THE IDEAL TEACHER
“If I justify myself mine own mouth shall condemn me; if I say I am perfect, it shall also prove me perverse.” (Job 9:20)
Have you ever met a Sunday School teacher in any department who has got it all together? Their style of teaching is perfected, they have applied all the basic skills, their techniques are polished. No discipline problems here, no cobwebs to be found in the corners of their rooms. No further need of training, no further need of improvement? Of course you have not. And neither have I. As I travel giving teacher’s training, I have met and observed many teachers, watched them work, decorate and teach. Know what I have discovered? “There ain’t no such creature!” Not on this earth anyway!
We read about this dream of a teacher – this ideal person who uses ideal resources and in which ideal results are produced on an ideal scale. By the way, the word ideal means perfect model according to Webster’s dictionary.
But, there simply is no one out there that is complete, finished, or “perfect.” There is no ideal classroom, no ideal curriculum, and NO ideal teachers. Job 9:20 confirms this, “If I justify myself mine own mouth shall condemn me; if I say I am perfect (ideal) it shall also prove me perverse.”
Actually, the truth is, I have met many teachers who feel just the opposite. They feel frustrated, discouraged, unqualified, and lacking in the tools they feel they need to be the “ideal.” Not that they do not know what is expected, they just feel like they fail miserably on the job. Listen to what they say:
“How can I love some of the children in my class when I have trouble loving my own?”
“They look at me to be an example, yet, I know I am such a poor example, I do not read my Bible like I should or pray enough.”
“I know I need to spend time with them outside the classroom, but I don’t have the extra time to read a story to my own children.”
Perhaps you have one or two statements you could add to the list. Take heart, Teachers! In God’s great plan, realizing our weaknesses is actually the stepping stone to being effective and the beginning of a real ministry.
And remember, we will always remain discouraged until we realize we are inadequate and always will be. That is what makes our job so exciting – the glory of God is in His use of frail earthen vessels – (that’s us!). We are clay in the hands of the potter and most of us are not even finished yet. My mother bought me a small knickknack one time that depicted a man being chiseled out of a lump of clay; just his head and shoulders were formed an and exposed, and these words were on the bottom, “Be patient, God’s not finished with me yet.” We must remember that we are still being created. The chisel and hammer are in God’s hands; and our lives are still feeling the blows. We are ever going in and out of the furnace of affliction. The Refiner and Purifier of our souls is yet in the process of ridding our lives of the dross. The Husbandman is even yet pruning the dead branches so
the tree will produce fruit.
Sometimes we wonder if we will ever be finished. Personally, I think I must have been an extra crude lump when He found me because of all the work I have required . . . and I am still not finished! Instead, it is back into the furnace again – hotter this time! Ever wonder why all the trials and afflictions? What is at the end of it all? God does have a model in mind – one perfect pattern. Someone He feels is worthy for us to imitate. For there is only one that is perfect. Just one that is the ultimate copy. Just one perfect model. One ideal teacher. In fact, they called Him, “teacher” more than any other title in the Bible – over 30 times. He alone is the “ideal” teacher – the only one we must seek out, imitate, learn from, and follow.
One cool night, an old teacher, “a man of the Pharisees,” came to a private house. He wanted to learn something more of a young teacher. This story is so astounding and so encouraging. That a man . . . a learned man by all standards, called “Rabbi” himself, would come to an unknown peasant. They had labeled the young teacher as ignorant, “Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?” (John 1:46). The old teacher was a member of the Sanhedrin, the supreme ecclesiastical tribunal. No one could be a member without being well advanced in life; wealthy, perfect, learned, and trained. Yes, he possessed the best that any of us could ever hope to be, yet he put aside his credentials and came and inquired like a child . . . at the feet of Jesus.
I think all of us can see something of ourselves in Nicodemus. Whatever our credentials, whatever our position, our fame, our talents and abilities, our call or our degrees, we must put them all aside and be willing to learn again. We must never stop learning.
