Lessons from Sunday School

One of my very favorite things each week is hanging out with my little buddies at church.  I teach a Sunday school class for pre-K and Kindergarteners (ages range from 4 to 6), affectionately dubbed “Pockets & Pals” after the fluffy kangaroo puppet that makes an appearance near the end of each lesson.  Every week we learn part of a Bible story, inching our way through important lessons like “God helps us in hard times” (from the story of Joseph in Egypt) and “Friends share with each other” (from David and Jonathan).  I think the kids are learning – I certainly hope they are.  Because, as it turns out, I’m learning a lot from them too. 

The more time I spend around the littlest members of our church, the more I think I understand why Jesus liked spending time with kids.  I’m often amazed at how they just seem to “get” things that adults have so much trouble learning.  Today I asked the kids to close their eyes and think about a friend who wasn’t in the room, then describe what the friend looked like.  One girl raised her hand and told me that she has a friend she can’t see or hear.  I asked who that was, and she proudly told me, “God.”  I told her very truthfully that I was impressed: she had jumped way ahead in the lesson!

Later on, I asked the kids how they could know that Jesus is their friend.  One girl informed me very matter-of-factly that Jesus takes care of us when we die.  Not exactly the answer I was aiming for, but the more I think about it, the more profound the answer seems.  (John Donne, for example, produced a huge quantity of achingly complex and beautiful poetry and prose as part of his life-long effort to truly believe that Jesus would take care of him when he died.)

Over the past couple weeks, I’ve been talking to the kids about putting together some shoeboxes full of Christmas presents to send to kids in hard situations around the world.  (I’m so excited: this year the children’s and youth ministries at my church are doing Operation Christmas Child, a fantastic project organized each year by Samaritan’s Purse.)  This week we worked on writing a letter to go with our shoeboxes.  The kids were really excited to send the presents and make some new friends.  At first I didn’t know how they’d respond to the whole project.  I wondered if they’d understand the point, or think it was weird to write a letter to someone they’d never met.  But I shouldn’t have worried.  Given the opportunity to help, they just jumped right in.  They thought the idea of making friends with kids they’d never seen was great.  They got very excited about drawing pictures to go in the shoeboxes, and wanted to make sure that their new friends would know important things about them, like that they are 4/5/6 years old, that they come to church to talk about God and learn about the Bible, and that Jesus always loves us.

I thought I’d probably have to nudge the kids in the direction of some spiritual content for our letter.  But once again, they exceeded expectations.  They were all eager to tell their new friends about our lessons, about God’s love, about how Jesus is our special friend even though we can’t see him.  I was so proud of my little crew!

Here’s where the lesson comes in.  As I think back on how the kids responded to our lesson today, I wish I was a little – maybe a lot – more like them.  Am I that eager to tell people about my friendship with God?  Do I have such an easy time remembering that Jesus takes care of those who love him when they die?  When I think about it, does the idea of helping someone across the world seem like one of the coolest things ever?  Well . . . a lot of times, not so much. 

Jesus told his petulant disciples that “anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it” (Luke 18:17, NIV).  Teaching Sunday school to these little guys is doing a lot to show me what that means.


~ by h.e.g. on November 2, 2008.

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