Have you ever had one of those weeks when things just didn’t seem right? You studied your lesson, you followed the checklist… so what was wrong? Sometimes the lesson just isn’t good. It just doesn’t resonate with the kids. Sometimes though, it’s not the lesson or even your lesson prep – it’s the state of your heart.
Welcome to another post in the Bringing the Bible to Life in your Classroom series. In case you missed the previous installments, you can find them here:
Recently, I had the opportunity to talk with Michelle Anthony, author of Dreaming Of More. She remarked, “Too often in ministry, we give even when we have a deficit in our own lives. It’s like we want the kids in our ministry to have a richer spiritual life than we have, and that just can’t happen”. (Read the full interview with Michelle here).
As you are preparing your lesson, remember to not ask more of the kids than you are willing to give yourself. If you are telling kids to reach out to the outcast at school, first think about how you treat “the weird guy” at work.
If you are encouraging the preteens to make a regular habit of Scripture reading, you better be diving into God’s Word yourself. When you admonish elementary kids to be kind to their siblings, don’t forget to consider the way you regular speak to your spouse. Examine your own heart and life as you prepare yourself to teach. Who knows? Perhaps the Holy Spirit is using this lesson to stir YOUR heart towards something new.
Many years ago, I read Howard Hendrick’s book, Teaching to Change Lives. There are many great concepts and ideas within the pages of this book. The one thing that really stuck with me was his quote, “I would rather my students drink from a running stream than a stagnant pond.” Indeed, our teaching is always more vibrant and engaging when it comes from the overflow of our own heart and learning rather than the stagnant pages of a curriculum book only.
Allow me to tell you a story from my own experience with this. A few months ago, I was presenting the parable of the Good Samaritan at our mid-week Kids for Christ program. “Kids,” I began, “it was probably super inconvenient for the Samaritan to stop and help this man. Maybe he had somewhere to be. Maybe he appointments or people to meet in the next town. This really slowed down his trip. But he did the right thing. He helped out his neighbor, no matter what the cost.”
The presentation was terrific. The heart of the story was tugging on my insides. My eyes actually teared up a little while closing out with the application. Of course, that was just the practice session. When it came to the real deal, something just wasn’t right. The story of Luke 10 didn’t seem to connect with the kids. When I encouraged the kids to pray and think about whom they might be a neighbor to this week, things seem to fall flat. I just didn’t get it. What went wrong?
As I was laying in bed, rehashing the night, I prayed “Why didn’t it work, Lord?”
Practice was so on target. Why didn’t it flesh out?
Suddenly, I realized.
I am the priest. I am the Levite.
Wednesday afternoon, six hours before church, the phone rang. I checked the caller ID and knew it was going to be a long, emotionally taxing conversation, and I was right in the middle of something. I reasoned that I would call the person back in a few minutes. Twenty minutes later, when I called back, they were no longer available, but the message on my answering machine kept playing over and over in my head. The sadness in the voice. The plea, “I just need someone to talk to.”
I was the Levite. I am a teacher of the law. I’m a Children’s Ministry director! But when I saw an injured person in the road, I crossed to the other side. I didn’t answer the phone. I didn’t listen to the Holy Spirit and I wasn’t responsible with the opportunity God had given me to be a neighbor to someone in need.
Maybe the reason the kids didn’t connect with the lesson that night was because the lesson wasn’t for them. Maybe the lesson was for me. I was asking these kids to do something hard – to be inconvenienced when the Holy Spirit stirred their heart towards compassion, but I was not practicing what I was preaching. I learned that day that part of preparing myself to teach is learning to be obedient to the lesson myself.
The next week, I confessed my sin to the kids (without naming any names) and admitted that it’s hard to be a Christian. It’s hard to do the right thing and to listen to the still small voice of God at times, but the reward is worth it. I hope the kids remember that next time they see someone in need. I know I will.
Of course, growing spiritually is a process; one that we will hopefully be engaged in for our entire earthly lives. Don’t be discouraged if you are not where “you think you should be”. Just keep putting one foot in front of the other. Stay in the Scripture and continually ask the Lord to examine your heart. Be willing to admit when you’ve stumbled, but don’t be crippled by mistakes. After all, Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 12:9 that God’s grace is sufficient for all things and that God’s power is made perfect in weakness.
Maybe by the end of this section you’re beginning to feel like you’re just not cut out for the job. You wanted to help kids and all, but this is all sounding like a little too much. Let me encourage you to hang in there! The first week might be a little tougher than usual as you get used to preparing a little bit each day, but I guarantee you that you will deeply appreciate the results when
it comes time for teaching on Sunday morning. I know you can do this!
Let’s keep going!
You’ve learned how to prepare both your lesson and your heart for teaching, but you’re not finished yet. Sure, you’ve got the bulk of work done, but now it’s time to fill in the details. Get ready to have some fun! I’ll be back in a few more days with a new post, as we continue this series.