Nicodemus called Him “teacher.” “Rabbi, we know thou art a teacher come from God for no man doeth the things thou doest except God be with him” (John 3:2). Go ahead check the scripture, see if it is true. Is Jesus the Ideal” Look at His aim, His spirit, His faithfulness, His self-denial, His love. Nicodemus was right! He was
“a teacher come from God.” The very one we are to be like. He left us an example and we must follow in His steps. “Leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps; who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth” (I Peter 2:11-21).
So here we stand, somewhere between the crude lump of clay on the wheel and the finished vessel waiting to be used. A preacher was praying one time feeling so small and insignificant. He cried, “Oh God, I’m so puny and so useless, I’m nothing but a little 2″ x 4″ Christian.” And the Lord gently answered him, “No, you’re not a 2″ x
4″ Christian, you’re a 1″ x 0″ Christian. I’m the One and you are the nothing!” That is how most of us feel – like a little mound of nothing on the potter’s wheel. That is who this little booklet is for – all of us “nothings” that realize He is everything and we need Him.
So here are a few pointers to help shape you a little more. You still will not be perfect when you finish reading this and when you finish applying these principles and ideas, but maybe you will be a little closer than you are right now.
“Therefore . . . let us go on to perfection . . .” (Hebrews 6:1).
The Ideal Teacher in the Classroom
Let us start at the beginning, right in the arena where all the action takes place – the classroom. Much can and has been said about what we want the ideal classroom to be like. We could list individually all the necessary ingredients that would work together to make a terrific room and even give a workshop on each. They are all important! The lesson, discipline problems, memory verses, etc. – these have all been covered in-depth by others and we could cover them again. But, this is a bare-bones article, no frills nor fluff. So I am going to focus on two things I feel are absolutely essential for us to be effective in the classroom. One is spiritual and the other is a concrete tool I want to put in your hand that will help children really learn the Bible.
First the Spiritual:
We spend much time in our homes creating a certain atmosphere; I am talking about preparing the room as one would prepare a home if company were coming. You would dust, clean, rearrange furniture, straighten this picture, fluff that pillow – creating a certain atmosphere – cozy, warm, inviting. The same effort must go into the classroom. But, it is more than decorating four bare walls, we must prepare the way for the Lord to visit our class.
There was a man in scripture who had this very job. It introduces him by saying, “And this is the record of John.” From the very beginning, Israel wanted to know who he was and exactly what his role was. They questioned him, “Who art thou?” “Are you Elijah?” “What sayest thou of thyself?” The answer he gave, gives us the answer to who we are and what the role is we are to play in the classroom. He answered and said, “I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness. Make straight the way of the Lord,” (John 1:23). And preached saying, “There cometh one mightier than I after me, the latchet of whose shoes
I am not worthy to stoop and unloose. I have indeed baptized you with water, but he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost” (Mark 1:7-8).
John was called the “way preparer, the forerunner”. “I will send my messenger, and he shall prepare the way before me” (Malachi 3:1). John possessed a great piece to the ideal pattern we need today. He was as a servant who goes before the coming king. In the east few good
roads are ever made and such roads that have been made are always in great need of repair. When a ruler is about to visit any part of his kingdom, it is necessary that a messenger be sent to get the way ready, secure lodging and announce his coming.
Such was the mission of John. Spiritual decay was every where . . . stumbling blocks of false truth, mud and mire of sin, men’s hearts needed preparing. So it is with you and I, teacher, we must be modern-day Johns. It is our job to go ahead of the Spirit on Sunday and prepare hearts. Set the stage, create an atmosphere; remove unbelief, level doubts and fear, build up faith. Yes, it even means removing annoyances, disturbances, distractions, anything that would hinder the movement of the Holy Ghost. All of this so that God would find the path straight and plain to the child’s heart. It is vital we come well-prepared, prayed-up and ready to build the road between God and the child.
Besides this God given job John possessed a great humility. He had no love of power, no longings for praise, no covetousness of position, His sermons all announced the same thing, “There cometh one mightier than I after me, the latchet of whose shoes I am not worthy to unloose.” This gift which John possessed of seeing over and beyond his own work is one we must possess. We need to see ourselves and our work in the right light, the right perspective. One greater is coming to my class today have I prepared His way?
