Real Children’s Ministry

Here’s a story about something that happened once when I was teaching Sunday School that reveals how mean I am, and how good God is.

Let me set the stage for this story. We had a small class, only about 5 kids in lower elementary school. We started out with prayer and a snack, and after about 10 minutes, I would “get down to business” and start teaching.

Like anyone who teaches, I think that the whole point of this class is the lesson. I mean, the snack, the game, the craft- they’re just things to get through so we can do this important thing- to communicate this BIG TRUTH that is in the lesson!

Photo by Felipe Cardoso on Pexels.com

Okay, so this particular week I made microwave popcorn. Nothing fancy. two bags for seven people. My husband was there, too, I should mention that we were in this together. I had also brought some juice. So I pass out this popcorn on napkins to each of the kids, and there is this one child- (I’m making some of this generic so I don’t embarrass anyone) there is is this one girl- I’ll call her Gracie- Gracie, okay, so, she asks me for a big pile. So I’m like, whatever, I don’t mind being generous, it’s popcorn, I pour the popcorn. I pour the juice, and by the time I’ve poured it all and passed it out to the other four, she has downed hers and asks for more.

I am, I admit it, irritated. Suddenly I’m facing these questions: Is it too sugary? Is one glass enough? Should she go get some water? I want to get to my lesson, do we have enough time? But I decide, again, to err on the side of generosity, and I pour her some more juice. We sit down to eat and talk.

As we have snack, I usually review our memory verses. When we are halfway through the second one, she finishes her popcorn, and asks for more. With a sigh, I pour her a little more.

Snack is slowing down, so I stand up to the board to start The Lesson.

The lesson this week is on the miracles of Jesus. The point of the lesson is that Jesus performed miracles because he loves us.

I know that all of these kids have been in church awhile, and they’ve heard all the stories of the miracles, and so one of the things I’m doing in the intro is trying to get them to list and tell me as many miracles as they can. They are doing well, raising their hands and joining in, and I’m making a list on the board.

The ones who are slower eaters are finishing, and mostly participating, and then there is Gracie.

She has already finished her second helping, and I see that she is giving her cup and napkin to my husband for thirds. He’s already poured the popcorn, but I intervene before she has more juice. (She’s had enough, I’m thinking. That’s enough sugary juice. She needs to pay attention, the lesson is more important than the snack. The snack is distracting her.)

I finish up the list exercise, and return to the table to do the next part of the lesson. Gracie asks to fill her cup with water in the bathroom, and I let her go. She comes back in a minute and still figits. I am almost boiling. Why can’t she just focus!?

We start the crafty part of the lesson, and I’m passing out papers, but she’s not interested in coloring. She’s quiet and not disturbing anyone, but she’s still packing in the popcorn. After a minute, as I’m listening to another child answer a question, she asks my husband for more. He starts to give it to her, but I put my hand on the bag.

I am full on irritated, so irritated. I mean, all I want her to do is HEAR the LESSON. JESUS LOVES HER, HE DID MIRACLES BECAUSE HE LOVES US.

“Snack time is over,” I say, as gently as I am physically able, which is not very gentle. “It’s time to pay attention.” And then I ask her the next question in the lesson, and to her credit, she answers it.

But as I move on to the next part of the lesson, I notice she just keeps staring at the popcorn. She is restless. Asks for more water, swings in her chair. figits, asks to use the bathroom. Whispers a question to my husband- can they have more popcorn after game time?

I am just a miserable wreck inside. Want to know my thoughts?

Why doesn’t this child know how to listen to a teacher? Why is she acting so entitled, rather than grateful that she already recieved? Why do I have to put up with this? I prepared a LESSON, an IMPORTANT LESSON, and she should be respectful to me and sit and listen! How dare she be uninterested, how dare she NOT CARE about what I have to say. Yep, I think all these things. I told you I’m not naturally nice. I don’t really NOTICE how nasty I am. I feel entirely justified and… well, righteous. After all, I’m there to teach them THAT JESUS LOVES THEM.

And then I am completely, one hundred percent rocked by the Holy Spirit.

You see, earlier that week, I felt really strongly that the Lord was leading me to read in James. I got to this part-

My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory. For if a man wearing a gold ring and fine clothing comes into your assembly, and a poor man in shabby clothing also comes in, and if you pay attention to the one who wears the fine clothing and say, “You sit here in a good place,” while you say to the poor man, “You stand over there,” or, “Sit down at my feet,” have you not then made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?

 Listen, my beloved brothers, has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom, which he has promised to those who love him? But you have dishonored the poor man. Are not the rich the ones who oppress you, and the ones who drag you into court? Are they not the ones who blaspheme the honorable name by which you were called?

