The Focus of our Sunday Schools
Series: Children’s ministry in our churches.
In the previous post we looked at the importance of parents in children’s ministry. We are now starting to look at the focus of the Sunday school. We will start with the ‘What’ and in the next blog we will get to the ‘Why.’
What should be the focus of our teaching?
If we don’t know what we are aiming for we probably won’t hit the target! Sometimes the thing that we are trying to do is so obvious that we take it for granted and often fail to do the exact thing that we want to do! For years I ran the children's ministry in a large UK church. Part of my role was training the children’s leaders and observing what they were doing to help them improve. One thing that caught my attention, over and over, was that we were often failing to do the very thing that we thought we were doing. From my observations of very well prepared, very engaging, and thoroughly biblical lessons the main thing we thought we were doing was often missing. This was obviously my fault as a trainer of those leaders because the central focus of our teaching should have been: GOD! Not what he has done but HIM! Who he is, what he is like, what he likes, what he doesn’t like etc.
Sadly, from my experience, I have seen too many excellently organised, brilliantly delivered classes that talk about God a lot, that taught the stories wonderfully from the bible or the fundamental doctrines of the faith but, fail to communicate anything to the children about God. Yes, they knew more stories and Bible truths but when I spoke to the children after each lesson it was obvious that they didn’t really know God better.
When I realised this, I changed the training I did with the leaders to a ministry focused on God. I never wanted him to be forgotten or missed when we taught the Bible again. Therefore, in the years that followed in my training for the children’s ministry leaders I would often illustrate this point by getting them to retell a simple, well known bible story. I always chose the stories because I wanted them to think and get better at seeing God in and through the Bible. In the beginning I would do this exercise to trick them, to show them how easy it can be to teach the Bible yet miss God as we do it.
I would set it up by even asking them not to simply retell the story but to try and retell it, in their own words emphasise what the story is trying to teach. In the beginning, whatever the story was, David and Goliath, Moses in the basket etc. people would always tell the story accurately but… almost always fail to mention God and what he was doing in and through the story. This simple exercise was sometimes really embarrassing, but it made the point to everyone: It is easy to teach the Bible and completely fail to teach anything about God.
For this reason, in my leaders training, I would always teach them that they need to have an aim sentence for every class they ever taught. And to make the point really clear we decided that our aim sentences for every class should start in the following way:
“In this class I want to teach that this passage / story shows that God is….”
Why is this so important? I might be stating the obvious to you. But we do because God is at the centre of everything! He is working out his plans and purposes in and through all things, everywhere at all times. That is why the aim sentence we should have for every class should be something like:
“In this class I want to show that God is…”
This is our number one job, because only when people see that God is at the centre of everything, working for the good, will they know their place and role in this world. No one will have life to the full now and forever that Jesus offers unless we see life like this. That God is at the centre of everything, and we aren’t! Don’t we all want this from our children’s ministries? Children walking through their lives seeing God at work. God at the centre of all things so that they involve Him in their daily lives because they know it is absurd not to.
But if we fail in the simple task of showing them how God is the centre of every part of the bible as we teach it, we cannot expect them to see Him at the centre of all things. More importantly, it will be extremely difficult for them to see God at the centre of all the things that happen around them in their daily lives outside the Bible.
In the next instalment we will see some examples of how to look for God in every story of the bible, even when this is not so obvious. Because after all, everything is about Him.