If you were holding up a life-size picture of Jesus before your class, as you raised it, you would be hidden from view. The higher you lifted it the more completely you would be hidden. The more they would see of His face and form, the less they see of you. This then is another of our roles – to fade. “I must decrease, He must increase.”
This is no easy job; first surveying, then blasting, and hauling away the debris, next leveling, and finally putting down the road. Be quick, about it teacher, for Royalty stands waiting just outside the classroom door waiting to be announced.
Now for that concrete tool – LEARNING CENTERS:
Next, let us put the spotlight on the activities we are involving our children in on Sunday morning. One primary concern of the ideal teacher is – How do children learn? Just because we are teaching does not mean a child is learning. In times past all the emphasis was put on teaching and techniques. But, now the focus is on the child and whether or not he is really learning, and it is none too soon. Back to
our question, how does a child learn?
In a nutshell, educators have found these facts on how children learn:
1. Through Other People
The people that surround a child have a big impact on him. Children are like wet cement, anything placed upon him makes an impression. The personality of his teachers affect him. He learns from working and talking with the other members of his class and he even learns from himself.
2. Through a Variety of Activities
Children learn by singing a song, drawing a picture, acting out a roleplay situation, memorizing a scripture. He loves them and learns from all types of activities.
3. Their Rate of Learning Varies
Our classes include all types of students with different abilities and skills. Some with short attention spans and slow working habits and others who have quick minds and finish quickly. We must accept all rates of learning; encourage those who are slow and challenge the fast worker.
4. Feeling Successful Helps
When a child feels he can accomplish the task at hand with ease and confidence he feels good. Children like doing activities that are within their ability. This builds self-esteem.
5. Use His Five Senses
By nature children are curious. They want to see, smell, hear, touch and handle. Make use of a child’s five senses whenever possible. He learns when these senses are involved.
What these few facts tell us is that children learn best by being actively involved in the learning process. While we are on the subject, please note a few statistics:
Educators tell us Joey will remember 10% when he hears the Word only. When we lecture and Joey listens, three days later he will remember only 10% of what has been said. If we have a visual for Joey to see, he will remember 50% three days later. This is why television has had such an impact on our children – it uses two of our keenest senses; sight and sound. I think most of us fall into the 10-50% category. We do try-to use visuals along with our Bible story. But, there is more. If Joey speaks, he will remember 70%. So it would be worth-while if you have him answer a question, read a scripture, join in on a discussion. And finally, and this has great significance, if Joey can be involved in the learning process, he will remember 90% of what has been taught! That percentage is too high for us to ignore. Yes, I want my class to go home with 90% retention. The subject we teach is too important to have anything less! We must involve Joey on Sunday morning if we really want him to learn!
I think we are all convinced involvement learning is best after studying these statistics, but, what we involve him in is CRITICAL! Successful activities also depend on their being meaningful to the child. When a child sees no purpose to an activity he feels bored and restless and the learning stops. For this reason it cannot be just a meaningless craft activity. A craft project may well provide an interesting, fun activity, but, neither the process nor the finished product will increase his knowledge or understanding of the Bible. I recently watched one teacher read an Aesop’s fable to her class as a time-filler. I have seen Donald Duck coloring books and Mickey Mouse puzzles used as activities. One mother came up to me after a training session and said, “Sister Maki, I have been coming to this church for a long time. I have three children in this Sunday School and a closet at home full of plaster-of-paris praying hands.” This woman’s testimony sums up a lot of what I am trying to say about our present teaching techniques. We have not meant to – but we have become too artsy-craftsy! If we want our children to be involved in crafts send them to Boy Scouts or Girl Scouts and they will be satisfied. I am not saying these activities are bad in themselves, but, we must be AWAKE to what types of activities we are involving our children with IN CHURCH! Especially when we have them for so short a time each week. (This is the spinach of my article, the stuff which makes us wrinkle our nose. You are saying, “You don’t like glue, and construction paper, crayons, scissors and yarn, etc.” Yes, I do . . . as you will see!)
