Teaching & Interpersonal Relationships

Matt Friedeman’s book The Master Plan of Teaching (1990) examines Jesus’ teaching style and suggests the following formula emphasizing that content alone is not enough, but the teacher-student relationship is a central ingredient:

COMMUNICATION = CONTENT + RELATIONSHIP

He then offers some steps toward effective interpersonal relationships in the graph below. Pastors and teachers who want to really impact their learners and listeners can benefit from these five steps:

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Here’s a summary of each from pp. 64-65:

Need satisfaction: The teacher should seek to understand the needs of others, and help satisfy them if possible. One of the pillars of incarnational impact is “find the need, and meet it.”

Trust: If needs are met appropriately and with sensitivity, then the trust level necessary for a good relationship is easy to attain. Over the long term, consistent benevolent behavior is a must for development of trust.

Self-disclosure: Over time as trust develops, the teacher and students will make themselves known to one another. Care needs to be exercised here to avoid revealing too much too soon — over disclosure — which may be actually hamper communication as much as superficiality or under disclosure.

Acceptance: The incarnate teacher wants to lead people to greater things, always with the attitude that “I love you and am committed to you” regardless. One of the Hebrew wordbooks I have seen translates lovingkindness (hesed) as “obstinate love” — loving them through thick and thin. That is acceptance!

Apprentice: One the first four steps are accomplished, the interpersonal educator can begin to expect opportunities for some serious teaching and learning. But notice the word apprentice. It does not denote education from afar. This is teaching and learning not by lecture, but by education “in the flesh” through an intimate interpersonal dynamic.

The job of educators, trying to be like the incarnate Jesus, is to understand these stages of relational development and take the steps and correctives necessary to become more effective communicators of our love and His.

How big a factor has your personal relationships with your teachers and/or pastor been in your own formation?

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