This is the quote I saw today,
“When a flower doesn’t bloom you fix the environment in which it grows, not the flower.” Alexander D. Meijer
Many times as ministry women and families we can easily pinpoint problems or “sins” within the lives of other people. Discernment and experience allow us to figure out why they aren’t growing spiritually — we can see maybe that it’s their home life, or it is that they are not dedicated enough to the things of God, etc. But I will propose today that maybe it is not always the plant…
I want to highlight a specific part of ministry, one where you might have a larger influence, the Sunday School class. Not all women will have that influence because I know you serve where you’re needed or where you’re gifted, maybe you’re not a Sunday School teacher. I think that the idea and many of the basic principles can apply with this theme. Apply to any situation where you’re the teacher. If your church has grown stale and the people and flowers are not blooming it can be the environment of the church as much as it could be the environment they are cultivating in their own lives.
Boring Sunday School classes create bored students. If things are not going well in your class, it may not always be the students, it may be the environment.
Minutes before I saw the quote about flowers, as I was scrolling through Facebook, an advertisement asking parents and adults “Why do 75% of children quit going to church by the age of 18?” The premise of the advertisement said that the reason was because children learn the same Sunday School lessons year after year even into junior high and high school. Their curriculum was a topical lesson series that was meant to answer common questions children have about God and spiritual matters.
The advertisement almost made me laugh because our children actually have had this happen between 3 churches we have attended in the past 3.5 years. When we were serving in ministry on staff they learned about Samuel and went through the book of Judges. When we joined the church plant the teacher curriculum was also in the book of Judges. Then, this year when we followed our pastor to a new church (it’s a special story I hope to tell down the road) guess where the Sunday School teachers were in their curriculum series!? You guessed it! Judges. And we’re talking about three different curriculums, classes, and teachers.
Our kids had mentioned they were bored and I explained there must be some important lessons for their life right in that part of the Bible. Can you see how church could have been really boring if they were not engaged in their classes with good teachers giving different life applications over the past 3.5 years? Or they only went to church on Sundays? Or what if we did not talk about spiritual things at home? You can see how that there might be a possibility of becoming bored with church if this was the case.
Changing the Environment
While I realize it’s not our jobs to “entertain” per se’ in the church, but we should be making our ministry work appropriately engaging. Sunday School is no exception, it is a significant opportunity for children to hear Bible teaching on their own age level.
- Cleanliness of the room should be maintained.
- Seats that allow the child to sit with their feet close to the floor. Tables that allow them to comfortably do their work or play.
- The walls should have neat decorations that are not a distraction. Decorations should change too and compliment the purpose of your lessons and class or at the very least, the seasons.
- You also want to have a window or the door to public walkways to allow accountability and prevent accusation, especially if you do not have a classroom helper.
- Do the best with what you have — maybe you’re using one-size metal chairs and they’re you’re desks for filling out Sunday School papers too, or you’re in a classroom that was not really designed to be a class, then you can only fix and work with what you have.
Sunday School Teacher Environment
The receptiveness of the spiritual message of the lesson is dependent upon the teacher’s effectiveness to communicate God’s intended purpose for the lesson. The heart of the teacher is the key to competent teaching. The character of your actions before and during class also will dictate “success” in teaching.
Here are some questions to ask yourself:
- Are you preparing enough in advance to study the lesson and allow God to work in your heart?
- Have you prayed for the Sunday lesson time and the children of your class?
- Do you have flexibility when things do not go as planned, to be able to come up with new ideas that will create interest or deal with problems?
- What is your personality in the classroom? How do your students perceive you? Which fruits of the Spirit are you exhibiting or should you incorporate?
- Are you engaging the children through eye contact and appreciation of their responses?
- Do you have sins exhibited in the classroom? For example, do they see impatience or anger when you deal with difficult people and situations?
Through time often as teachers we can begin to rely on specific methods that we are familiar with and get into a routine of using the same types of methods of teaching. I’m going to encourage you to spice it up and try something new.
- Preparation of materials and supplies should be done ahead of class time.
- Utilize visual aids – Eyes and brains are connected, if you’re engaging their eyes they will more than likely be listening. A friend suggested engaging children by using the five senses, use a number of visual aids that will help them see AND experience the lesson.
- Use your voice – No monotone! Whisper, speak with excitement, use voices to portray characters. Read the Bible in an interesting way.
- Plan more activities than you will think you need. Always have time fillers whether they are little simple games, conversation starters, or simple coloring sheets, etc.
- Rotating through lessons systematically by grade levels (each age level is doing something different). Joyful Life’s curriculum has a great way of rotating the age groups through different parts of the Bible and not repeating year-to-year.
When I was teaching regularly I would write out a classroom schedule including the songs we would sing, rules and expectations I had for the students, the lesson, review games, any other activities if we ended up going through the lesson faster than expected. Preparation and planning both the inside of you and the working parts of the classroom time can be a make-or-break element to a good learning environment.
While in no way are any of these lists exhaustive, we are always in a need to liven up our skills and sharpen ourselves to effectively educate the younger generation about the truths of the Bible. I pray and hope that there will be an idea that you can use to be able to bring life to the environment of your Sunday School class.