If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well. But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors. For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become guilty of all of it. For he who said, “Do not commit adultery,” also said, “Do not murder.” If you do not commit adultery but do murder, you have become a transgressor of the law. So speak and so act as those who are to be judged under the law of liberty. For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.

What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that?

James 2:1-16

I had read this earlier in the week, and tried to search my heart- was I playing favorites in any way? I noticed a few things and situations that I could think of that might apply and tried to repent of them… Situations where I had favored someone I honored or respected or… envied.

But suddenly, this whole passage just SLAMS into my heart, and I realize something about Gracie.

I think she’s hungry.

“Hey,” I say impulsively, as she is eyeing the popcorn bag that I put away on the shelf. “What did you have for breakfast today?”

“Nothing,” she says, with her eyes glued to that bag. “We don’t get to eat on Sundays because my grandma picks us up early.”

My heart drops. It is almost eleven o clock. I, in my luxury, had made my family bagels and scrambled eggs that morning, had a mini-donut with my coffee in the foyer besides, and I’m already thinking about lunch.

I look back at the popcorn, and I feel like a total heel. Suddenly my whole lesson about Jesus and his miracles- feeding the 5,000, healing the lame and the lepers- raising the dead- Jesus doing miracles because he loves us- suddenly I realize that in these stories- I am the pharisee. I’m so hyper focused on my own goals, my own agenda- my own righteous LESSON- that I just about missed the miracle, the love, the thing that my Lord was walking around doing for 33 years.

I look at my husband and he nods. We are both very, very aware of what Jesus would do. We know what He wants here.

Feed my lambs.

All I have is popcorn, but I pick up the bag and pour the rest of it on to her napkin, let it spill over onto her blank coloring page, and her face lights up in surprise. I reach for her cup and fill it to the brim with the juice. Next week I’ll come prepared with milk and apples and raisins and peanut butter for crackers.

I think about this a lot when I’m with people at church. You never know who’s hungry. We come as teachers with an agenda- and a good one! We’re supposed to teach the Truth, preach the Gospel, disciple the nations.

But if a boy or girl is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what good is that?

Thanks for listening to my confession- both of my own sin and of how good God is. I’m so thankful that he led me to read James, I’m so thankful that the Spirit opened my eyes to let me be a part of what He was doing with his children. I’m so thankful that he loves Gracie enough to feed her, and he loves me enough to put up with my “help.”


Photo by Felipe Cardoso on Pexels.com

I write fiction, you guys! My newest release is called CinderLouise. It’s a Sunday-Afternoon read for people who would like a little fairy tale, a little romance, and a little encouragement in their lives. It’s available on Kindle and in paperback, and soon on Audible! I’d love if you’d leave a review for me on Amazon or Goodreads! <3<3<3

10 things I’ve learned about How to Teach Kids about the Lord

Sooo you’re going to teach a Sunday school class, but you feel a little overwhelmed? It’s okay, I’ve got your back. I’ve been teaching kids in church settings and non-church settings about Bible things for over 20 years, and I’m going to give you my 10 best tips. I hope they help! Let’s jump right in.

The first, number one, most important thing to do- is pray. Seriously. I know this sounds elementary, but before I teach any kids, I take time to talk to the Lord myself, and ask him to speak through me, and to give me just the right words. I invite the Holy Spirit to open the ears the child’s heart so that they can know how much the Lord loves them and is calling to them. I sometimes also ask for any lying spirits or strongholds to be shut up so that the child won’t be hindered from hearing the truth! It helps most if you are praying for the lesson while you study or write it, and praying for the child regularly, but I also pray while driving to the meeting, and I pray over the room before the kids get there! Prayer is the MOST IMPORTANT PART. Remember, you are the vessel of the Spirit- but it is the Spirit who does the work! And then… Pray with them! Don’t be shy. Talk to God like you talk to a friend. Show them by example that they can talk to God in imperfect, normal language just like you do.

2. Trust God to use you, just as you are. Don’t beat yourself up about not being smart enough, learned enough, mature enough, or especially- good enough. Most of us were not brought to Christ by perfect, seminary educated theologians. We were won to Christ by the love shown through an ordinary human being! Take a deep breath and give freely, as you have been given. And don’t try to be someone you aren’t! It’s easy to try to emulate someone else’s teaching or speaking style. But you are YOU. Your flavor of speech and manor of dress are okay, and your story and your witness is more powerful than trying to put on a “perfect show.” Be real. You don’t have to reveal every little struggle and doubt you are having, but being honest about your relationship and walk with God helps the kids to see that THEY don’t have to be perfect, either. It helps them to realize, “Hey, if she can follow God, I can too!” And on the contrary- if you seem too perfect, when that child can’t live up to the “perfect” they think you are, they will tend to believe a lie that says that they can never be a Christian like you are. So be yourself.

