By: Staci Stallings
For those who don’t know, I teach Sunday school to fourth graders. We have a very eclectic system at our church though it’s probably not designed to be that way. Because of transient kids (with mom one week, with dad the next) and overall apathy (have kids that just don’t want to come and parents that don’t make them), we end up with classes that are hit-or-miss at best. In any given week I have about 1/3 of the class that’s been there nearly every week, 1/3 that comes every other week, and 1/3 that just switch out depending on how they feel that morning; and about five that never show up. This year I have done better. In fact, we’ve gained several students over the year as new people moved in.
Because of this crazy patchwork of attendance, I feel an even greater responsibility to make class fun and interesting so the kids will want to come. Yes, I still teach… A LOT. But we don’t just read out of the book or do questions. You lose them incredibly fast like that. So that you start with 30 kids and end up with 5 by May. This year, I still have about 20-24 in class every week, so I must be doing something right.
One of the things I do “right” is something I learned from a good friend of mine who teaches this age group in school. When she taught Sunday school, she made it a point to have some activity every week. I adopted this strategy, and it seems to have worked very well.
We do puzzles to explain how the Holy Spirit helps each person put their life together and then fits them all together into a bigger puzzle. We do drinking glasses of water filled with dirt to understand sin. We do a lot of plays and making decisions, mazes and even faith football.
A couple weeks ago, we did one of my daughter (my assistant)’s favorite lessons. It’s the Jesus lesson. My daughter gets to be Jesus. She puts out three colors of cards in a row and then another row and then another row, all the way around the room. Then we have a child come up.
They are told that they have to make the right “choice” of color on each row all the way around the room to get a prize. “Ready. Go.”
“Jesus” stands in the corner and “judges” them after 10 steps. If they didn’t get all 10 right, they have to sit down.
This year all the students wanted a chance at going around, so we let them. One by one they were told by Jesus that they didn’t do it right, they missed the prize. We’d gotten all the way down to two students left when I decided to give them a hint. A little girl came up. Now this little girl was new by two weeks to the class. She is very quiet, so I thought she would be a really good one to “help.”
I said to her, “Now there is someone here who knows the pattern and can get you all the way around to your prize. Who is that?”
She thought for a minute and then said, “Jesus.”
I nodded, happy she understood the point of the lesson. “See, all you have to do is ask Jesus for help.”
Then she did something truly remarkable, something I never in a million years expected. She looked right at me and said, “But I want to do it on my own.”
Some Holy Spirit lessons hit you right between the eyes. That one sure did.
I said, “But Jesus will help you. All you have to do is ask.”
But she shook her head, “But I want to do it on my own.”
Well… what do you say to that? What does God say to us when we say that?
So I let her. The Holy Spirit had this one planned out because other than Him, I still don’t know why I left that last little boy until the very last. Common sense said to call everyone except the very last person. Knowing I still had one person left, I said, “Okay, try it on your own.”
She got three steps before she messed up and had to go sit down. (How far have you gotten?)
The little boy was about to jump out of his skin. “I’ll ask Jesus! I’ll ask Jesus!”
So I told him to come up, which he did, running and nearly knocking things down. And he asked Jesus. “Jesus, will you help me?” Of course, Jesus smiled and said, “Of course.”
The little boy even understood not to tell Jesus to walk with him, but to LEAD him around the room to each correct choice. Then all he had to do was watch where Jesus stepped and step there. Of course he was the only one who got the prize.
However, I still get hung up on that little girl. She knew the answer. All she had to do was ask. Yet she chose to try to do it herself knowing she wouldn’t make it. Why?
And my other question: How many of us do exactly the same thing in life? We know the right answer is to ask God for help, but we’re too stubborn, too blind, or too prideful to ask Him. I want to do it on my own. How many times have I said that? How many times have you?