Guidelines for School Overseers
IN EACH congregation, an elder is appointed to be the Theocratic Ministry School overseer. If you have been entrusted with this responsibility, your enthusiasm for the school and your personal interest in the progress of each student can be significant factors in what the school accomplishes locally.
An important part of your assignment is to preside at your congregation’s weekly Theocratic Ministry School. Keep in mind that in addition to the students who have assignments on any given occasion, others are in attendance. Handle the school in such a way that the entire congregation receives motivating, practical reminders related to at least one of the objectives of the school that are mentioned on pages 5 to 8 of this textbook.
Take an interest in all students, whether they are scheduled to handle reading assignments, to give demonstration-style presentations, or to deliver talks. Help them to view what they are doing not merely as an assignment but as an opportunity to make progress in their service to Jehovah. The effort that they personally put forth is, of course, a key factor in their progress. But it is also important that you show kind interest, help them to understand the value of the points of counsel, and explain how to apply such counsel. To that end, listen carefully to each talk so that you can provide valuable observations.
Be sure to start and end the school on time. Set a good example by keeping your own comments within the time allotted for them. If a student talk runs overtime, you or an assistant should give a signal. The student should complete his sentence and leave the platform. If some other part of the program runs overtime, shorten your own comments, and then discuss the matter with the brother after the meeting.
When you are present, you should conduct the school. If on occasion you are not able to be present, another elder previously designated by the body of elders should care for the school. If you need help with preparing schedules, writing out and distributing assignment slips, or arranging for substitutions on the program, a ministerial servant assigned by the body of elders may assist with these things.
Enrolling Students. Encourage all publishers to enroll in the school. Others who are actively associating with the congregation may enroll if they agree with the teachings of the Bible and their life is in harmony with Christian principles. When someone expresses a desire to enroll, warmly commend him. If the person is not yet a publisher, you as the school overseer should discuss with him the requirements for enrollment in the school, preferably doing so in the presence of the one who is conducting a Bible study with him (or in the presence of a believing parent). These requirements are the same as for a person to become an unbaptized publisher. They are found on pages 97 to 99 of Organized to Accomplish Our Ministry. Keep an up-to-date list of all who are enrolled in the school.
Using the Counsel Form. The counsel form for each student is in his personal copy of the textbook, on pages 79 to 81. As indicated by the color coding, any counsel point from 1 to 17 may be used when a student is given a reading assignment. For demonstration-style presentations, any counsel point except 7, 52, and 53 may be used. Counsel for talks includes all the points except 7, 18, and 30.
When a point of counsel is assigned, the school overseer should see that a penciled entry is made under “Date Assigned” in the space provided next to that point on the counsel form in the student’s book. After the student cares for his assignment, privately ask whether he did the exercise(s) shown at the end of the discussion of the counsel point. If so, a check mark should be put in the box on the form. If you are recommending that he continue to work on the same point of counsel, no additional note is needed on the counsel form; simply do not fill in the blank for “Date Completed.” That should be marked only when he is ready to move on to another point. Additionally, on page 82 of the student’s book, to the left of the setting that was used, the date should be noted following each student talk. There is space on the counsel form and on the list of settings to allow for each one to be used twice. Students should have their books with them during the program.
Assign just one point of speech counsel at a time. Normally, it is best to cover the counsel points in the order that they are listed. However, if some students show outstanding ability, you may encourage them to study and apply certain lessons on their own. Then you can work with them on those points that you believe will contribute most to their development as effective speakers and teachers.
Even if a student has been enrolled in the school for many years, he can benefit greatly from studying and applying each lesson. To help students with specific needs, you may select certain speech qualities for them to work on instead of going through the counsel form in a routine manner.
Giving Counsel. When giving counsel, make good use of Bible examples and principles. Students should sense that the counsel given and the spirit in which it is offered are governed by the lofty principles of God’s Word.
Keep in mind that you are a ‘fellow worker’ with your brothers and sisters. (2 Cor. 1:24) Like them, you need to keep applying yourself to improve as a speaker and teacher. Personally study the book Benefit From Theocratic Ministry School Education, apply its counsel, and set a good example for others to do the same.
As you do so, make it your aim to assist students to become good readers, capable speakers, and effective teachers. To that end, endeavor to provide whatever help is needed so that the students understand what the various speech qualities are, why these are important, and how to cultivate them. This textbook is laid out in a form that will help you to do that. However, more is often needed on your part than simply reading the words in the book. Discuss the idea that they express and how to apply it.