3. Memory! Okay, here’s the thing. No matter what the occasion you have to minister to kids, use the opportunity to teach them words from Scripture. Even if they forget you, forget the bible story, even if they forget the main point of your lesson and that they ever even came to your class, someday in the future, the Holy Spirit will absolutely pull those memory verses out of their deep memory for them in the future. (Isaiah 55:11) But please, please, please, make it fun, and not a drudgery. Some kids will find it really easy, and some kids will struggle with it a little. Competition and drilling doesn’t work for a lot of kids, but music and teamwork works for almost all of them!

4. Kids can understand more than you think. They think about things like death and heaven and fear and the devil. Don’t try too much to “clean up” bible stories or even your own testimony. We never want to glamorize sin, but honestly? Many children these days have seen murder, adultery, and worse on their TV’s, ipods, and in their own homes. They don’t come to church to hear sweet little stories that sound like nursery rhymes. They want to know if the Bible talks about the important things in life. And it does. So tell them.

5. That being said, kids need words they can understand. A ten cent word that works is better than a ten dollar word they would have to look up in a dictionary. Use simple language as much as possible, even for kids who are “older.” Unchurched kids have no idea what words like “Holy,” “Righteous,” “Sanctified,” “baptized,” and even “sin” mean. You can use them, but ONLY if you explain them clearly in clear language every class period you use them. I assume that if their public school teacher would never say it, they don’t know what it is. Also something to note? Most kids these days are Bible illiterate. You can’t refer Moses, Joshua, the Israelites, or David, and have them know what you’re talking about. You have to start from scratch if you want to tell a narrative from the Bible. ( For instance, to talk about the battle of Jericho, I would say, “Today I’m going to tell you about a group of people who lived a long time ago. God promised them that if they followed him, he would give them a home in a new land. One day, their leader, a man named Joshua…” and then I go on. )

6. Kids understand more than you think when it comes to unspoken communication, too. If you are irritated with them, frustrated with a fellow teacher, or just plain in a bad mood, they know it. The best thing to do is take a deep breath and be honest. Say something like, “Hey guys, I just wanted you to know that I have a headache today. Please bear with me, I am trying my best.” They are usually understanding, and it’s better than having them wonder if it’s them you don’t like.

7. Because… this is probably the biggest part: Kids want to be loved. Honestly? You can be the coolest, funniest, most entertaining, educated, and prepared teacher out there- but if you don’t love them, they will. not. care. They won’t care! Kids can tell the difference between being loved and being endured. Being tolerated or being celebrated. Kids can see it, and maybe for a little while they might continue to come for the pizza or games, but if they aren’t loved, they will never open up to you- or let you speak into their lives. You can only influence them for the Lord if they feel the love.

8. Relax. Have fun. The curriculum is only a tool. The lesson is only a guideline. Every class you teach is an opportunity, a short window that you have, to look at a child, to ask the Holy Spirit to let you be the Lord Jesus’ hands, heart, and maybe voice to that child. Remember that Jesus blessed the children. So you do the same! If that’s all you do, sometimes that’s all you were called to do that day. Sometimes the most productive teaching sessions are just sitting sessions, where you sit on the rug with them and let them talk, and talk, and talk, and talk… Because you’re teaching them, “You are seen, and loved, and cared about.” You are doing to them what the Lord does for us. And maybe, like we should, they will someday learn to listen to the one who listens to them.

9. The only eternal things are people. A million years from now, those children will still exist, and your building will be only a memory. Remember that when the kids break something or run in the hallway. Rules are great for keeping order, and kids do thrive better in order than chaos. But the rules are for the people’s good. When we value the building over the children, we communicate to the kids that the stones and the carpet are worth more than them. We can always get more stones and carpet. But a lost soul is lost forever.

10. When the Lord calls you to do something, the best feeling you can have is to feel unqualified. Use that feeling to press in to the Lord and ask him to do the work through you. If you feel confident and skilled, you’re likely to lean on your own confidence and skills! The Lord says He lives with the humble and answers the cry of the low. And honestly, I think if you ask him for help with ministering to a young person, that’s one of his favorite prayers to answer. So go ahead- volunteer to teach Sunday School or VBS. Prepare your lessons as diligently as you can- and then the Lord use you- just who you are. I bet he surprises you. I bet you learn more than you end up teaching! I sure have.

Well, that’s my top 10. It’s not exhaustive, but I hope it encouraged you. If you’re reading this, and you have kids in your life that you want to reach for the Lord, I believe the Lord will give you the words and the wisdom you need to do it. Just ask him.

See ya!

Brianna