Why being a ‘bad teacher’ might help our people grow

I was reading a newspaper report in which former Borrusia Dortmund strike Robert Lewandowski opened up on his relationship with Jurgen Klopp. He claimed Klopp was a ‘bad teacher’. Specifically:

Jurgen was not only a father figure to me. As a coach, he was like the ‘bad’ teacher. And I mean that in the best sense of the word.

“Let me explain. Think back to you when you were in school. Which teacher do you remember the most? Not the one who made life easy for you and never expected anything from you.”

“No, no, no. You remember the bad teacher, the one who was strict with you. The one who put pressure on you and did everything to get the best out of you.

“That’s the teacher who made you better, right? And Jurgen was like that.”

Daily Mirror

I thought that was an interesting way to speak about his former coach. He was like a ‘bad teacher’. Not in the sense that he didn’t teach well but because he would not settle for his players to waste their talent. He put pressure on them to get the best out of them. Those sorts of ‘bad teachers’, according to Lewandowski, are the ones you remember when you are older.

One danger in pastoral ministry is constantly trying to ensure you are liked by all. Those who want to be remembered as ‘good teachers’ (in the sense that Lewandowski would mean it) tend to end up being quite poor in the end. They are too busy seeking to be loved that, far from expecting much from their people, they are happy to peddle soft and fluffy teaching that is sure to upset nobody. Such are not good teachers in the end.

Perhaps some of us could learn a lesson from the bad teacher Jurgen Klopp. According to his players, he cared about them and wanted the best for them. As a result, he expected a lot from them and pushed them to achieve. I think there is something in this for the church.

Of course, there can be ungodly and unhealthy ways to expect a lot from people. We must always be careful to guard our motives. It is not loving, caring nor right to push people and expect much from them simply because it is self-aggrandising. People are not there simply as resources to exploit for our own ends. They are not there to make ‘my ministry’ appear great and the more I make use of them the greater I look. We have to be careful that we aren’t encouraging people to perform for such reasons. They are not resources to be used, they are sheep to be cared for.

But I do think there is a godly way to expect things from people just as I rightly expect things from my own children and would push them to achieve things too. Good parents do not take an entirely laissez-faire attitude to their children, allowing them to do whatever they want all the time and giving in to their every whim. Most of us recognise that would be particularly poor parenting and can see our children will not grow into mature adults if this is what we’re doing. It is no better when that approach is applied to the church and we implement a similar culture of low expectations.

But when we begin to expect things of people they start to grow up in maturity. We can hardly expect to see people grow up to handle the Word well if we never expect them to be able and we can’t realistically expect to see people engaged in pastoral ministry if we never give them opportunities to engage in it. Our children don’t gain skills, knowledge and maturity by never expecting them to gain those things, giving them no opportunity to acquire them and always doing everything for them. No. We push them to acquire skills, to learn, to grow. These things are no less important for our churches.

Maybe some of us should start being the bad teacher so that our people might be taught well.