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Those Juniors, Part 9: Becoming Interesting

by Eric B. Hare

Last week: You must capture both the attention and the interest of your juniors. Interest comes before attention just as thirst comes before drinking. A teacher must know how to create the right sort of attention and interest—in short, it is an art well worth practicing.

How to Be Interesting

Since it required something that was interesting to produce the students’ apperceptive spontaneous attention which in turn kindled an interest within them, we are faced with the fact that we leaders, parents, and teachers must learn how to be interesting. Here are a few suggestions.

Interest must be satisfied. If we drew a line rising gradually from a point to a climax and then falling quickly to the line again, we would have a graph of interest.

Starting with a problem, a truth, or a story we build it up, add to it, and develop it until we reach the climax, where the problem is solved, the truth proved, the adventure completed. Then in a few sentences we apply the lesson, and normally a satisfied sigh tells us that our efforts have succeeded.

There is nothing more irritating than an unsatisfied interest, an unproved truth, an unfinished story. Frequently there are interests that break into the teacher’s plans, unwanted interests that challenge the teacher’s leadership. The only way to get rid of these uninvited nuisances is to satisfy them as speedily as possible.

For instance, if in the middle of my story, Bill pricks John with a pin, and John yells, “Ouch,” all the others are interested immediately. I might put my hand over John’s mouth and go right on, but they will not be interested in me. They will still be wondering what bit John. I could send John out, but that wouldn’t get my interest back. The best thing to do is to get rid of that intruding interest. “Sorry, boys, but it’s nothing serious. John just got in the way of Bill’s pin. I’m quite sure it won’t be fatal.” As I collect Bill’s pin, they grin and say, “Oh.” That interest is done with. It is satisfied, and I can now go on to get back my main interest without a competitor in the field.

So plan your interest with its climax and its satisfaction, and do your best to keep all competitors out of the field.


Chapter Interest

Those books that draw you on and on, and in which you never seem able to find a stopping place, illustrate the technique of what we call chapter interest. Each chapter is planned with its interest developed and satisfied. Then a few sentences by way of a preview of the plan in the next chapter are given, or a single question is asked about someone to appear in the next chapter, and you just must read one more.

Then these chapters develop a book interest which finally reaches its climax, and in the closing chapter the entire interest is satisfied. Fighting Africa’s Black Magic, by Madge Haines Morrill, is an excellent example of chapter interest.

The teacher who finds it possible to apply this principle to the weekly Sabbath school lessons so that each lesson creates the beginning of the interest in the next week’s lesson, is bound to succeed.

Evangelists have commonly arranged the announcements of the following meetings in this way, and it has proved successful in keeping up the interest.


The Teacher Himself Must Be Interested

While I was a young man at college, one evening I heard a student shout enthusiastically, “Oh, look!” There were one or two “What’s” and “Where’s,” then the chorus, “Oh, yes, see!” A crowd began to gather, and in a few minutes half the students from the dormitory were outside looking at a star just beyond a tree that was swaying slightly so that the star appeared to be moving. The whole crowd was interested because one student was interested. I verily believe anyone could gather a crowd to stare at nothing at all if he appeared interested enough, for it is true that interest begets interest, and the teacher must be interested in the lesson and in the story if he expects to interest boys and girls in the lesson and in the story.

Moreover, the teacher must be interested in the student also. Knowing what boys want, knowing how they live, knowing how they talk, knowing how they react, knowing the things they are interested in, unconsciously does something to your words and your attitude, and you reap interest.

In his very refreshing book, How to Win Friends and Influence People, Dale Carnegie expresses it this way: “I go fishing up in Maine every summer. Personally, I am very fond of strawberries and cream; but I find that for some strange reason fish prefer worms. So when I go fishing, I don’t think about what I want. I think about what they want. I don’t bait the hook with strawberries and cream. Rather, I dangle a worm or a grasshopper in front of the fish and say, ‘Wouldn’t you like to have that?’”1 In the very next sentence he adds, “Why not use the same common sense when fishing for men?” And I would like to repeat, “Why not?”

I heard of a Missionary Volunteer Society some time ago where they said you could hardly get a seat. Some actually stood up around the walls. I went to see, and I saw the church pastor there, and I saw him shake hands with his young people and tell them how glad he was they were there. I heard him congratulating those who had taken part in the program, and—why, I would like to go to that society meeting every week, too!

I went to another society once, and the attendance was poor; not even the pastor was there. I saw him at church the next day, and he explained, “Friday evening is the only time I have for study, you know.” He complained of the very few young people who took any interest in his meetings. In the course of events another pastor came to that church, and after three years I again had the privilege of attending the Missionary Volunteer meeting. The church was crowded. Indeed, the church had been jacked up and remodeled with a new suite of Sabbath school rooms. I could hardly believe it. The pastor was there also, and he was pleased and proud. He had a junior choir, and they just loved to help. The sad part is that I never heard the name of the former pastor mentioned once. The man who was not interested was practically forgotten.

“Won’t you come and help out at Junior Camp?” I said to a very busy pastor one summer.

“I really don’t have time, for I am getting ready for an effort in August,” he replied, “but I will.” And he did. He rolled up his sleeves and helped cook. He told stories. He hiked. By the time he had arranged the transportation and had brought the juniors in and taken them home again, he had spent three weeks of his valuable time in that Junior Camp. Several months later I saw him again. “Did the juniors take any interest in your meetings?” I asked. “Did they!” he exclaimed. “They distributed practically all my handbills, and I have already baptized some of them.”

So another essential in begetting interest is to be interested oneself, interested in the lesson, interested in the juniors and in what the juniors want.

(Next week: “Reaching Their Hearts.”)

1. Dale Carnegie, How to Win Friends and Influence People, p. 56. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1937.

Copyright © 1973 by Eric B. Hare. Used by permission.

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