Teaching a Sunday School class can be the most rewarding and the most frustrating volunteer position in the Church. Most of us spend countless hours and a good bit of our own money trying to make the Bible and God’s principles understandable to the children we teach. The hugs and the eyes that light up when they understand an important Bible truth are balanced out by the child who attends sporadically or comes in after we have just taught the most important part of the lesson. Sometimes it is hard to know if you are impacting the spiritual lives of these precious little ones at all.
First let me reassure you that you are having a much greater impact than you will probably ever know. My third grade Sunday School teacher is probably no longer alive, but I will never forget memorizing very long passages of scripture in her class. One of my high school teachers forever changed my perspective on the meaning of “rich” and the responsibilities God gave to us with our material blessings.
I do believe our current way of “doing” Sunday School is not as effective as it could be. There are some important lessons we can learn from educators, both positive and negative. Since this is one of my passions, I could probably create an entire series full of ideas, but here are a few to think about incorporating the next time you teach Bible class.
1. Add meaningful hands-on learning to each class time. No child wants to spend the better part of an hour doing worksheets. On the other hand, running around playing crazy games and then stretching the game to try and fit some Biblical truth in the last two minutes is not the most productive use of class time either. Look at the Bible story for the week. What practical lessons does God want us to learn from the story or passage? Now think about a meaningful, active way to reinforce that truth or concept. Over the course of a quarter, try to incorporate art, acting, service projects, Bible culture and other different types of learning. Remember, some children learn best by hearing, some by seeing, but almost every child learns and remembers well what they have done. An occasional game is fine, but it should be used to review something already learned or have a specific purpose. If it feels forced to attach a biblical purpose to it, then do something else instead. Think about ways to make the Bible story come to life. Maybe your students need to do a service project involving simple sewing while learning about Tabitha. Perhaps they need to move large stones to learn how to build an altar or help make some unleavened bread (and eat it of course!).
2. Get to know your students outside of class. This is what makes the difference between a Sunday School teacher and a Christian who is trying to help disciple her students towards God. Teaching takes time, but discipling takes a lot of time. Many children today have no one who is willing to invest that kind of time and energy into their spiritual development – not even their parents. You may be the only person in their lifetime willing to take on that challenge. Spend time with your students outside of class. Have some meaningful activities, but have some fun as well. The goal is not to replace the parent, but to help the parents in their efforts to raise a godly child. The more time you invest in a child, the more likely you are to be able to influence her.
3. Let the parents of your students know what you are teaching in class. Take an extra fifteen minutes of your time each week and write a parent letter. Let parents know what Bible story you taught, the scriptures you used and the application principles you connected to the lesson. Include ideas for fun things they can do at home that week to reinforce what you did during class.
4. Ask the parents of your students what you can do to help them in their efforts to raise godly children. It is interesting the requests I get when I ask this question. Sometimes a parent needs to vent or ask for suggestions about behavior. Often the parent is so concerned about how the child is doing in “regular” school that the concern takes precedence over anything else in the parent’s mind. I have even spent a little time before class starts each week providing a little tutoring in school subjects. Seems crazy, but it relieves a stressor in the home and gives me an opportunity to bond with the child. Depending on the subject, I may even be able to review some Bible stories in ways that also help the child with academic issues. Of course, my favorite is when the parent asks me to study baptism with the child who is showing an interest in becoming a Christian!
5. Pray for your students. Everyone can use prayers prayed on their behalf. Your students need to know you are actively praying for them. Ask for prayer requests from your students and remember to follow up with them for as long as it takes for you and/or them to see God working in their lives. The power of prayer is one of the most important lessons you can teach the children in your class.
6. Spend time in personal Bible study, prayer and reflection. It’s the old “oxygen mask on a plane theory”. You can help your students grow spiritually more easily when you are actively growing spiritually yourself. Spend time in study and prayer about your role as a Bible class teacher. What are the major biblical truths you want every child in your class to walk away remembering for the rest of their lives? What scriptures do you want to help write on their hearts? Having an overall plan for your class will make you a more effective teacher no matter what curriculum you are given to use.
In what other ways have you partnered with the parents of your Bible class students? What seems to have the biggest impact on the children in your class? I would love to hear your ideas and experiences in a comment below!