If a student did well on a certain point, commend him. Briefly state what made it effective or why what he did is important. If he could beneficially give further attention to a certain matter, be sure that he understands why. Discuss how to go about it. Be specific, and at the same time, be kind.
Realize that for many, getting up to give a presentation before a group is very difficult. If a person feels that he did not do well, he may wonder whether he should keep on trying. Imitate Jesus, who did not crush a “bruised reed” or extinguish a “smoldering flaxen wick.” (Matt. 12:20) Take into account the emotional state of the student. When offering counsel, be guided by whether the student is relatively new or is a seasoned publisher. Warm and genuine commendation can strengthen people to keep on doing their best.
Treat each student in a dignified manner. Romans 12:10 tells us: “In showing honor to one another take the lead.” What appropriate advice for a counselor in the Theocratic Ministry School! If the student is older than you, carefully apply the direction given at 1 Timothy 5:1, 2. Regardless of a person’s age, however, when counsel that involves making adjustments in his way of doing things is offered in a kind manner, it is often more readily accepted.—Prov. 25:11.
When counseling, keep before the student the objective of the training. That objective is not simply to do well enough to be commended and to be told to go on to the next point of counsel. The goal is not to be a speaker and a teacher who will be admired by others. (Prov. 25:27) Our desire is to use our gift of speech to praise Jehovah and to help others to get to know and love him. Our training is to equip us to care effectively for the work outlined at Matthew 24:14 and 28:19, 20. Baptized brothers who qualify may in time be invited to share in caring for “the flock of God” as public speakers and teachers.—1 Pet. 5:2, 3.
Suggest that students read the textbook discussion of their next point of counsel within a few days after it is assigned. Encourage them to apply what they learn in preparing their parts for the school, in daily conversation, in commenting at meetings, and in the field service.
Making Assignments. This should ordinarily be done at least three weeks in advance. All such assignments should be made in written form if possible.
Parts that involve instructing the congregation should be assigned to elders, preferably to those who will handle such parts effectively, and to ministerial servants who are good teachers.
In determining which student talks to assign to brothers and which ones to sisters, follow the instructions provided with the school schedule. If there are few brothers but many sisters who give student talks, be careful to allow the brothers sufficient opportunity to give talks that involve more than reading.
Consider the circumstances of individuals when making assignments. Is it necessary to assign a certain elder or ministerial servant to speak on the school on the same night that he is on the Service Meeting or the same week that he has a public talk in the congregation? Is it necessary to assign a certain sister to give a presentation on the same night as one of her young children, whom she may need to help? Especially in the case of a young one or a student who is not yet baptized, is the subject suitable? Check to be sure that the assignment is suitable for the counsel point on which the student is working.
For assignments given to sisters, the student will usually select her own setting in harmony with the instructions on pages 78 and 82. One assistant should be assigned, but an additional assistant may be used. If a student requests an assistant who will be particularly well suited to portray a certain setting, consideration should be shown for that request.
Auxiliary Classes. If there are more than 50 students enrolled, you may want to consider use of auxiliary locations for parts handled by students. According to local need, this arrangement might be used for all student presentations or just for the last two.
Each auxiliary class should have a qualified counselor, preferably an elder. Where necessary, a well-qualified ministerial servant may fill in. Approval for these counselors should be given by the body of elders. Work in close cooperation with them so that there is effective follow-up with students regardless of the location of their next presentation.
Special Reading Class. If the body of elders determines that a number of individuals in the congregation need basic reading instruction in the language spoken in the congregation, you may make arrangements for this in conjunction with the Theocratic Ministry School. This instruction may involve basic literacy skills, or its objective may be reading improvement.
Such classes do not have to be held at the same time that student talks in the Theocratic Ministry School are being given. In order to provide sufficient help, more time may be necessary than would be possible during the school. The local elders may determine what is needed and when to have such instruction given. According to the need, arrangements may be made for group instruction or for one-on-one tutoring.
A qualified teacher is needed. Preferably, the assignment should be given to a brother who is a good reader and who is well acquainted with the language. If a brother is not available, the elders may ask a capable, exemplary sister to help. She should wear a head covering when instructing the class.—1 Cor. 11:3-10; 1 Tim. 2:11, 12.
The booklet Apply Yourself to Reading and Writing has been made available in many languages. It is designed to teach basic literacy skills. Other instruction material may also be used, depending on the level of reading ability of those enrolled. When the students have progressed sufficiently, they should be encouraged to share in the regular Theocratic Ministry School program.
As Theocratic Ministry School overseer, you can do much to benefit the congregation. Prepare well, and in harmony with the counsel at Romans 12:6-8, care for your assignment as a precious trust from God.