Treatment of Erring Pupils in Sabbath School

Ellen G. White

[This article is wonderfully instructive on how to work with young people are who are bent on doing mischief in Sabbath School. I wish I would have read this when I first began working with Sabbath Schools. I shared this article with a friend one Sabbath morning, shortly before he was leaving to teach a Sabbath School. That particular day he happened to have a student who challenged him. He followed the principles outlined and found they worked. This reading should be required for all teachers of Sabbath School.—Dan]

God has given us a revelation disclosing to us divine acquirements. The Lord has presented our duties before us in relation to Himself and to our fellow men. None of us are excusable in following our own way, choosing our own course of action, for God’s will and God’s way have been presented to us in clear light. We are to represent the character of Christ to sever from us every disposition, every trait of character that, if cherished, would make us an influence to lead souls away from Christ in place of leading them to Him. As the Bible is a revelation of the will God to man, we should earnestly study that we may know what is truth and how to practice it. {Ms43-1892.1}

In Sabbath school work we shall be called upon to deal with those who make mistakes, who fall into sin and error. Christ has given us lessons in His Word that are very plain in regard to the treatment of the erring, but many have failed to practice these lessons. They have not been studied and treasured in the heart so that the Holy Spirit could enlighten the darkened understanding and melt and break the stony heart of both teacher and pupil. The Holy Spirit will make the heart sensitive, sympathetic, and rid it of pride and selfishness. {Ms43-1892.2}

Pupils in Sabbath school are liable to annoy the teacher by their misconduct. But the teacher must not speak sharp words and manifest an uncontrolled spirit, for in so doing he will not be using the sword of the Spirit, but the weapons of Satan. Although the misconduct of the scholar is trying, although the evil must be corrected, the rules observed, and justice respected yet let the teacher keep the way of the Lord and mingle mercy with justice. Let him look to the cross of Calvary, beholding there how mercy and truth have met together, how righteousness and peace have kissed each other. There, through the divine sacrifice, man may be reconciled to God. {Ms43-1892.3}

In contemplating the love of Christ, your heart will be softened to deal with the youth as with younger members of the Lord’s family. You will remember that they are Christ’s property, and your disposition will be to deal with them after the manner in which Christ has dealt with you. {Ms43-1892.4}

Harsh dealing will never help the youth to see his errors, or aid him to reform. Let the rules and regulations of the school be carried out in the spirit of Jesus, and when reproof must be given, let this disagreeable work be done with sorrow blended with love. Do not feel that it is your work to openly rebuke the pupil and thus humiliate him before the whole school. This will not be a proper example to set before the children, for it will be a seed that will bear a like harvest. {Ms43-1892.5}

Never publish the errors of any pupil outside the circle in which they must be known, for, in this way, sympathy will not be created for the wrongdoer by leaving an impression on the mind that he has been dealt with unjustly. By pursuing a course of exposing the wrongdoer, he may be thrown upon Satan’s battlefield and from that moment go steadily downward. Christ bears long with us, and we must be Christlike. He does not cut us off because of our errors, but reproves in tenderness and draws us by love close to Himself. {Ms43-1892.6}

If teachers see that it is impossible to bring a student under discipline of the class, let him be removed to another class, for it may be that another teacher may be able to supply the deficiency. What one teacher lacks, another may possess; but if you can obtain the confidence of the youth and bind him to your heart through cords of sympathy and love, you may win a soul to Christ. The wayward, self-willed independent boy may become transformed in character. {Ms43-1892.7}

But while it is necessary to manifest love and sympathy for your pupils, it is a manifest weakness to show partiality and thus arouse suspicion and jealousy. Children are quick to discern the preferences of the teacher, and the favored student often measures his strength, his aptness, in skill with that of the teacher in the management of the class. He may decide to be master; and unless the teacher has the grace of Christ, he will manifest weakness, become impatient, exacting, and severe. {Ms43-1892.8}

The leading spirit of the class will generally impart his purpose to other students, and there will be a combined effort to obtain the mastery. If the teacher, through the grace of Christ, is self-controlled and holds the lines with a steady, patient hand, he will quell the boisterous element, keep his self-respect, and command the respect of his students. When once order is restored, let kindness, gentleness, and affection be manifested. {Ms43-1892.9}

It may be that rebellion will rise again and again, but let not the hasty temper appear. Do not speak sharply to the evil doer, and discourage a soul who is struggling with the power of darkness. Be still, and let your heart ascend in prayer to God for help. Angels will come close to your side and help you lift up the standard against the enemy, and instead of cutting off the erring one, you may be enabled to gain a soul for Christ. {Ms43-1892.10}

Let the teachers feel, that whatever the character of the class, they must meet it in the spirit of Jesus. Do not meet combativeness with combativeness. You will have to meet willfulness, stubbornness, indolence, and frivolity; but under all emergencies manifest kindness and love. By patience and self-control keep your hold upon your pupils’ affection, and let them have reason to know that your whole desire is to do them good. Show your scholars that you have confidence in them. Visit them at their homes, and invite them to your home. Let it be seen that you love them not only in word, but in deed and in truth. {Ms43-1892.11}

The teacher need lay no special claims to dignity, since he can gain the respect of his pupils in no other way than by a Christlike deportment, in manifesting kindness and Christian courtesy. The teacher is to educate the pupils as Christ educated His disciples. He must make impressions that time cannot efface. His influence should mold his scholars after the divine Pattern, and if he does this, eternity alone can tell the value of his labor. The teacher must awaken in his pupils the moral nature and inspire in them a desire to respond to the divine agencies. {Ms43-1892.12}

Those who are selfish, peevish, dictatorial, coarse, and rough, who do not carefully regard the feelings of others, should never be employed as teachers. They will have a disastrous influence upon their students, molding them after their own character, thus perpetuating evil. Persons of this character will make an effort [to] break a boy’s will if he is unruly, but Christ has authorized no such message of dealing with the erring. Through heavenly wisdom, through meekness and lowliness of heart, teachers may be able to direct the will and lead in the way of obedience; but let no one imagine that, by threatening, the affection of the student may be gained. We must work as Christ has worked. {Ms43-1892.13}

Many underestimate the evil of an error in themselves who fully recognize its influence in another. On every side we meet those who are entirely ignorant of possessing characteristics which need to be modified. Others can see their objectionable traits of character; but when they are reproved, they imagine that they have been misjudged. The teacher should closely examine his own heart in the light of eternity, that he may represent before his pupils that which he desires them to be. He should be a daily learner in the school of Christ, abiding in Christ as the branch abides in the vine, that he may impart to others that which he has received from Christ. {Ms43-1892.14}

The teacher who would bring his students under discipline must himself first come under the control of Christ. Jesus has said, “He that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.” [John 8:12.] With divine enlightenment you can work as Christ worked, for His light may shine through you upon the pathway of every impenitent transgressor with whom you are associated. {Ms43-1892.15}

Are you indeed an instructor in the ways of God? If you are a converted teacher, you will be able to win, not drive, to attract, not repulse, the souls for whom Christ has died. You will guard and care for the sheep and lambs of Christ’s fold. If they stray, you will not leave them to perish, but will go forth to seek and to save that which is lost. All heaven will be ready to aid you in this good work. {Ms43-1892.16}

The angels will aid you in your effort to find the key to the heart of the most incorrigible and unruly. You will receive special grace and strength through Christ who is able to supply you from His immeasurable fullness. You will then be qualified to be a laborer together with God, one with Christ in your effort to save the lost, and your labor of love will be seen not only in time, but through all eternity. {Ms43-1892.17}