I have had the privilege of teaching for many years now. When I look back on my journey as a teacher, I see many mistakes that I made early on. I write this article because I see many young teachers repeating many of these mistakes and in the process reducing the impact of their teaching. My hope is that some will learn from these mistakes and save themselves the pain and regret.
By “young” I mean one who is immature as a teacher and hasn’t yet developed the kind of deep character that is required to become effective as a teacher in their area of calling. Even though this often correlates with age, there are a few young precocious teachers and many old immature teachers as well.
This article is a compilation of weaknesses that I have either personally experienced or seen in others.
The kind of teacher I have in mind is not the teacher who chooses to teach to make some money or who is not talented and gifted in the area of teaching. No, I have in mind the teacher who is designed and gifted as a teacher, who would make an amazing teacher. However, the weaknesses they have end up inhibiting, entangling, or even making their gift difficult to express or ineffective on their audience.
Here are some common weaknesses.
1. They don’t YET have the mind and heart of a servant. A servant doesn’t live for himself. He lives for the master. He doesn’t do what pleases him. He does what pleases the master. Effective and mature teachers know that they are alive to teach. They have been called to become the slaves of those whom they teach. Their students are their masters, not the other way around. In order to get their message across, they will “become all things to all people” so that they might win some. Here is how an amazing teacher described his flexibility and perseverance when it comes to teaching.
“I am free and belong to no one. But I make myself a slave to all people to win as many as I can. To the Jews I became like a Jew to win the Jews. I myself am not ruled by the law. But to those who are ruled by the law I became like a person who is ruled by the law. I did this to win those who are ruled by the law. To those who are without the law I became like a person who is without the law. I did this to win those people who are without the law. (But really, I am not without God’s law—I am ruled by Christ’s law.) To those who are weak, I became weak so I could win the weak. I have become all things to all people so I could save some of them in any way possible. I do all this because of the Good News I teach and so that I can share in its blessings.”
Young teachers haven’t yet developed the mind and heart of a servant. That is a serious weakness that inhibits their effectiveness as teachers.
2. They have not YET learned to give up their rights. They still fight for their rights to be and do certain things. This is related to #1 above. Many young teachers believe they have rights that they need to protect. They think that surrender means giving up their right of self-expression. As such, any authority that encourages them to surrender to their calling to be more effective is seen as controlling and persecutory. This immature habit of fighting for their rights will often lead them to continue in habits that entangle and detract them from a focus on what really matters–their message and the impact it can have on people.
3. They are not YET sensitive to the weaknesses that diminish the extent and impact of their gifts. Weaknesses are things that detract one from focusing on their strengths. Many of these things may be offensive to the audience they want to reach and draw away attention from the main thing, which is teaching the truth – this is the focus of their strengths and calling. I often advise young teachers, as a teacher, that the only battle they want to fight with people is over their core message of truth and life change…not over things that are inconsequential in the light of eternity. For example, they don’t want to be fighting over whether it is right or wrong to drink alcohol, pierce one’s nose, have tattoos or wear dreads. They want to focus on teaching their core truth and remove any detraction so that they can reach more people. Having struggles over these mundane matters is a sign of immaturity.
4. They don’t YET realize that teaching is not about head knowledge. Young teachers often think that passion, giftedness, and eloquence are what makes a teacher. That’s far from the truth.
The following 12 weaknesses, that I have either experienced or seen in many others are cataloged well in an article by the veteran pastor, Joseph Mattera. Instead of writing on the same subject, I will simply list the points and give you a link to his article below to read it for yourself, if you would like to. Even if you are not a religious person, his insights should still be helpful to you as they can be applied to other organizational and business settings.
- Not receiving counsel from older, more experienced leaders
- Being too dogmatic in doctrine and worldview
- Having zeal without knowledge and operating in presumption
- Being driven by ambition and a need to succeed more than serving for the glory of God
- Using people as objects to get to the next level
- Rarely living in the present
- Preaching what has not yet been personally experienced or encountered
- Neglecting emotional health and maturity
- Gifting that exceeds character development
- Driving the church instead of leading the flock
- Sacrificing children and family for the work of the ministry
- Not honoring spiritual fathers and mothers
To read pastor Mattera’s article, click here.