Most teachers agree that some students can be a real challenge to work with. Yet they also agree the middle school and junior high years are a critical time when it is important to help students get established in their faith, their church and their lifestyle.
Some of your Sunday school and Bible club students probably grew up in your church and are from Christian families. If they ever decide to leave the church or their Christian beliefs, many children’s workers feel the seeds of departure and of rebellion will be sown during the junior high and middle school years. One Christian educator said, “Kids walk in the front door of the church when they are four, and out the back door when they are 14!”
How can you, their Bible Club leader or Sunday school teacher, catch those students before they get out the back door, or, better yet, how can you make the Christian life and fellowship in the church so meaningful and attractive to every student that they won’t even head for the exits?
To some extent, you have already answered that by your willingness to serve as a teacher, volunteer or leader. Yet it is important to nurture and develop in yourself the qualities and skills you need to relate in a helpful way to children. Here are ten questions to ask yourself. We'll look at the first four this week:
1. Do I love students?
People who minister successfully—to people of any age level—appear to have few behavioral, physical, educational or other kinds of characteristics in common. They are from many backgrounds and come in all shapes and sizes.
In fact, you don’t have to look young, own a sports car or be the best at video games to communicate with young students. It’s not necessary for you to like their music, their food or to keep up with them physically. People who minister effectively to students are of every age and every personality and the methods they use to achieve results are wide-ranging.
Yet they all have one thing in common: they love students. So ask yourself, Do I love young students? If you’re going to reach a young person for Christ, that’s a necessity!
2. Do I like students?
To some extent we can love someone and yet not like him. The Christian leader and teacher, however, must not only love the students he is trying to reach for Christ, but he needs to work hard at liking them too.
There might be students in your group who don’t smell very good, don’t talk very well, have bad habits and do things you don’t approve of—but you’re going to have to like them if you’re going to reach them—and keep them—for Jesus Christ.
In fact, friendship is one of the most important things you can offer. Your young students will respond to your friendship long before they will respond to what you try to teach them.
3. Do I expect something good to happen?
Are you excited and optimistic about your work with children? Do you have vision? Are you determined to accomplish something for Christ with your students? Do you realize your results may take a long time to happen?
If you’re after instant results, you’d better microwave some brownies or order a pizza; working with students requires a vision for the future and the willingness to trust God to bring about results in His timing.
4. Am I eager to take responsibility?
Being a Sunday school teacher or Bible club leader requires a willingness to take responsibility and get involved. Although they may never admit it, young students are looking to adults for leadership, guidance and caring; they will respond when adults show they care and want to be involved in the lives of the children.
Even when the going is rough, a Christian leader needs the ability to persevere and keep going. You can’t fall apart when no one shows up for a party—or when twice as many come as were expected! Make the best of the situation. When you do, the Lord will use your willingness and service to make something good out of the circumstances.
As a Bible Club leader or Sunday school teacher, you are influencing the students in many important ways—some of which you will never know. Don’t count on everything happening immediately; realize that some of the seeds you are sowing in the lives of your students may not bring about visible results for years!