Is Sunday School Boring? Change the Environment

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.

Classroom Environment

  • 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?

Lesson Environment

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.

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Lessons We’ve Learned From an Extended Ministry Transition

Lessons Learned From an Extended Ministry Transition

Ministry and transitions seem to go hand in hand, as time ticks on the ever-changing river of life goes on winding in and out, leaving ministry workers regularly relying upon God for His guidance. This article is pin-pointed to help those in a ministry transition between one job or service and the next, for those who may have months or years between “official” ministry titles and vocations. It’s not an entirely unique situation, although it may feel like it, to be in a holding pattern until the Lord makes clear the next path He would like you to travel.

Embrace a Short-Term Rest if Possible

I don’t know if you’re like us but when we travel on long road trips we often prefer to stop at rest stops, following the blue sign into the area, taking a bathroom break and allowing our 5 children to run around and stretch their legs. Transition times should be thought of as a Rest Stop, not a stopping place to get settled but a location where you can break away from the life you’ve lived and take a breather before stepping into the next place God is moving you.

We personally took a 2-month break to travel. First, we rented a cabin and spent several days in the mountains hiking with our then, four children. Next, we traveled to see family and ministry friends in between moving from one state to another. We had time and we had money because God had provided both of those things for us. It also happened because we made it a priority to rest and do something different. If your family needs rest, find a Rest Stop.

“Rest Stop” opportunities do not always become available to people because of pressing needs of financial means, housing, needing to move, etc. Whatever happens, at the very least pay attention to the next point…

Pray Before Moving Into Another Ministry Position Hastily

The Bible speaks about making hasty decisions (Proverbs 14:29, 19:2, 21:5, 28:20) and one of the worst things you can do is to hastily jump to what looks like an ideal opportunity just because you’re desperate for a place to work and live. Or because the opportunity you are presented with seems like the ideal opportunity you’ve been dreaming for. Not to burst anyone’s bubble, but all that glitters is not gold even in the ministry world.

You don’t want to find yourself compromising standards or convictions because you flew too quickly at the first offer presented. I’ve heard many stories about how people who had a bad ministry experience in their first ministry who quickly went on to another church to only have another bad experience because they did not know the pastor or ministry where they were going well enough. Others found that while the pay was good at their ministry position, it caused a lot of sacrifices in other ways they were not expecting.

I am sure most of us would never be guilty of praying too much about a situation (we don’t pray enough!) but family transitional times are KEY times to invest in solid and dedicated fervent prayer time. You want to have peace and confidence in knowing where God is leading you so that no matter what occurs in your next ministry experiences you can rest in the fact you followed God’s plan for you and not your own.

Waiting Is Not Easy

Waiting on God is not for the faint of heart. It is like the dog trained to sit still next to its master as its beloved ball is thrown into the grass. The dog waits eagerly and will move impatiently in that spot until told “Go fetch!” and it runs furiously to retrieve its prized toy and return it for another round. You may wait in anticipation with no ball to retrieve for a while, but it does not mean that your obedience in waiting is wrong or ill-timed.

We often align our ministry thoughts with the common idea, “If you’re not moving you’re dead,” and the unsaid philosophy of accomplishment being a goal to be achieved greater than obedience. Patience is a fruit of the Spirit that must be trained and allowed to grow in the times of waiting for God to work and move you into the next place of service.

Backsliding While Waiting is a Danger

Backsliding can easily occur in a stepping out by faith process. Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen (Hebrews 11:1). When you cannot see faith and what it consists of on a daily basis, because it is intangible, it is easy to become backslidden. You can rest in what you know and get comfortable with the waiting process. Backsliding is a natural fleshly response away from spiritual growth. The longer the wait the more temptations you face, especially if you are no longer serving in a church regularly and your spiritual accountability has lessened.

Take the Next Step Toward Ministry

I don’t know where you are in your ministry transition, for us we felt like we stepped out in faith and looked at an open road before us, but we had no directional signs immediately telling us where to go. We knew rest and serving were in our hearts but we also had asked ourselves if there was an option God was taking us out of ministry altogether. We had no disqualifications from ministry to lead us to believe that the door would be closed for ministry forever and this is what God kept telling us through advice and preaching:

  • “The next step you take needs to move you toward ministry.”
  • “Don’t just settle because you have no answer, a secular job with no ministry involvement will be a hole you will become trapped in.”
  • “Remember and possibly move toward the burden you had in college toward specific ministries and/or places.”

When God kept confirming this truth we didn’t have to worry as much about what He wanted us to do, it became a matter of asking, “Where do you want us to serve?”

Join a Church and Serve

We spent five months discerning the Lord’s will on where He would have us go so we attended a small church for a while. Then, after we felt God moving us to my husband’s home state, we joined the church where my husband grew up and attended there for about six months. Then the Lord led us to help in a church planting ministry where we served for around 18 months. God recently moved us into an established ministry with my husband as the music and choir director. He does bi-vocational ministry work now.

The danger some ministry couples get into is that they think they can fly under the radar and church-hop to an extent visiting other ministries instead of finding a pastor and church. Visiting and attending can be good, an encouragement, but should only be done on a short-term basis.  We, even ministry folks, need to be a member of a local church for spiritual accountability and growth. Even if you are not fulfilling every role you ever did before in ministry, you can and should use your talents and skills in some way serving in a local church. It will keep your mind busy and your heart tied to God and His work.

Invest in Your Future

Rest Stops are great places to fill up your personal and spiritual gas tank. We personally used our couple time in the evenings discussing spiritual matters, goals, and desires for future ministry. We read books and internet articles to sharpen us as we waited. Think of yourself as a Bible student that can take time to study particular topics of interest or grow in areas needing attention. Whatever additions you can make into your spiritual life can be used in the future.

