I have been teaching the Bible to children for more than 30 years, and I can honestly say that I have benefitted more from the experience than I would have ever imagined. Here are nine ways, in no particular order, in which teaching children has fed my soul over the years:
- Helps to keep me in the Word. I begin preparing each lesson a week ahead of time by reading the selected Scriptures, meditating on them for my own edification, and then prayerfully considering how to communicate and apply the truths to my students. This spiritual food from the Word fills my soul all week long.
- Encourages and builds up my faith over and over again. God is at work in my students. I see evidences of His grace in their lives week after week. Many show signs of true saving faith, a genuine love for Jesus, and a growing desire to walk in obedience to Him.
- Expands my world. My students range in age from 6 to 12 years old. They come from a variety of backgrounds and reflect a myriad of life experiences. Through them, I get a much bigger picture of what is going on in the world—what is happening in school, the latest interests and trends, and much more.
- Challenges me to wrestle with hard questions and a variety of circumstances. Mrs. Nelson, why did God put the tree of the knowledge of good and evil in the garden when He knew Adam and Eve would sin? Why did my grandma die after I had been praying for her?
Children are not afraid to ask the hard questions. More than once I’ve gone home from class and dug into a good systematic theology to find solid, biblical answers, and then considered how to communicate these answers in a loving, hope-filled way.
- Reminds me of the essentials of the Christian faith. During these early years of a child’s life, we are instructing them with the basics: the doctrine of God, who are we in relation to God, the problem of sin, the redeeming work of Christ, the meaning of following Jesus, etc. As a mature believer, it is good for me to be continually grounded in these basic yet glorious gospel realities over and over again.
- Keeps me humble. I can’t recall the number of times I have been stumped or temporarily caught off guard by a question or comment from a child! Just when I thought I had “mastered” the lesson, the Lord uses a child to remind me that I am not the greatest teacher in the world. I have so much more to learn. I need to reflect that reality in my teaching demeanor.
- Renews my joy.
Every week, I look out onto 50 or more eager faces. I watch their joy as they:
Quickly find a verse in their Bibles.
Correctly answer a question from the text.
Participate in an interactive illustration.
Recall a memorized verse that applies to the lesson.
Convey how God worked through a circumstance in their lives.
Even if I have entered the classroom weary and discouraged, it seems as if I always leave with a grateful, joy-filled heart.
- Makes me desperate for the Spirit’s help.
I can teach biblical truth week after week in a compelling manner. I can urge and guide my students to respond with the need for genuine repentance, faith, love, worship, and obedience. Yet, ultimately, I am completely helpless to make any of those things happen. Teaching makes me more and more desperate for the Holy Spirit to awaken faith and empower growth. It’s a great reminder for my own life also.
- Heightens my love for the church.
When I look out at the children in my classroom, as well as the other adult volunteers, I am visibly reminded of the beauty and mission of the church. I am not a lone teacher. I am part of the family of God—the body of Christ. The pastors and elders have equipped me for a wonderful work of ministry among children.
And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love. (Ephesians 4:11-16)