, this is undiluted pride. “I want to sound smart.  I want to remind the sheep I know more than they do, etc. Whether or not they get it is their fault.”
    • “For pride is spiritual cancer: it eats up the very possibility of…love and common sense.” ―C.S. Lewis
  • Teach in a way that your students can pick up what you’re putting down. Never think for a moment everyone in your class has even a rudimentary understanding of scripture (biblical illiteracy is at an alarming level among Christians) – or that they’re all even saved!
  • Remember, teaching, according to God, is “causing to learn.” This is precisely why Jesus would pick up a handful of salt while walking along with his disciples, or point to a city on a hill, or compare the kingdom of heaven to a treasure hidden in a field, and so on. He was always connecting with his listeners, finding common ground with the world in which they live, doing whatever was necessary to help them ‘connect the dots.’ Always work as much on communication as on content.
  • When preparing your content and communication keep in mind the old saying, “The mind can only comprehend what the seat can endure.” We have a short amount of time to connect with our class and communicate in a way they can learn the content (which is why I often urge you to start on time).  So, never hesitate to edit your content.  Keep it simple.  As one preacher said, “Place the hay where the sheep can reach it.”  Keep in mind, you’ve been working on your lesson for days. You’ve sorted through the logic and greater context of the lesson.  But, your class is hearing it for the very first time.  They deserve to have the content communicated in a manner in which they can think about it and sort it out through discussion. Spurgeon, who knew a thing or two about teaching, once said,
    • “We may say too much in a single sermon; we may give a field of wheat instead of a loaf of bread.”
  • Content that is theologically and doctrinely sound is of utmost importance. There’s no disagreement on this. But, if our communication of the content is of little importance the content is wasted.

CONCLUSION

A picture/video says a thousand words: The following short video is the story of Derek Redmond and his 400 meter race in the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona, Spain.  Without spoiling the story, just know that the aid Redmond receives is representative of the help and comfort we receive from God when we are hurting, and also the help we, in turn, are able to give to our class members who are hurting.

April 2021

Nick Watts