I arrive on time with notebook in hand and overstuffed bag of supplies. The kids enter the room one by one, and I switch to conflict resolution mode. One child tells me a story about her weekend while another cries, not wanting to leave his mother. Two siblings fight over their favorite seat, and a new visitor stands by with a look of sheer terror on her face.
Needless to say, my well-planned lesson just went out the window. But over the years I’ve learned there’s more to teaching Sunday school than the lesson itself. So much more. In fact, I discovered many life-changing truths during my time in that little classroom. These truths brought me closer to God and gave me a deeper understanding of the Great Commission.
Have you been asked to take your turn in the Sunday school rotation? Are you having second thoughts about raising your hand? Then allow me to share these five things I learned teaching Sunday school. They just might turn your hesitation into anticipation.
1. Kids get it.
No need to get into a profound analysis of theology. Kids understand the simplicity of the gospel message, sometimes better than we do. Jesus taught people in parables. In other words, he told stories. Jesus knew when his followers needed things explained in ways they could understand. He also knew we would need to think like little children in order to embrace the forgiveness and grace he offered.
Matthew 18:3 says, “Truly, I say to you, unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven” (ESV).
As adults, we often let the problems of this world become greater to us than God’s Word. We let life’s demands distort the sincere truth of Scripture. When I tell kids a story about Jesus, I see eager eyes light up. Their hearts are open to the message. Kids get it, and we can learn from them how to get back to that place of uncomplicated belief.
2. Music makes anything memorable.
“This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine…Deep and wide, deep and wide…Father Abraham had many sons…” How do I know Father Abraham had many sons, and that I am one of them? I learned a song about it. Nothing creates a lasting memory like catchy music.
Just like the classic Sunday school songs of the past, many clever musicians today have set scriptures and Bible stories to toe-tapping tunes. Music sets the mood and can get the attention of the most distracted youngster. I never understood the power of music until I taught Sunday school. Music touches our spirits and creates memories that last a lifetime.
3. How to turn trash into art.
Who knew cotton balls make perfect fluffy sheep, or leftover tissue paper makes a colorful stained glass replica? Teaching Sunday school taught me how to be creative. Your average junk drawer or recycling bin holds a world of possibilities. An empty water bottle easily transforms into a bird feeder to care for God’s creatures, or a bank to collect change for missions.
Rule number one for every teacher is this: carry a big bag loaded with supplies. Be ready to turn something old into something new. Every teacher knows the value of hands-on learning. And nothing sparks a kid’s imagination like creating an original masterpiece, just like God did with each of His children.
4. How to live out the nine fruits of the Spirit.
Kids have an uncanny knack for spotting a fake in less than five minutes. If I don’t display love, joy, peace and patience while teaching those concepts, I lose all credibility. If I preach about goodness, faithfulness, and gentleness but don’t set the example, they’ll tune me out. And before I plan that lesson on self-control, I’d better be ready to show it. Even when a student decides to take the lids off all the markers, tease a classmate about her new dress, or make faces during prayer time.
Yes, teaching Sunday school helps me develop the traits I want them to learn. By practicing the nine fruits, I am growing more into the person God created me to be, and that’s a good thing.
5. Every Sunday school teacher is a world evangelist in disguise.
According to biblestudytools.com, an evangelist is someone who “carries the gospel to places where it was previously unknown.” Wouldn’t this include the Sunday school classroom? Superman hides his true identity by living as a mild-mannered reporter at the Daily Planet. In the same way, every unassuming Sunday school teacher is a hero in disguise.
Jesus commands in Matthew 28:19, “Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations…” (NLT). Teachers may not stand on a platform in front of thousands, and they may not have cameras recording their every sentence. But teaching matters. Countless hearts have been affected because of the dedication of Sunday school volunteers.
Maybe you’re still having doubts about serving in Sunday school. Or maybe you’ve been a teacher for years, and you’re feeling as though your job isn’t important. Be encouraged today. Think of these words from the great Apostle Paul the next time you step into a classroom full of rambunctious youngsters. That cotton ball sheep you make with them today will impact their hearts for life.
“So let’s not allow ourselves to get fatigued doing good. At the right time we will harvest a good crop if we don’t give up, or quit. Right now, therefore, every time we get the chance, let us work for the benefit of all, starting with the people closest to us in the community of faith” (Gal. 6:9-10 MSG).
Kristine Brown is a writer, dramatist, and former English teacher. She desires to support women in their spiritual lives with practical teaching for real-life struggles. Kristine devotes her time to freelance writing and her non-profit ministry, More Than Yourself, Inc. You can read more from Kristine at www.morethanyourself.com.
Publication date: February 18, 2016