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. Sometimes this attitude carries over into the classroom. The eagerness and energy of the school year’s beginning has diminished. What’s a teacher to do to fight against the midyear doldrums?
What follows is some great advice given to Sunday school teachers by John Angell James in his article “The Most Effectual Means of Keeping Up Zeal.” Although written in 19th-century language, it still applies today. Also, I have added [in brackets] a few contemporary practical examples to consider.
Zeal is apt to languish, when it is no longer excited by the stimulus of novelty—and the fervor of first love, without great care, will soon sink into dull formality. It is not to be wondered at, if among the active supporters of a Sunday School, the vice of lukewarmness should sometimes be found. Hence it is of importance to ascertain the best means for keeping up the zeal of the teacher’s office. By this I mean, the prosecution of its duties with vigor, interest, and delight—in opposition to that lifeless and indolent manner of dragging through them which is but too common with many.
- Keep in view the ultimate object of your labors.
…the necessity of keeping steadily and clearly before your mind, the salvation of the soul, as the ultimate end of all your efforts… If anything can keep your attention alive to the interests of the children, it will be the constant repetition of this sentiment—”I am seeking their everlasting salvation!”
- Well conducted Sunday School Unions have a powerful tendency to promote the spirit of your office. The occasional meeting of fellow laborers from different schools, together with the interesting communications and mutual exhortations which are then delivered, have a very enlivening effect.
- Occasional meetings among the teachers of the same school, for conversation and prayer, in immediate reference to their joint labors, are exceedingly beneficial.
[When is the last time your classroom team met together for this? Schedule a get-together soon!]
- Ministerial assistance, in the way of exhortation, inspection, and advice, would powerfully contribute to keep up the true spirit of the office.
[Ask your pastor if he would bless the children's and youth ministry volunteers by scheduling a special meeting to exhort and encourage you together.]
In my own experience, a church-wide, midyear children's and youth ministry event for the Christian education (CE) staff and volunteers really serves to foster and fuel all of these points. Here are elements I found refreshing during these times:
- corporate worship through the singing of psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs
- a short message from your pastor/elder/CE minister reiterating what it means to be “vision-driven” in ministry (see the video links below as examples)
- an expression of thanksgiving for all the ministry volunteers
- a time for testimonies recalling evidences of God’s grace in the classroom
- breakout training sessions for specific classroom roles (teachers, worship leaders, small group leaders, etc.)
- round table to share ongoing concerns and possible solutions
- concerted prayer together
- a meal and/or special treats provided
In my many years of children’s ministry, I received great encouragement and renewed zeal through our church’s midyear refresh event. Whether a big gathering or small, whether elaborate or very simple, if the event focused on worship, encouragement from the Word, thanksgiving, recalling evidences of God’s grace, and a time of prayer, the volunteers were well served!
Videos providing examples of a vision-driven ministry:
- A Vision for the Discipleship of the Next Generation
- A Vision for God-Centered, Gospel-Focused Teaching for the Next Generations
- A Vision for Teaching the Word of God
- A Vision for Encouraging Faith in Christ