Lesson 1: Jesus and Social Learning Theory

Methods of Jesus.01

Lesson One: Jesus and Social Learning Theory

Learning Objectives

Upon completion of this module, the learner will be able to:

  1. 1. Facilitate class members in making increasingly better choices.
  2.  2. Explain the role of reflective thinking.
  3.  3. Create exercises that encourage reflective thinking.

Social learning theory is based on the belief that real learning takes place in community situations that involve the whole person. This learning is largely by means of models to whom disciples are emotionally bonded.

Inspiration says: “It was by personal contact and association that Jesus trained His disciples. . . . He linked their interest with His, and they united with Him in the work” (The Desire of Ages, p. 152).

Peer Modeling

Albert Bandura, a modern authority in modeling, says that peer modeling is the most effective, because learners tend to identify with others who have similar life situations. “Providing a model of thought and action is one of the most effective ways to convey information about the rules for producing new behavior” ( Social Foundations of Thought and Action, a Social Cognitive Theory, p. 51).

Jesus directed the attention of His disciples not only to Himself as the model, but also to others such as the Good Samaritan and the widow who gave her two mites.

In the small group Sabbath School class, the testimonies and experiences of class members serve as models when rightly managed by the class facilitator.

Emotional Bonding Essential

People tend to pattern their lives after those with whom they bond emotionally. Therefore the effective class facilitator will not only foster analytical reflection upon the experience of biblical and member models, but will also facilitate the development of loving relationships between members.

Inspiration describes the effective dynamics of small companies in these words: “Let them keep their bond of union unbroken, pressing together in love and unity, encouraging one another to advance, each gaining courage and strength from the assistance of the others. Let them reveal Christlike forbearance and patience, speaking no hasty words, using the talent of speech to build one another up in the most holy faith” (Testimonies, vol. 7, p. 21).

The skillful class facilitator will be alert for, and help to ward off, such things as self-justification, hurt feelings, and insensitive remarks. He/she will model kindness, understanding, graceful words, and loving relationships.

It is well for facilitators to keep before the class the goal of mutual edification. From time to time the facilitator may need to remind the class that all are there to drink in the blessing that comes from the Holy Spirit through the Word of God and as expressed through our brothers and sisters. Facilitators may also want to mention that we are all looking for light; the more light the Holy Spirit brings to the discussion through biblical passages or personal experience, the more we can all be enlightened. Members may, on occasion, need to be reminded that debate often generates more heat than light.

The class facilitator should remember what was said of Jesus and His disciples: “He linked their interest with His, and they united with Him in the work” (The Desire of Ages, p. 152).

Reflective Thinking: A dynamic process that occurs during the course of action and a keen awareness that occurs upon completion of a task; meditation on Scripture and analyzing past actions.

Reflective Thinking

Class members will tend to improve in making right choices if they think reflectively upon the positive or negative outcomes expressed in the lives of fellow members and/or biblical models. According to Bandura, “Making choices is aided by reflective cognitive activity, through which self-influence is largely exercised” ( op. cit., p. 39).

When class members reflect upon spoken or active modeling situations, it tends to influence them to make right choices from internal rather than external motivation. This is especially true if they are emotionally drawn to the model. Of course, as Christians, we have the example and love of Jesus, as well as the power of the Holy Spirit to enable our choices.

For the reasons mentioned above, it is essential for the class facilitator to engage the mind of the class members in reflective thinking. For example, the facilitator may ask members to discuss whether or not they agree with Solomon that “all is vanity.” This will then lead to a discussion about why Solomon wrote those words, his experience, and ultimately to principles of what constitutes a successful and abundant life. It should also provide insights into the spiritual journey of class members. The dialogue and exchange that follows will encourage reflective thinking.

Talk with yourself. Another way for the learner to do reflective thinking is by prayerful self-dialogue. This may at first seem laughable, but the biblical concept of meditation is to talk with one’s self. The repetition and mulling over in one’s mind has a tendency to connect parts to a larger picture. For example, Solomon communed with his own heart (Eccl. 1:16).

Influence yourself. Bandura says that reflective thinking influences choices most when “self-influence is largely exercised” (loc. cit.). In other words the will of the learner should be involved in the reflective thinking. It is essential for the class facilitator not to use force, coercion, or ridicule to urge the learner to think a certain way. The Holy Spirit will direct learners to make right decisions on their own. The class facilitator and members can help in this process.

For example, the facilitator might ask, “Would you have wanted to live the life that Solomon lived?” Suppose a member says, “Yes, I would like to have all those wives and concubines.” At that point it may be the temptation of the class either to laugh in agreement or to pounce on the “grinning sinner” with strong condemnation. The class facilitator cannot condone such an answer, but might follow with, “Do you think Solomon would pursue the same course if he had it to do over again?” or “Which is the most inspiring, the Song of Solomon or the account of his many wives who led him into idolatry?”

Rather than leading the class into wantonness, the discussion should lead the negative member to express a desire to experience restraint. The potential for right choice-making is much greater than if the group were to enter into a heated debate with the self-serving member.

Keep a spiritual diary. One way for class members to meditate, reflect, and study the life of models would be to keep a spiritual diary. Some may ask how this would relate to the teaching methods of Jesus. Well, on one occasion He said, “But go and learn what this means” (Matt. 9:13). This was an assignment of homework involving reflective cogitation. It would be well to encourage members to share insights into living from their spiritual diaries.


Encourage class members to keep a spiritual journal reflecting on their life in comparison with the life of Solomon. The journal may be in the form of a spiritual diary, e-mail prayers, written meditations, prayer journal, or some other means. In their journal ask them to track outcomes of their own attempts to experience things they thought would bring quality of life, e.g., dining out rather than cooking or eating meals at home. Encourage class members to write reflectively concerning what they find. Now and then, ask them to share appropriate things from their journal.


Write about, record, graphically represent, or dramatize a segment of your spiritual journey. Integrate the message of the book of Ecclesiastes in your product or performance.

Written/Recorded Example: I am retired. Like Solomon, I have been reflecting on life and asking, “What is it that really makes a lasting difference?” It helps me to bring thoughts into focus when I see how Solomon summed up what really matters in life. I wish younger people would ask me what I would do differently if I had it to do over again.

Graphic Example: A drawing, magazine photo collage, or photograph of me standing near my sailboat bearing the name Ecclesiastes and young adults gathered around with their attention fixed on me as I speak the wisdom of Ecclesiastes with my own experiences as examples.

Drama Examples:

Scene 1: I saunter down a path strewn with flowers on either side, but I ignore them.
Scene 2: I walk down the path slightly ahead of a loved one, and my attention is focused on silently reading the book of Ecclesiastes.
Scene 3: I walk down the same path, fully focused on another person while we’re in conversation about the book of Ecclesiastes.

Jim Kilmer
© 2014 General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists