The other night while rounding kids up for an event, I heard a little gal remark, “Ooo…he’s getting angry; you’all better listen.” That little comment shocked me back into reality. I was getting frustrated with the kids, my heart was moving towards sin. And the kids knew. My heart needed to be humbled by that little voice .
To lead well, to teach well, and to do kids’ ministry well, we must live well.
Kids can spot our hypocrisy faster than a toddler can spot candy. They know when we fail. They listen when we talk about humility, patience, and forgiveness. And then they watch to see if we ever display humility, patience, and forgiveness in our lives. Are the words we saying just words or are they our life? Do we really live by every word of God?
The answer to these questions will determine whether or not we are a good Sunday school teacher, Wednesday night leader, or nursery worker. To teach kids the gospel, we must live the gospel. Remember that James commands us to, “be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves” (James 1:22). Faith without works is dead. Kids know this.
Paul tells Titus, “Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity” (Titus 2:7). As kids hear us teach their Sunday school lesson, they don’t hear a bunch of principles from Lifeway, Group Publishing, or NavPress. They hear us. They look to see if the gospel has truly changed us. Our authenticity matter more than anything else.
Yes, God saves people with his word, regardless of who the teacher is. John Wesley led people to the Lord before getting saved. And Paul was content to see people preach Christ out of envy (Phil. 1:15). But the most effective teachers are the most obedient teachers. Pastor Bryan Chapell said it this way:
The character and compassion of a minister more than the characteristics of the message preached determine the quality of the message heard.”
The same can and should be said of Sunday school teachers and small group leaders.
Admittedly, no pastor or teacher is perfect. But the question that we need to consider is this: “How do we react when we sin?” Do we repent and ask for forgiveness or do we rationalize it, ignore it, and defend it? To be effective teachers, there is only one option. We have to deal with our sin. On more than one occasion, I have had to publicly apologize to the kids in my ministry. And I will do it again if I keep on living. Are we ready to take our sin seriously?
While we should always try to find methods, analogies, and crafts that help us to convey the gospel message better, we need to remember that our lives are the best teaching tool. The best Sunday school teachers aren’t necessarily the craftiest, most well-spoken, or the most technologically with it gal at church. The best teachers are the ones who daily commune with God.
What things have helped you become an authentic teacher?