It's seven o'clock Sunday morning. As I check my stack of supplies for my Children's Ministry class, I succumb to my well worn temptation to second guess myself. Have I prepared adequately? Have I selected age-appropriate activities? Who will attend my class today? Will it be mostly younger children who need extra time to cut and glue? Will it be the group of older boys who need energy siphoning games before they will settle down to hear the Bible message? How will I meet the challenge of children who have not been taught to respectfully listen to the teacher or who don't have the discipline to follow simple directions? In spite of my preparations, am I ready to answer the convoluted questions of a searching sixth grader or alert enough to pick up on the emotional needs of a new child seeking a haven from home, a respite from the ravages of a dysfunctional family?
Unlike a public school teacher who faces the same group of children each day, I can only begin to predict the crazy quilt patchwork pattern my class will assume this week. The activities that might work for one collection of children might be totally off base for another group of kids. I tense, knowing I will need to adjust and fine tune on the fly, making mental readjustments as I mark my attendance book.
Thus is the journey of any small church teacher. Larger churches have the luxury of age specific classes or at least enough children to even out the difference. If you are a teacher of five or less students per week, you have experienced the changing dynamics of the small class. So what do you do? How do you begin to be prepared.
1. Plan: Have several lesson plan scenarios in your head. Two weeks ago, my class consisted of two first graders. Last week, I had one sixth grader. I taught the same lesson, but I skipped the cutsie cutouts about friends and had my sole student read the Scripture about the friendship of Jonathon and David for himself, covering my white board with the biblical principles he discovered about friends.
2. Pray: You don't know who will be in your class - but God does. You don't know what baggage your children will bring or how much sleep they got the night before or which kids heard their parents fight before church or who is struggling with his need to make your faith his own - but God does. Before you get out of bed Sunday morning, admit to God that you need His help. Say, "Lord, I don't know what will happen today, but You do." Ask Him to help you be ready for whatever comes. Ask Him to fill your head with the activities that will best suit your students' needs. Ask Him for divine opportunities to share His love with those who need an extra expression of it that day. Ask Him to help you cope with the unguarded moments, the surprises, the obstacles.
Try it, just try it. Watch what happens. I think you will be amazed.
Let me know! Let the readers of this column rejoice with you that God does indeed have the power and authority to work through His workers to draw the children closer to Him.