Now for the answer, the icing on the cake – the good stuff! LEARNING CENTERS! Next question, what is a Learning Center? To be brief, a Learning Center can be as large as a room or as small as a shoe box a child holds on his lap. It may take place around a table or outdoors under a tree. It is not just another center planned for casual browsing. It has objectives. Learning Activities should always be related to Bible facts. They should focus on Scripture and should review, reinforce or teach a Bible truth. And most important of all – the child should be a part of handling the Bible to complete the activity. This, then, is the secret ingredient – the WORD must be in the very “center”” of the Learning Center.
Let us walk into a classroom and see a few learning centers in action. As we enter, the teacher is just finishing her lesson and was it exciting! Time out here for a small, but important point. The Lesson or Bible story should come first, before the activity. It must be the foundation – the root of everything else done on Sunday morning. From it the child gleans facts and draws information he brings with him to the learning center. Input he will use to begin his discovery of Bible truths. He will then review it through the Learning Activity. For these activities the class should be divided into several small groups with one teacher assigned to each group.
Because this is a small booklet, let us concentrate on a few little learning activities that have dynamite possibilities. Remember the shoebox? Well, even a simple box has the wonderful potential in becoming a tool for discovering Bible facts. That brings us to another point. Learning centers do not need expensive supplies and equipment to be successful. Half the fun is using everyday objects from around your home . . . yarn, clay, coathangers, paper towel tubes, cardboard boxes, and oh, yes, back to the boxes. Back to the room with our teacher just finishing up her story. Here are a few good examples of learning centers she could use:
Use a box to construct a scene from the Bible story. Put sand in the box and construct an Old Testament Bible village, while you study the customs and clothing of the people. Have children read a scripture reference from Your lesson; let them illustrate it on a piece of paper and make a book of these.
3. Draw a simple cartoon sequence about your Bible story.
4. Act in a roleplay situation or dramatize your Bible story. For young children have a dressup corner. Allow them to dress in bathrobes, scarves, etc. to replay the Bible story.
5. Interview characters from your Bible story. (Have someone dress like the Bible character for this.)
6. Compose a song about your Bible story. Use
a melody the child already knows. Have them write new words expressing a theme from the lesson. Or illustrate a favorite hymn
by writing the words and pictures on large pieces of poster board.
7. Write a letter, diary, or story – “Pretend You are the Bible character from our story today, Jonah – how did you feel in the belly of the whale? Daniel, what was it like in the Lion’s Den?”
8. Use a tape player to record some important facts about your lesson so the child can listen to this information and respond by completing a chart, or drawing a picture
and etc. about what he has heard.
Hopefully these little examples of learning activities will stimulate your thinking and help get you started. CAUTION, teacher, Learning Centers can be habit forming.
Granted they are time consuming and require long hours and lots of work even before you enter your class. But they are worth the effort. To help you along here are six basic ingredients necessary for putting together a Learning Center.
1. AIM – Make sure you know the purpose for it. What is it, exactly, you would like your students to discover. Be sure it is appropriate for your class.
2. MAKE THEM INVITING – Display all of your materials in an interesting, attractive manner. Put up a poster by your table of supplies, with a caption like, “Be a builder, yes, you. Be in charge of your own Construction Company. Construct a scene in a box about our Bible story.”
3. PROVIDE SAMPLE, BUT, COMPLETE INSTRUCTIONS –
This is essential. Be specific, list point by point exactly how and what you want your students to do.
4. BE WELL PREPARED – Do not waste time finding the materials you will need during class time. Everything must be organized and gathered before class even begins. Pay attention to details. If you know you are going to use glue, and do not have access to a wash basin, plan ahead, and bring a dishpan of water and some paper towels.
5. USE VARIETY – We have all heard it before, “Variety is the spice,” and its true in this recipe. Good teaching needs the spice of
variety. We must be open to new ideas. The only poor activity is the one we use over and over and over again.
