The concept of authority and its properties is neglected both in its definition and practice today (and in the past in various ways and places). And one of those contexts of authority is in leadership, more specifically in the position of Bible Teacher or any capacity as discipleship leader. And in this context there is a form of abuse, yes abuse, though not malignant still abuse, toward those under the authority or direction of a Bible Teacher in which the class or congregation members suffer alike, all over the world. Pray tell, what abuse?
The mistreatment of disciples by a Bible Teacher to which I refer is the employment of two questions by the Bible Teacher, Pastor or Facilitator (or whatever term you wish to use, ultimately the person in authority), toward his students. And these are the two questions:
Would anyone like to open/close us in prayer?
Would someone read John 3:15/any other text?
Just about now I imagine a few of you are scratching your heads but that is precisely why I said what I said, above, about authority and its misunderstanding. And some of you, happily, effortlessly grasped the point having observed the matter for yourself and concluding similarly.
No Doubt it is Sincere in Motivation but Confusing in its Leadership/Direction
A Bible Teacher of a group, no matter the size, is the authority of the class. That person determines the properties of the class. Strangely, most Bible Teachers understand this with regard to when to begin and end the class or when they wish to have discussion and when not, and direct the class as such. However, when it comes to praying and reading suddenly good sense escapes them and though sincere in their wish to seem spiritually benevolent and not appearing to prefer one person over another, they introduce confusion by failing to either directly ask someone to read or pray or do so themselves, consequently losing control of the class.
It is awkward and uncomfortable to the group and frankly, rude. You have now forced them to figure out that which is your task as the authority of the class. Instead, it seems such moments are reserved for mild chaos with people running over each other or silently staring/daring one another to ante up and be brave. Or you have someone being talked over and then embarrassed into quietness so the other may speak, thus saving the class from dueling voices.
But consider something else, when you ask whether or not someone wishes to read or pray you are asking them to insert themselves. Such a thing implies a certain egotism which is personally unflattering. Remember the adage, let the office find the man and not the man the office? Well, Bible Teacher, you are the finder, don’t make the student be such. You bestow that honor, thus keeping it honorable.
Conduct your class with courteousness and thoughtfulness toward your students and not force them into awkward and uncomfortable situations as a group which need not be all because you of your misguided attempt at altruism.
People Depend on Authority for Direction, Even in Small Matters that are the Property of the Authority
This is the nature of authority and when a Bible Teacher leads a group, whether or not they wish this to be part of the property of their office at that moment, it is. Quit avoid such a responsibility, if you are. And yes, I am lecturing a bit but only because such a simple thing is wholly mishandled and truly should not be by thoughtful people. This engenders trust, confidence and relaxation with your students.
When people are thrust into contexts which they did not choose or expect but are not necessary, no matter how small, they hold its author responsible for allowing the unsettling environment. That is you, Bible Teacher. Don’t be responsible for failing to lead in such a small matter. It really does have an impact.
Just as You Chose what would be taught for Your Class because you are Its Authority, You Determine Who Will Pray or Read
You chose the curriculum as the Teacher, did you not? And if not, then someone in authority above you did which is still my point. You do not show up to class and ask the class to figure out what to teach do you? Then don’t show up asking them to figure out other details of your class which are your responsibility.
If you doubt what I say, take some time to survey the matter. You will find a premium reaction of comfort and confidence in one where either the Bible Teacher prays or designates someone with a request over the confusing and constrained task of a group having to instantly and collectively figure out who is going to read or pray. It is simply good manners, if anything.
P.S. A a final note. I suggest that you, as a Teacher, unless you have a confident relationship with someone or that person is an Elder, before you ask them to read or pray publicly, you speak to them before the meeting and gain assurance of their interest and willingness to read or pray publicly.