Invest in your family! During our transition we enjoyed our family time differently than when we had a full ministry schedule. This in it’s own way helped us reshape our family values and see particular needs in the hearts of our children that needed to be cultivated and attended to differently. Whether your kids are young or older, investing in your family is never a waste.

Don’t Compare Yourselves With Other Ministry People

Ministry transitional time is not the time to begin to compare  yourself or your experiences with what other people have done or are doing in their ministries. Biblically, in I Corinthians 10:12 this is explained as being unwise at all times , but the trap exists. “…but they measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise.”

When in times of waiting it is easy to look at others while you are on the sidelines, comparing and wondering. You can begin asking yourself why another family may have left their ministry and received a new position quicker than you have. We cannot see from a human standpoint how God is working on our behalf. His mysteries lays out a path for a particular family in one way and designs another family’s place of service and ministry uniquely for Him, and are His secrets and His purposes. Don’t be jealous of your friends or other servants of God, don’t be mad at God, just trust in His timing and be thankful God is faithful to those who are His servants.

Conclusion

  • Rest if you can.
  • Pray fervently.
  • Wait well.
  • Don’t backslide.
  • Take the next step toward ministry.
  • Join a church and serve.
  • Invest in your future.
  • Don’t compare yourself with others.

These are the lessons we have learned from a ministry transition that took a lot longer than we expected. We hope someone will be able to take our lessons learned and be able to make sense and purpose of their own ministry transitional time. Keep in the Word friends and keep serving the Lord!

 

10 Years of Marriage & Learning

10 Years of Marriage and Learning 2

A Special Thanks…

Today I want to extend my sincere love and thanks to my most faithful encourager and my darling husband for ten years of marriage. My husband, who I like to call on the blog, The Ministry Papa, is a special person to have put up with me for so long.

My husband is a wonderful person. I admire him for loving others and always making them feel welcome and valued. I love him for always saying to me when I approach him asking for forgiveness, “I already forgave you,”because he has tenderly already chosen to overlook my wrongs. I love how he tells me that if I die then he will never want to marry again, even though I encourage him it would be okay. He really needs a helpmeet! Trust me, I know.

I love how when I am not self-confident he has uplifting words to say to help me feel secure. He is an assuring friend, an adventure waiting to happen, sometimes a magnet for bodily injury but that’s something that keeps us laughing. He is concerned about our life and future, wants to follow and obey God so that we do not have more years of heartache if we can help it.

He is the fun-loving father that delights to wrestle on the floor with our kids and take them to do things with him. He is careful in the things that he is good at, like painting, preaching, and the joyful way he leads the song service in our church. I love the sparkle in his eyes when he sees me. He is my dear, my darling one!

On a Side Note…Did you know that darling means, “my only, as not to be replaced”? It does, and that is why I call him that.

Time…

10 years is:

  • 3,652 days,

  • 87,648 hours,

  • 5,258,800 minutes,

  • 315,532,800 seconds

We have not been exactly in the same place for each of those days, hours, minutes, or seconds, (thankfully) but we have been considered “one flesh” for that long. It is a sobering thought to think of all those times shared add up to so great an amount of time.

Half of our marriage was spent as some of the most stressful years of my life as we lived our earlier days working, having our boys and finishing Bible College. The last half have been spent serving in our first ministry together and they have allowed us to have a “normal” schedule and be able to communicate so much better than the years beforehand.

You can read more about our earlier years of marriage on a guest post that I wrote here.

Love…

Love is an interesting thing. I cannot express any thoughts or ideas that are new in the world about the subject but I am thankful that I have it and through God our love is richer and deeper. In serving in the calling of God’s will for our lives it has made it at times more complicated but overall more meaningful because I believe that it will have resulted in eternal gain for God’s glory. Heaven will show something of the love we had as we served the Lord together in our church, gave money for worldwide missions together, and most importantly taught our children about salvation side by side.

Learning…

You may notice that I write more often about ministry and motherhood than I do about marriage. In so many ways I feel like I struggle in this area of my life most, so that is why I titled this “10 Years of Marriage and Learning.” We are still learning how to love and serve each other. Lord willing, we will always be learning to love and serve each other.

Someone said in a sermon once that marriage makes you learn how to be more like Christ… and I think it makes it clear when you’re not being Christlike at all.

Marriage has stretched me, humbled me, called me to forgive more times than my fleshly heart wanted to. It has taught me forbearance, patience, to keep my yap shut and wait for God to work in my husband’s heart instead of trying to constantly be the pushing force of change in my husband’s life. It has revealed that although I have a wonderful companion, that God is the One who really knows my thoughts and feelings every day and He is the one that will help me change MY heart more than his to help make this marriage what He wants it to be. Being married to my husband has made me a better person.

I won’t lie, neither of us has been a picture perfect example of a wife or husband every day of these 10 years, but I Iove how that no matter what God has helped us moment by moment get through the turbulent seas and teaches us each time that true love covers a multitude of sins.

I Peter 4:8 And above all things have fervent charity among yourselves: for charity shall cover the multitude of sins.

To My Husband…

I love you more today than I did when we got married, it sounds so cliché but it’s true. I pray that the Lord will help us to be the best parents that our children deserve, special lovers, and obedient servants to Him for the rest of our lives! I love you, my cornier than cornbread, cheesier that Giovani’s cheese bread, mocha-latte’, one in a million babe! I hope you know that. ~Your Girl