6. YOU ARE THE KEY TO THEIR SUCCESS – Be enthusiastic about the activity you would like the child to complete. Sound excited, look excited! Remember – enthusiasm is caught and not taught.
As has been said, teacher, learning centers can be addictive. And if this is not enough, your students will love them and become so involved in the Bible they will not want to go home on Sunday morning. When you become involved with the Bible you begin to love it and when you love it you will learn from it. Involve them in the Bible and watch them learn! ‘
The Ideal Teacher Outside the Classroom
Enlarge Your Boundaries
There are two little scriptures in the Bible that mention
a man God calls “honorable”. “And Jabez was more honorable than his brethren; and his mother called his name Jabez, saying, Because I bare him with sorrow” (I Chronicles 4:9, 10). We know little of him, little of his background or family, in fact, about all we know is his name and that his mother bore him with sorrow. Jabez probably lived soon
after the settlement of the children of Israel before they had complete possession of their inheritance. There was a reluctance among them to claim what was theirs. Joshua had to reprove them, “How long are ye slack to go to possess the land which the Lord God of your fathers hath given you” (Joshua 18:3).
I feel he was called “honorable” because he had the mind of God in his small but intense prayer. “And Jabez called on the God of Israel saying, Oh, that thou wouldest bless me indeed, and enlarge my coast, and that thine hand might be with me and thou wouldest keep me from evil that it may not grieve me! And God granted him that which he requested.”
It was a simple prayer directed to “the God of Israel.” Enlarge my-coasts my boundaries. He grieves over the smallness the narrowness of his desires I need more territory for my people, more room for myself, more wealth for us all.
There comes a time in our ministry, teacher, when we too must begin to feel the narrowness and the smallness of our work. We must begin to yearn for a broader plain, greater blessings, revival among our class – a growth. I fear we have become contented, settled, satisfied too quickly a yearning must overtake us, we must catch a glimpse of some promise, some victory we want and stake a claim. A burden must be born for more than just the small handful of children we now teach. This is God’s will for you.
But, Jabez knew it was not enough to ask and then expect God would do all the work. He knew he had to get his own hands dirty. He says, “And that thine hand might be with me.” In effect he was saying, as I begin to battle for this new land, Lord, I ask for your power and strength, the might of Your hand to help me. We, too, must move into action, go to work, asking that God’s hand would be with us as we endeavor to multiply our efforts. A prayer like Jabez’s is enough to begin with, then do not stand still, move forward and claim what is yours.
Enlarge Your Vision
There are over one billion children under the age of 12 years in the world today. In the United States over 80% do not attend any Sunday School or church. Cast your eyes on those statistics. See the “fields are white unto harvest and the laborers are few. . .” If we could but see beyond the boundaries of our present class out into a lost world. What will you do with the unchurched children in your city? Will it touch you, move you into action? Satan is not waiting. He is after the souls of the children. This work cannot be put off on another department of the church because we feel it is menial. This part of the ministry of total involvement outside the classroom is ours! I hear many teachers express a strong need for personal involvement but few actually have any part in any activities outside the classroom.
I worked for a market research company one time. We did research by canvassing neighborhoods with surveys and material to expose people to new products or the opening of a new store. It was tedious and time consuming work. If a worldly company feels it is important to spend time and money and make the effort to canvass a city just to introduce a new soap or hardware store, how much more weightier is it for us to search for boys and girls and tell them of Jesus.
Enlarge Your Field
Jesus told us how to do it. There is no other way. “And the Lord said unto the servant, Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled.”
