In the month of January, the days are short, and the nights are long and cold (for some of us). The busy holiday season is over, and many of us feel tired and worn down. Additionally, another wave of COVID-19 and other seasonal illnesses are affecting many homes and churches. Hence, the eagerness and energy of the school year’s beginning have diminished. What can parents, children’s ministry leaders, and volunteers do to fight the midyear doldrums and discouragements?
Since traditions can span generations, it is worth the effort to invent and plan them with purpose, content, and clarity. Traditions create memories. So, it is wise to consider what memory we are creating, and if it is a memory we want to reinforce every year.
When I first began teaching Sunday school 30+ years ago, our classes met year-round and class time was typically an hour and a half in duration. Needless to say, it was quite a challenge to retain teachers year after year, and the summer months proved particularly difficult. Then, our church decided to take the summer off from the regular Sunday routine. It was a wonderful time of rest and refreshment for our volunteers. We came back eager and energized in the fall. Hence, a 40-week Sunday school year served to benefit both teachers and students.
One of the most discouraging things for a teacher or small group leader during a lesson is the perception that your students are not personally engaged with what is being taught. Here you are, teaching the most important truths in the universe with heartfelt passion, and some children seem completely disinterested, entirely inattentive, and utterly bored. At times like this, it’s tempting to ask: “Are they even listening? Is any of this truth reaching their minds and sinking into their hearts?” What’s a teacher or small group leader to do?
What would we give for our children to become mighty oaks of righteousness? An hour of teaching on Sunday morning? A few hours of preparation? A regular weekly prayer for the children in your small group? A passing word of spiritual encouragement to a child in your class? Each of these small investments could reap an eternal harvest.
It’s hard to believe how quickly a new school year is approaching. Many churches have been and are continuing to prepare for their fall startup of Sunday school and midweek programs. Ministry leaders have been busy recruiting volunteers to fill various classroom positions. But have your volunteers been inspired with a grand and glorious biblical vision for what they will be doing? Have they been thoroughly equipped and trained for their specific roles? Is there a plan to officially and prayerfully “launch” them into their ministry?
What is greatness in God’s sight? Too often I wish for my children, (and even for myself), greatness that is praised in the world’s eyes: high grades, academic accolades, advanced degrees, leadership positions, world-shaping achievements, visible fame, etc. This has been a temptation in every age.
The older I get, the more I have seen this and wept – young adults, raised by godly Christian parents and who grew up in vibrant churches – simply walk away from Jesus. Some of these wayward children do so in dramatic overt rebellion, rejecting any semblance of the Christian faith. But others still display an outward appearance of godliness yet have no true love for Jesus. In either case, it’s tragic. What’s a parent to do? What’s the church to do?
"News spread throughout Judea that this was a special child, and the people wondered who he would be," Sally Michael writes in this excerpt from the forthcoming New Testament volume of More Than a Story. "For the hand of the Lord was with him. But long ago, God had already let His people know about this child through the words of the prophets Malachi and Isaiah. His father, Zechariah, was filled with the Holy Spirit and foretold or prophesied about God’s purpose using some of the words of these prophets."
Parents and teachers: Do not grow weary in providing your students and children with the “ordinary” means of a godly education: reading and teaching from the Bible, offering godly encouragement, attending corporate worship, listening to the preached Word, praying, singing hymns, etc. Because it is through these means that God, by His sovereign grace, does extraordinary things!