As a teacher, you are most likely familiar with James 3:1 “My brethren, be not many masters[teachers], knowing that we shall receive the greater condemnation.” (KJV). Yet so often, and frequently due to the perceptions of education within local churches, the responsibility of teaching children falls to a new believer with little understanding of the scripture himself. And the younger the class the less experience is assumed to be necessary for the task assigned. Yet if we look, even briefly, at research related to children it becomes obvious that the task is a daunting one.
Current research suggests that a child’s moral code (sense of what is right and wrong) is nearly completely developed by age 5, his philosophical outlook [worldview] will be nearly complete by age 10 and he will spend the next couple of years deciding if it is true or not. Thus by the time a child reaches 13 he is no longer looking for new information, but is more interested in learning to defend the belief system that he has chosen (after being taught in it as a youngster) and test it in his own life. Now obviously a person can change under the power of the Holy Spirit, but statistically speaking the younger a person is the more open to change they are.
So what does this mean for you and I as teachers? First it means that if you have been called of God to work with preschool age children you have the the incredible responsibility of helping them form a sense of right and wrong based upon scripture, NOT on the opinions and propaganda of men. As the teacher of elementary students you have the full time job of helping them learn the facts of the Bible, but not in a manner devoid of reality, because very shortly they will be investigating what they have been taught to see if it is real, or simply a story. If you are teaching pre-teens you will have the excitement of helping them choose to accept what they have been taught their whole life (assuming it was biblically based) as their personal ideology for life. The real challenge comes into play when they failed to learn from a Biblical perspective in their younger years. Obviously at every step of the way you must pray for the grace of God and the power of the Holy Spirit in each of your students lives, but this becomes even more important for the youngster who was not raised in the scripture in their younger formidable years.
My personal opinion on this issue is that the children’s teacher must be more capable the younger the children he works with are. Why, you may ask, is this the case? Because as a person gains experience they are able to begin filtering out mistakes in their own education, but the younger they are they will take everything at face value and without evaluation.
If you are new to the Bible yourself, and have been asked to teach a children’s class I caution you to be VERY careful, should you accept this responsibility. Primarily because you do not have the background yet that your children need to have taught to them. Saturate yourself with scripture, delve into the word of God and allow the Holy Spirit to change your worldview to match that of the Bible. If you are not willing to match your worldview to that of the Bible then please DO NOT teach, especially children.
At this point I trust you are feeling a bit “cautious” about your role as a teacher. Good, but don’t quit if that is where God has called you to minister. While God’s plan, scripturally is for parents to be the primary source of spiritual training for their children, according to current survey’s over 90% of Christian parents leave, almost entirely, their child’s spiritual training in the hands of their local church. You as the teacher entrusted with the child’s spiritual training have perhaps one hour in which to instill what the parent (according to God’s plan for spiritual training) was to spend every waking moment teaching during the previous week. (See Deuteronomy 6:7-8)
You may be asking yourself “Why is Tim putting all this pressure on me?” The answer is quite simple – you will rarely be challenged to rise to the heights your students deserve of a Sunday School teacher, and I want to encourage you to make the most of every moment God gives you. If you are a Pastor may I challenge you to work closely with the parents in your congregation to take up the responsibility for the spiritual training of their children, as God intends. And when you start looking for new Sunday School teachers do not give this enormous responsibility to someone who is not prepared to do it justice.
Aloha – Tim