How to Find Them. Try this idea! Get to know families in your neighborhood through Backyard Evangelism. Backyard Evangelism is conducting small Bible-centered classes for boys and girls right in your own backyard, back porch, basement or a nearby park. You meet with the children for five days about an hour each day. Your program should be simple and suitable for all ages preferably 6-12 years. You could include singing, learning a memory verse and teaching a Bible story. This is an excellent tool to contact children who have no church affiliation. Be a missionary, yes, you, teacher right to your own neighborhood. First, canvass your neighbors and talk personally with parents, telling them of your plans, the dates, and the location. Choose casually landscaped or shady yards. Children can sit on the grass or blankets. Be sure you provide toilet facilities and establish guidelines for behavior. Provide simple rules and make sure the children understand them – areas of offlimits, etc. Backyard Evangelism should open the door to many people around you by letting people know that you are interested in their children. When your Evangelism campaign is over – remember, follow-up is vital. Many of the unchurched you contact will come eagerly to Sunday School and even
bring their friends. Getting them to come is not too hard. Keeping them is a different story. Maybe these tips will help:
First Timers –
1. Show yourself friendly and give each first-time visitor a few minutes of personal attention.
2. Try to meet the child’s parents on the first Sunday. (If they come to church with the child.)
3. Visit the child at home the week following his first visit – leave a students book or some small token of remembrance.
1. Phone child early in the week and let him know you really missed him.
2. Do not sound upset or show displeasure if the reason does not seem justified, Many times children have little or no say over their absenteeism.
3. Express love, concern, and understanding.
Home Visits –
1. Call parents a few days before to let them know you are coming to call on the child.
2. When you arrive spend time with the child. You have come to visit with him.
3. Show interest in a hobby, game, etc. Compliment him.
Invite Him to Your House –
1. Most effective of all is inviting the child home.
2. Invite one or two children over to your house. They can keep each other company when you must fix a meal.
3. Have something planned to do. “Come help me plant my garden.” “Would you like to go shopping with me?” He will feel honored just being with you. The activity does not need to be elaborate.
All the little extra personal things you do to reach for a child outside of the classroom will pay big dividends. You will cement a lasting friendship and win the souls of your class.
Relationship with Parents. Parents of the children in your class or neighborhood are easier to reach than you might think. When you show concern for their child it immediately warms their hearts. You have something in common – a mutual interest in their children!
Do not be afraid to visit the home occasionally. Call first to make sure the time is right. Be friendly and casual. For a good ice-breaker try this idea: Bring a photo album of your class activities. Arrange some photos of your class session into a nice photo album with typewritten captions explaining each photo. Make it as attractive as possible. You might like to include samples of a takehome paper or Learning Activities. Begin with, “Maybe you have always wondered what happens in our Sunday School? I brought along a few snapshots to show you what (child’s name) does in our Sunday School class.” This should help spark a conversation and get things moving. Show interest in what interests them. And above all be a Christian. It is a tragedy this even has to be mentioned, but, wear a smile, do not be rude or short, and do not be critical of anyone from the church or gossip or pass along church problems. Be positive, cheery, kind, courteous and thoughtful. If you hear there is a sickness in the family or a new baby, visit and help out with a meal or offer to babysit. Perhaps you could send a card at Christmas or on a birthday or anniversary if you know the dates. What I am trying to say is try to build a meaningful friendship. Keep your visit short and look for ways to minister to
the whole family.
Special Times Appeal to Parents. Give special incentive to some special days – a corsage to all mothers that come some Sunday with their daughters. A necktie to all fathers attending with a child. A nice 5 x 7 photo of the whole family if they come together on a Sunday.
Have an Open House for Parents. Have an open house for your whole Sunday School. Save your learning activities for a quarter and display them all attractively in your room. Make sure your Sunday School rooms are in tip-top shape. Bulletin boards all decorated, rooms clean and attractive. Have a special little half-hour program in the auditorium so parents and families can meet pastor, teachers, and staff. Later, open each room for the parents to browse through. Be sure to have refreshments so parents do not leave at the end of the program. Refreshments will provide a natural opportunity for casual conversation and will help you get better acquainted. Parents can be reached with a little love and effort.
