The Temptation of Pragmatism
Have you ever felt completely helpless to regain control over your classroom using a biblically driven methodology? Concentrating on teaching children a biblical approach to a subject is easily sidelined when you are concentrating on keeping the students from erupting into a cacophony of chaos. Worse, you could end up teaching them an unbiblical approach to life if you deal with their sinful actions in pragmatic ways that are more consistent with secular psychology. Maybe your classroom is a model of discipline because you know plenty of practical methods to get students to behave. But, as you know, simply getting students to behave is not the end goal. The end goal is to disciple children to practice godliness because of their own inward desire to see God glorified (Titus 2:11–14).
Rewards Are Biblical
Let me be clear that I’m not opposed to rewarding students for a job well done. (When I was a teacher, I used a mystery box to reward my students.) Rewarding students can be done in a manner that is consistent with God’s practice of rewarding His children (1 Corinthians 3:14; 2 Timothy 4:8; James 1:12; 1 Peter 5:4). Pursuing the blessing of the reward is a legitimate motivation when that motivation is rooted in the ultimate desire to live in a pleasing manner because of your already-established relationship with God. Believers ought to be primarily motivated by the value of a loving personal relationship with God Himself (Philippians 3:8-11). The relationship is central. And so it should be in the classroom.
The Biblical Foundation for Classroom Control
Classroom discipline must be founded on a proper relationship with God and others. Structure your practical methods to reinforce motives that are in line with the Great Commandment: love God and love others (Matthew 22:34-40). All God’s laws are simply descriptions of what it means to love God and others. When you formulate classroom rules, make sure to ground them in love for God and love for others. Communicate to your students how all of your classroom rules are meant to reflect a love for God and others. Help the students realize that their willingness or unwillingness to follow policies clearly reveals who and what they truly love. Use these classroom rules as an opportunity to teach your students the whole point of the Great Commandment. It’s impossible to keep God’s law perfectly. It’s constant evidence that they’re not naturally good (Matthew 19:16-22). They need to turn to Christ for forgiveness and the ability to live a transformed life under His redemptive rule (Colossians 1:13-14).
Put It into Practice
Be sure that love for God and others is the foundation for all of your classroom discipline. Begin the first few weeks by focusing on these truths. Plan blocks of time throughout the year to reinforce the relational obligation students have to God, to other students, and to you based on the Great Commandment. Your first and routine response to disobedience should be to immediately point them back to the Great Commandment. If you’ve already done the groundwork, a simple reference to this obligation ought to be a sufficient reminder. However, you may need to set aside time at some point in the day to address the heart with further discipleship. Even when you use practical methods or rewards, always keep the biblical truth at the forefront by explicitly mentioning it. Don’t be discouraged when they don’t seem to get it or care. Keep reminding them anyway what their true motivation ought to be.
What have you found helpful for encouraging your students to follow the Great Commandment?