I decided to try something a little different for the post today and do a live video on Facebook! The replay is available now, and I also uploaded it to YouTube and embedded it below so you can catch it as well! This is in answer to a question emailed to me by one of the servants subscribed to WeServants.com!
Hi Everyone! Thank you for joining me for tea and some good conversation.
For those of you who don’t know me, my name is Laura Michael. I blog about growing in faith and building loving relationships within the Body of Christ–and about being Coptic Orthodox.
I also send out weekly support emails to Sunday school servants at WeServants.com, and today I’m going to answer a question from one of my subscribers.
This is something that I struggled with forever. I was so stubborn. It really took a long time for it to click with me–even though it’s relationships 101. Today’s topic is truly the foundation of Sunday school classroom management.
WHAT’S THE POINT OF SUNDAY SCHOOL?
Before I get into the question, I want us to go back to the PURPOSE of Sunday school. What is the POINT of Sunday school?
The point of Sunday school is to confirm children in the faith–to teach them who God is, how much He loves them, and to show them how to rely on Him.
Sunday school fails when it doesn’t bring children closer to God. That’s it.
If you’re bringing the children closer to God, you are doing your job.
Now here’s the question for today (I paraphrased it some):
Hi Laura. I serve 6th graders, and it’s so hard to teach them anything. They don’t want to listen, they aren’t interested, and they make trouble–even the girls. The other servants and I try to use pictures (like visual aids) to make the lesson more interesting, and I give candy to the good kids. But really they don’t respect us and it upsets me–sometimes I’m even shouting at them. I really need ideas. Thanks + God bless you.
So — to summarize — these servants teach 6th grade, and the kids are misbehaving.
My answer comes in two parts.
First, it’s clear you don’t feel respected. I know that feeling. It’s very very frustrating. And it’s hurtful because you and I both know you don’t HAVE to be there. You sacrifice something to be with those kids–time, energy. So first, thank you for serving and thank you for caring enough to reach out and ask for help. This tells me that the kids are in good hands.
TWO WAYS TO GET RESPECT
So–respect. There are two ways to get respect. Please don’t assume that you deserve respect because you’re older than they are or because of your position. There are only two ways to get respect from children–fear and love. And in Sunday school, you can’t use fear. What are you going to scare them with? You can’t ground them–you aren’t their parent. You can’t kick them out of class–that would probably make them happy at this point. They only see you for an hour once a week. And if they bother their parents enough about it, in another year or so you might not see them at church again. Fear? Not a good idea.
That leaves love. Wait… what did we say the purpose of Sunday school was again? Oh yeahhh… to teach them that God loves them! Think of this as two birds–one stone.
THINK LONG TERM
So I have to ask you… how is your relationship with each individual student? When was the last time you went to one of their houses for dinner–or took one of them out for ice cream? Does your church do activities outside regular services? How about playing soccer or ping pong together? What do you know about Marina or Bishoy that you learned from those kids themselves?
Candy is effective for about five minutes with four year olds. You can’t bribe the kids into behaving for very long. It’s not an effective long term strategy. You know what is an effective long term strategy? Love. Actual, genuine care.
You want to teach the kids how to have a real relationship with Jesus Christ? Have a real relationship with them yourself.
There are no shortcuts here. If you take one kid out to coffee one time, you won’t make a dent in the universe. But have two or three long, deep, honest conversations over the course of a couple of years, and you will have changed that kid’s life forever.
LEARN THEIR INTERESTS
Earn their respect by respecting them as individuals, by getting to know what they are interested in–no matter how dumb it seems to you.
Like the dab. I don’t understand the dab. I don’t care about the dab. But if one of my kids thinks the dab is funny, I think the dab is funny, and I’ll laugh every time he does it–because I care about him. And if one of my kids is obsessed with manga, I’m going to show interest in her art, and I’m going to ooh and ahh — even if I have no idea what she’s talking about — because God loves her and God asked me to take care of her.
This bonus tip comes from Abouna — Is there a chief troublemaker? Focus your efforts on winning him (or her) over first. Make that kid your new best friend. Outside of church.
No magical lesson plan is going to fix your class if you don’t actually take the time to show the kids you CARE about THEM as individuals. As real human beings with problems and perspectives.
That’s part one. That’s the respect part. That’s the important part–and the hard part. Isn’t that always the case–what’s important seems hard.
LET THEM TALK
Part two is easy. If the kids won’t stop talking to listen to your lesson, stop presenting the lesson. Find a different way to teach the information that allows THEM to do the talking. Middle schoolers don’t know how to stop talking. So get them talking–on topic. I’ll save the details of that for another time.
Thank you for tuning in today! Hope you enjoyed this! You can also leave me a comment or a question on this video. I’ll be happy to answer if I can.
If you want to hear more from me on service, you can sign up for e-mails at WeServants.com!
Until next time, I’m Laura from Coptic Dad & Mom dot com.
Have a wonderful day!!