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The Harvest is Plenty!

A Children’s Director’s Guide to Recruiting and Maintaining Sunday School Teachers

By: Deborah Bell Rodahaffer

Eighteen years as a Director of Christian of Education, mentoring Christian educators, and today, as Minister for Parish Life, have taught me that recruiting Sunday School teachers and all who serve should begin in prayer.  I pray that God will send me the right person for the position. When a candidate does come my way, I ask that person to pray about his or her commitment to this ministry.

Some Children’s Ministries put a notice in their church bulletin to recruit teachers.  However, I have found that “scouting” for teachers has worked in my ministry.  What I mean by this, is I observe prospective candidates for several weeks and see how they interact with children and adults. If they have good people skills and a servant’s heart, I invite them to serve.  I prefer candidates who have been active in the church for at least a year. Think outside of the box when looking for teachers. Some of the best Sunday School teachers I know are lawyers, artists, gardeners, librarians, college-aged parishioners, and dads.

INITIAL MEETING

I find that a one on one meeting in one of the church meeting rooms is the best environment for both you and the candidate to discern if this is the ministry for them.  Here is a guideline for what I cover.

 

  • Offer a written job description outlining expectations including time commitment and go over each point with candidate allowing ample time for questions.
  • Always use the word ministry rather than volunteer. Leading children to love and know God may be the most important ministry of your candidates’ lives.
  • Acknowledge that you value this candidate’s ministry before it even begins because you entrust the candidate by offering a sacred responsibility in leading children.
  • Be clear about YOUR role in his/her ministry. (You will provide training, curriculum, materials needed each week, advocacy, and on-going support.)
  • Have sample curricula available to look at together and send home with candidate.
  • Tour the Sunday School room where the candidate will teach/lead.

 

Candidates may be reluctant to accept position because they do not feel “qualified”. Remind candidates that with God’s help everything is possible and that you prayerfully considered the candidate for the position before you approached them. Together you will make the experience of teaching young children exceptional for students and teachers.  Accept the candidate’s “yes” or “no” response with love knowing that you both entered this process of teaching/leading children through the power of prayer and through that, the decision will be the right one for both of you.

 

PARENTS AS SUPPORT

Do not ask a parent to teach in his or her child’s class. Unless a mom or dad of young children has a real desire to teach, allow them to be involved in other church ministries until their children are older.   Do encourage parents to be part of a Sunday School support ministry that can help you outside of the classroom.  This team is vital in helping purchase supplies, pre-prepare arts and crafts activities, providing snacks, and hosting events for teachers.

 

MAINTAINING

Maintaining and helping your teachers to grow in their ministry is as important as finding the right people to teach.  The following ideas may work in your ministry, they worked in mine:

 

  • Regular training sessions with all teachers (with lunch, dinner, or dessert is best) Have frequent discussions about their teaching including all questions they have about lesson plans, scripture readings, etc. Send them articles or recommend books that will help them in their ministry.

 

  • Immediately respond to any situations involving children or guardians where you need to take the lead.

 

  • Make quick weekly check-ins with teachers by email or text (What was best about your Sunday? Any concerns about students, family members? How is your week going?)

 

  • Create an environment where teachers have a minimal amount of prep work. Make sure that you or your support team have decorated, cleaned, set-up classrooms each week. Crafts and activities along with a prepared snack should be ready to go.  Have “restroom runners” so that teachers do not need to stop classes in progress (reminder – bathroom doors should be propped open when children are in the restroom). Teachers should be able to focus on teaching and being present to the children.

 

  • Encourage the faith life of your teachers with opportunities for bible study and retreats. Take a personal interest in them and make it a habit to pray for and with them.

 

  • Help teachers to focus. Remind teachers that teaching younger children needs to be fun. When children have fun, they will want to be present and they will retain more of what they learn. What is most important about Sunday School with younger children is that the children feel safe, feel valued, and know that God loves them.

 

HONOR TEACHERS:

It is important to commission church school teachers in front of the congregation the Sunday before or the Sunday church school begins.  The Rector/Minister and Christian Formation Director should participate in the Commissioning.  As teachers we are evangelizers and this critical role should be elevated.  Other means of recognizing teachers is by highlighting their ministry with bulletin board displays with photos and short bios (include comments from children and parents) or including them in newsletters that go out to the congregation.

Send notes or cards to your teachers (birthdays, anniversary of teaching start date) or small gifts from time to time. Say “thank you” every chance you have because that is the best way to honor anyone’s ministry.