Enlarge Your Faith
“Lord help thou my unbelief.” Unbelief is the single biggest obstacle to having what we want from God. We need to take a tip from the farmer who plods along quietly doing his small tasks, never worrying about whether he will have a harvest. “Be patient therefore, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord. Behold, the husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it…” (James 5:7). Each spring finds the farmer in the fields plowing, planting, and cultivating. Day in and day out, week by week he works over his fields. Farmers are happy to get the seed into the ground. They know when their part of the job is done they can depend on God to do the rest. And they quietly wait for the increase. It is this quiet faith I want to encourage you with. Keep sowing, keep visiting, keep contacting, keep reaching and keep loving. Your labour is not in vain in the Lord. Remember Jabez? One other thing about him. God answered his prayer! “God granted him that which he requested.” It is God’s will for you to grow. And when you pray and work like Jabez, rest assured God will enlarge your field.
The Ideal Teacher and Her Relationship With Children
Meet the Need
Samuel Brengle lamented, “Oh, for more teachers among us, leaders, who know how to read hearts and apply truth to the need of the people, as a good physician reads his patients and applies remedies to their ills. There are soul-sicknesses, open and obscure, acute and chronic, superficial and deepseated, which the truth, as it is in Jesus will heal. But, it is not the same truth for each need, any more than the same medicine for every disease.”
How to read hurts and apply the remedy. What a challenge! We sing a song once in awhile in church the words which go something like this . . . “Whatever I want Christ to be, that’s just what He’ll be to me. If I need him as a friend above others, then in my Lord I’LL find a brother.” It goes on to say that he can find in Jesus whatever we need. Jesus has the wonderful ability to become whatever we need Him to be. Oh, the sensitiveness of Jesus. A huge crowd pressed Him one day, elbowing, shoving, jostling, pushing and in the middle of this huge throng a frail, sick woman touched the edge of his robe. In the midst of all the commotion of the mob he stopped, turned and asked, “Who touched me?” Oh, how sensitive He is to the real needs in our lives. We talk so much of the greatness and vastness of God we hardly appreciate how accessible He really is. All the small things that touch us, touch Him! What concerns us concerns Him! What we need He will become! In need of healing for your fevered body? He will heal you. Need a counselor – because you have questions which hang heavy on your heart? He will take the time to counsel with you. He will be a friend, father, guide . . . He will provide help, strength and encouragement. He changes roles constantly to meet our needs. We must turn and do likewise to meet the cries of the children in our classes.
There are two types of hurts in our world. I call them inner hurts and outer hurts. Bandaids and iodine will take care of most scrapes and bruises caused by outer hurts. But, what can cure the inner hurts? How do we identify these and give the necessary medicine, that the child will be whole? Today’s child is really a victim of this present modern world. The Bible says “perilous times shall come” and I believe they are here.
1. Collapse of the Family
New roles for mother’s and father’s. Father’s out of work and mother’s holding full time jobs. Without realizing it children are being neglected. Divorce has increased 700% in the last century. This has resulted in a volcano of feelings to erupt from the child.
2. Emotional Disturbances
Confusion of loyalty, mistrust, anxiety and guilt because they blame themselves for the divorce of the parents. The complex pressures of this age have produced fear, depression, trauma, withdrawal, hostility, aggression with an end result – suicide. Suicide is on the increase, almost reaching epidemic proportions among children 12-14 years of age.
3. Values have Changed
At one time our parents and grandparents all had respect for God and went to church. But, that has changed. Moral standards have been destroyed. No absolutes, no “right and wrong.” Homosexuality, abortion, extramarital sex and premarital sex are glamorized and paraded before their eyes.
4. Pressures from Society
Children adopt adult attitudes and feelings. They are aware of so many social problems. National and international problems are dumped daily into their laps through television. ERA, school bussing, integration, civil rights – they carry the burdens of them all.
Children are forced to grow up too fast. Wearing pantyhose and heels at such a young age. Adults put pressures on them to date before they are mature enough to handle dating situations.
This list is endless. All of us are faced with the casualties of this pressured world. They sit in our classrooms every week, All the symptoms manifest themselves the bad language, withdrawal, fighting, deceitfulness, rebellion, etc. As you face these emotional problems, your own emotions may go up and down like an elevator. First, you feel a great burden and compassion, then you hit bottom and may feel irritated and upset with the child because of the disturbances and discipline problems he causes in your class. And then you try to help, you face withdrawal and the pain of the child shutting You out. It all spells – FRUSTRATION! You want to help. But what can you do?
