This is a talk I presented to the Sunday School teachers in our church who teach children up to grade 7. I thought I would share it with you who teach children in your church for warning and encouragement.
THE STIMULUS FOR TEACHING CHILDREN
While we believe that teaching children the gospel is primarily the function of parents, as Sunday School teachers you come alongside parents to support them in this role. In the Sunday School classroom children are taught the truths of the gospel in language that works for them over and over again until it sticks.
Consider what you do as teachers in the light of Colossians 1:28 Him we proclaim, warning everyone and teaching everyone with all wisdom, that we may present everyone mature in Christ.
In Sunday School you are proclaiming Christ to children, you are warning them of the reality of judgment and hell, and teaching them with wisdom – as is appropriate to their age. This is done with the goal of presenting everyone you teach as mature in Christ.
So you are part of the process that sees those children not only serving in the body of Christ on earth but one day standing in glory before Jesus.
Allow that thought to influence the way in which you teach.
THE SERIOUSNESS OF TEACHING CHILDREN
James 3:1 Not many of you should become teachers, my brothers, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness.
Since we who teach will face a more serious judgment, we ought to contemplate this sobering warning every time we prepare and teach.
Jesus warns in Matthew 18:6 but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.
Imagine for a moment a sea voyage where you are tossed overboard with an anvil chained to your neck. Jesus says that nightmare is preferable to causing a child to sin. Yikes.
I would not be surprised or disappointed if some of you teachers asked to resign your position, or to take a hiatus, or at least requested help on how to teach better. There is no shame in quitting in the face of these two warnings.
THE SUBSTANCE OF TEACHING CHILDREN
The substance of your content must be the gospel. You teach it over and over in many different ways as you explain and make plain the core theme of redemption through Christ’s atonement in both the Old and New Testament.
We teach kids Bible stories, as that is how they learn best. That is how we all learn best, which Jesus knew and modeled for us. But help draw the line from the teachings of Jesus to the person and work of Jesus. And then attached helpful memory verses that encapsulate important doctrines for your young students to live by.
As a teacher you must know the truths you are teaching, so you have to do thorough preparation for your lessons. If there is something you don’t understand yourself, then find out. Children know if you have not prepared and if you don’t take their lesson seriously.
But kids don’t only learn from what you say. They learn from what they see in your life. You need to live the truths you are teaching. Watch your life in front of your children. The way you speak to them teaches them. Don’t gossip, be patient, be kind, be cheerful, be serious about prayer, dress modestly.
All of this encompasses what you teach.
THE STANDARDS FOR TEACHING CHILDREN
Your private holiness as a teacher is important. Paul told the young Timothy to train himself for godliness (1 Timothy 4:7). I pass that injunction on to you. Are you committed to daily devotions, prayer, and the studying of Scripture? Are you overcoming sin? Are you giving to the work of the ministry generously and sacrificially? Do you worship regularly with the church? Are you an exemplary leader for our children to emulate as you imitate Christ?
As a teacher your public holiness is just as important as your private holiness. Paul tells Timothy to be an example in “in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity” (1 Timothy 4:12). Watch what you say and do in public because the children you teach are watching you, their parents are watching you. They’ll learn from what movies you watch, how you dress, how you treat alcohol, how you react to stressful situations.
You aren’t pursuing holiness to please people, you are pleasing the Lord, but you do so in front of people who are learning from you. So take that pursuit seriously.
THE SATISFACTION FROM TEACHING CHILDREN
In terms of the language used by the Bible a Sunday School teacher is a teacher, an evangelist and a servant. In a real sense a deacon. Now you might not have the official title of deacon in your church, but you are a servant of Christ and of the church. This is a privileged function that comes with recognition and reward.
Notice 1 Timothy 3:13 For those who serve well as deacons gain a good standing for themselves and also great confidence in the faith that is in Christ Jesus.
Those who serve well gain a great reward. You receive a good standing with God; your goal is not to have a good standing in the church or in society, but with God. Even if no one on earth sees what you do, God does.
You will also gain great confidence in this, that you will know that you are saved because in your heart you are sacrificially serving God to the best of your ability.
Fifty years from now our church will only be as mature and holy and doctrinally sound as the generation of servants and leaders and members who make up this local body. And the children who are under our care right now, as a captive audience, as clean slates, can be nurtured and guided into maturity that will benefit them, their families, their peer groups, this church, and this community we reach.
And you, as a teacher, stand at the vortex of this responsibility. Let me close with Paul’s sobering and pensive question…
2 Cor 2:15-16 For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life. Who is sufficient for these things?
That’s a man who understood the level of significance his teaching ministry held. Do you?