 

Debbi Rodahaffer served as Director of Christian Formation for children, youth, and adults at St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church, Louisville, KY, for eighteen years. She currently serves as Minister for Parish Life at The Episcopal Church of the Advent, Louisville. During her twenty years in lay ministry, Debbi served as president of Forma: the network for Christian Formation, and as a three-time deputy to the General Convention of The Episcopal Church. In the Episcopal Diocese of Kentucky, she served as chair of the Christian Formation Ministry, on All Saints’ Conference Center board, on the Standing Committee, and on The Commission of Ministry. Debbi currently serves on Kanuga Conference Center’s Christian Formation Conference Planning Team and hopes to have an opportunity to talk with you about all things formation and hospitality next June 2019 at Kanuga, Hendersonville, NC.

 

Helping Children Hear the Voice of God

By: Lindsey Goetz

“…May God give you ears to hear His loving voice, his loving voice  speaking all around you, all  around you, and deep inside.”

Every night, a lump forms in my throat and I blink back tears as I finish singing “The Song of Blessing” to my three daughters. It strikes me anew every night that I’m praying that the God of the universe would open the ears of my children to his voice, that they would hear him.  As a parent and as a children’s minister I feel very keenly my responsibility to help children learn that God is speaking–by his world, by his Word, by his Spirit– and that they can hear him.  “The Lord does not look at the things people look at,” the Lord said to Samuel when he went looking for a King; “people look at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.”  And I wonder if a vague memory floated through Samuel’s mind–of a young boy, lying on the temple floor, who heard the voice of God at a time when the word of the Lord was rare. Scripture says that this was before Samuel knew the Lord, and it was Eli who helped Samuel recognize the voice of God.  Hebrews 1 tells us that God has spoken, once and for all, by his Son.  How are we, as those who love, serve, and worship with children, helping them to listen for God’s voice?  

We Let Them Hear God’s Voice in Scripture:

We refuse merely to entertain children when they come to worship with the gathered people of God.  Whether we remove them from the worship service or not, our primary aim is not to entertain them or even to teach them character traits or moral values; our goal is to declare God’s word to them.  He has promised that his word will not return without accomplishing its purpose. Are we equipping children and giving them the opportunity to hear and to study God’s Word?  

We Minister to the Whole Child.

Effective children’s ministry applies the truth of the gospel to situations that matter to children now.  By treating children as people who belong in God’s family now, who are being joined to Christ now, and who have the ability to hear God now, we honor the image of God in them, help them to see how the gospel applies to all of life, and train them to listen for God’s voice every moment of every day.  

We Show Them Jesus.

I’ve already mentioned the Hebrews passage that reminds us that God has spoken to us by his Son–and what a beautiful, true Word he is! The author of Hebrews goes on to say that Jesus is the exact imprint of God’s nature.  So if we really want to hear God, we listen to Jesus–his words, his silences, who he listened to, and who he loved. The best thing we can do for the children we minister to is to be an arrow that points daily, hourly to the ultimate authority on who God is and what he does– his beautiful Son.

We Create Space for Them.

Children’s ministry programming must offer space for children to hear from God as he speaks to them by his word.  We should be wary of always dictating the form a response should take, of minimizing concerns children raise, and of hurrying children along from one activity to the next. Instead, we should create space for children to hear God’s voice in his word and help them to become comfortable resting in that place through prayer, singing, or creating something that helps them give attention to what they have heard.  We must provide ways in which they can be reminded of what they have heard throughout the week. (The Live it All Week sheets from Hearts Alive equip parents excellently to create this space in their homes.)

If we hope to raise and to serve children who are aware of God’s voice and listening to it, we must be people who do those things as well.  And maybe that’s why I feel the lump form in my throat each night as my heart aches for my children to know the loving voice of God, to be people whose lives say “Speak, Lord, your servant is listening.”  Maybe it’s because as I pray this prayer for my children, I’m also praying it for myself.

 

Lindsey Goetz is a mom to three fierce and lovely daughters, and she and her husband David serve as Directors of Family Discipleship at First Presbyterian Church of Aurora IL, where they are enjoying Hearts Alive with their Sunday School classes. Lindsey and David also host The New City Families Podcast, creating space for conversations about family discipleship, to the glory of God for the good of our city. Lindsey currently loves cold brew coffee, neighborhood walks, and reading to her daughters.

 

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