I always try to warn new teachers about "the Elijah syndrome," and I suggest ways to counter it. Adult education teachers, for instance, can ask for feedback from their classes. I suggest that teachers pass out a response card with a few simple questions such as, "What is one thing you learned that has helped your relationship with Christ?"
Another way to protect teachers against "the Elijah syndrome" is to make sure they have an emotional lifeline securely plugged into the recruiting team, asking about their needs, helping them with problems, offering encouragement, and help with any particularly difficult issues.
Particularly in the case of new courses or new teachers, I believe in putting a friendly person in the classroom as a support person. This way I can get an independent report on how the class is going, but more importantly, that person can support the teacher by affirming what's going well.
Another way to keep in contact with teachers and fend off "the Elijah syndrome" is by sending teachers encouraging notes. I once had a woman on the recruiting team who said, "I can't stand up and teach, but I can write notes to the teachers." That became her ministry.
I also believe in rewarding teachers, buying them books or other small gifts, especially gifts that will help prepare them to teach the next class. I like to acknowledge teachers in public by bringing them before the congregation and by printing their names in the bulletin.
Watch Out for De-motivators
I have seen teachers threaten to quit over de-motivators that could have easily been solved. For example:
• Week after week, an adult education teacher enters the room to find it set up for children. Every Sunday she has to wrestle with furniture in order to create an environment for adults.
• A teacher complains (to no avail) that audiovisual equipment doesn't work or isn't available, that the bulbs in the light fixtures are burnt out and never replaced, that there is never any chalk for the blackboard.
• A teacher is discouraged because her class is tucked away in some invisible location in the church, and there are no signs to help people find the room.
I believe it's the teacher's job to teach, and it's the recruiter's job to make sure that the mechanics are taken care of. A teacher should not have to do janitorial and maintenance work in addition to the task of teaching.
Another serious de-motivator arises, particularly in adult education, when the teacher is faced with a class member who has overwhelming emotional or psychological problems. The average teacher just doesn't know what to do in such cases, so the recruiting team must become a backup system to help the teacher deal with those with extraordinary problems.
What If You Can't Find Anyone to Teach?
During one summer Sunday school session, we couldn't find a teacher for the children's program. People wanted a summer program for their children, yet most of our teachers had left town for the month of August, and we had no volunteers. So we put a notice in the church bulletin and announced that there would be no children's classes in August.
The worship services were altered to be less formal and to better meet the interests of children. Parents took their children with them to worship, and many people thought having the children in the worship service for a few weeks was a benefit rather than a hardship.