This article is intended to help readers better utilize the new Teaching in the Savior's Way manual that was recently released. Any quotes without references come directly from the manual.
In the first part of this lesson, we talked about the importance of learning to pray for members of your class by name. This helps you become more emotionally involved with each person on a spiritual level. We also talked about the need to cover those things that are most important to your class and not feel like you have to do a system dump on them to cover everything that is available to be taught.
We need to learn to express and demonstrate our increased love and appreciation for people in appropriate ways. This may take some discussion in your teacher councils. Every teacher’s needs and challenges will be different. It is also important to remember that even though everyone needs to be taught the same doctrine and principles, we don’t all learn them in the same way or at the same time. This requires the teacher to be more sensitive as to how people learn and how the material can be presented in such a way to reach even the most difficult students.
The Spirit is the one who really does the teaching. It is He who changes our student’s lives and softens their hearts. Our job is to prepare the best we can then listen to His promptings so we are ready to say and do those things that will open the hearts of our students to the Spirit’s influence. As long as we bring the Spirit into our lessons, He can teach whatever lesson the individual student needs to learn, even if it has nothing directly to do with what you are teaching. Whatever the Spirit teaches is what is most important for that person at that time.
Finally, we get to a point we did not cover in the first part of this lesson. “A gospel teacher does not focus on himself or herself. One who understands that principle will not look upon his or her calling as ‘giving or presenting a lesson,’ because that definition views teaching from the standpoint of the teacher, not the student.” This poses an interesting problem.
In your teacher councils, consider what it is the teacher is really doing. How can we refer to what a teacher does in front of the classroom without referring to it as giving a lesson or presenting a lesson? The teacher should be learning at least as much as all the students, so this perspective that the teacher is not above the hearer of the word is a worthy consideration. Unfortunately, we live in a society where we don’t really have many ways to address thinking of teaching in any other way. This will require some pondering and consideration. Perhaps we could refer to our lessons as doctrinal discussions.
“Your opportunities to teach and lift class members and help them come unto Christ extend beyond the classroom and beyond those who attend your formal lessons.”
Interesting wording. The manual does not say it is our responsibility to go find those who are missing from class. It says it is our opportunity teach and lift those members who do not attend our formal lessons. What does this imply about what blessings might be available to those who take advantage of this opportunity, even though it may not be a direct responsibility?
In the Book of Mormon, Jacob and Joseph were given the responsibility to teach the people the gospel. That was the “end” of their responsibility, their calling. But they took upon themselves a higher responsibility. They told the Lord that if they did not do everything in their power to teach and convince the people to follow Christ, that they would feel responsible for the sins of the people. They wore out their lives teaching the people in any way they could to convince them to repent and turn to the Lord so the blood of the people’s sins would not be on their garments on the judgment day.
This is what President McKay is saying in the story quoted in the lesson. “It is one thing to stand on the shore and cry: ‘Young men, ahoy! There is danger ahead!’ It is another thing to row into the stream and, if possible, get into the boat with the young men, and by companionship, by persuasion, . . . turn the boat from the rapids . . . Let us get into their lives.”
Do you see the risk involved in the story for the man on the shore calling out the warning? Which behavior would have been more personal, more Christlike? Should he have “gone to the rescue” of those lambs who were about to be lost because of their shortsightedness, or was he more Christlike standing on the shore and calling out to the boys to turn around from the danger they were about to face? What would Jesus do?
Most of us consider the boundaries of our calling as teachers to exist within the confines of a classroom and a 50-minute block of time on Sunday. What is President McKay saying about how he viewed our calling as a teacher?
We talked in the previous part of this lesson about learning how to appropriately show love to the members of your class. How would you view the commitment or the love of one of your teachers if they sought you out during the week or at other locations outside of the classroom to encourage you and support you in your gospel progress? If it meant your salvation, where do you think the Savior would show up? What lengths would He go to if He were here?
The point of this section of the manual seems to be that the reasons for distancing ourselves from the gospel are as varied as the reasons we have for drawing closer to the gospel. Often the one who has become less active has no more clue as to how or why it happened than those who are seeking their return to the fold.
The Spirit is the only guide we have for learning and getting at the truth. As we seek to be a blessing in the lives of those who have stopped attending, or are fading in their attendance, the Spirit can give us the inspiration to do what is needed to help them feel encouraged to return.
This is where knowing the names of those in your class, and praying for them individually becomes very important. In order to follow the Spirit and do that which is needed to reach them so they want to return, we need to do whatever we can to learn to love them more deeply and sincerely.
“Because the home is the center of gospel living and learning, your efforts to strengthen a class member will be most effective when you work together with a supportive spouse, children, or extended family members.”
This works in multiple ways.
Sometimes the family is at a loss to figure out how to reach one of their family members. In these cases, we might want to work with the friends and extended relatives of the person we are trying to reach. Sometimes the children being brought to Primary cause the Spirit to increase in their home to the point where the parents begin to come to church. Either way, the family is often the key to reaching a person. If one member of the family can’t help, try another one, or try those in the extended family.
If no one in the family is able or willing to help, there are always those who are friends of the person we are trying to reach. Remember, the Lord won’t send us after someone if they are completely unreachable. They may not respond favorably now, but love is a powerful thing. Even years down the road when their attitudes have changed, they often remember those who loved them and they think fondly of their relationship with those people. Love is always the answer.
Since love is the key to everything, is it any surprise that love is also essential when inviting people to come and participate in our classes? Often people just need to feel wanted or needed in order to feel comfortable enough to get outside their comfort zone and come to church. When first inviting, keep the request simple and non-threatening.
Be sure to show appreciation for their participation. Whether they did a great job or barely did a job, they came, and hopefully felt the Spirit. That is the important part. Notice that it is the simple things that touch people’s hearts, not the show stoppers. Being invited, being included, being appreciated, being loved, these are the things that change people’s lives.
Patience and Persistence
The Savior said, “Unto such shall ye continue to minister; for ye know not but what they will return . . . , and I shall heal them” (3 Nephi 18:32). Isn’t this wonderful? We aren’t held responsible for how people react to our efforts. We aren’t held responsible for whether they choose the right. We are only held responsible for continuing to love and encourage people to do right things. The Lord will heal them when they choose to return to Him.
The Lord will bless those who return to Him. He will heal them and bring peace to their souls, but it is our responsibility to never give up on those the Lord is seeking. We are the shepherds who are out looking for the one lost sheep. And there are many lost sheep, even in an active ward or branch.
“Trusting in the Lord’s timing, keep looking for appropriate ways to show those who do not attend that you love and miss them. You could use personal visits, phone calls, text messages, or other ways. You may be surprised at the long-term influence of your patient, persistent efforts to reach out with love.”
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