We are not, most of us, child psychologists trained to know what to do in the face of emotional problems. But, we have a counselor who created that little mind and body and who understands just what it will take to reach him.
One year at our children’s camp in Wisconsin we experienced a tough case. Billy (I will call him that) came from a home where the mother was a hopeless alcoholic. He had been physically abused, and abandoned and his teachers and counselors were at a loss to help him. He was angry, rebellious, ready to explode in everyones face. He picked fights, bullied other children, and was instantly hated. In class he could not sit still, could not concentrate. Our teaching staff felt so helpless. Each morning before classes began we would gather for teacher’s prayer. I remember how heavy my heart was while thinking about Billy. Wishing we could reach him somehow, someway. But, how . . . how? As I began to pray for Billy a real burden overwhelmed me and I could do nothing but weep, feeling so frustrated and helpless. Then God spoke a scripture to my heart. “For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds; Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God . . . ” (I Corinthians 10:4-5). God described the situation exactly. That word . . . strongholds. The devil already had a stronghold in this little boy’s life. Even the world’s weapons, therapy, counseling could not break it down. But, we have weapons and they-are mighty through God, to THE PULLING DOWN OF STRONGHOLDS! What hope and encouragement we took from that verse.
It was no easy road but, first, we accepted him just as he was and from all outward appearances so unlovable. We took time with him and assigned one of our teachers to spend quality time with him all through the day. We even took turns sitting by his bed all through the night giving him reassurance that we loved him and understood and accepted him. We tried to be consistant with our discipline, gently enforcing the rules of our camp. Billy tested us to the limits but found we meant what we said. And throughout all of it, we loved him, hugged him, made ourselves available to him. Little by little we could see some of the defenses coming down. In our learning centers he could not concentrate, pushed aside the activities we had planned. He would not cooperate but we gently encouraged him and smiled (when we wanted to cry). Then one day when all the children were busy putting together a diorama, he got interested. He grabbed a shoe box and started to put together a scene from the Bible story. He cut and pasted and became so pre-occupied, the lunch bell rang and he did not even realize it.
On he worked . . . (we brought lunch to him that day). We had told all the children we were going to give a blue ribbon to the best diorama. The next day our judges came around and without knowing the circumstances, picked Billy’s diorama. It was not pre-planned, it just happened that way. If you could have seen his face, the giant grin from ear to ear. It was the first smile we had ever seen on his face.
Two nights later, Billy was in the altar seeking after God with all his little heart. And God filled him with the Holy Ghost. What joy to see a second smile on that face. When camp was ended Billy still went home with his tattered jeans, and worn tennis shoes to the battlefield that was his home. Those problems had not changed. But, we had won! The stronghold in that little heart had been broken down and now Billy would have a chance in this life. Jesus would go home with him.
When it comes right down to it there are only three basic things we can do for these battered children:
1. Accept Them
Jesus died for us while we were yet sinners. Unconditional acceptance of the child is essential in opening the door. Many times we recoil from children who are loud, smell bad, and are hard to control. We give out the message we will care about them if they meet our standards and conditions. We must accept them just as they are!
2. Discipline Them
We show we really care be setting up standards, boundaries, limitations. Because we accept him with all his problems does not mean we should dispense with limits on his behavior. Use simple rules, and be fair with your judgments.
3. Love Them
Love is the single most essential thing needed by every child in order to grow. Without love and affection a baby will die even though all his other needs are met. Do not ever stop loving. Many children come from cold and unloving homes and do not know how to give or accept love. Love them anyway! Many times they will mistrust it’ misunderstand it and pull away from it! Keep loving them anyway! Love is the only thing that will mend such brokenness. It will strengthen the child and help him face the pressures and problems in the world today. He must know he is loved just the way he is. Do not ever stop loving.
If there ever was a model of love and acceptance in this world it was Jesus. “Him who comes to me I will most certainly not cast out – I will never, no never reject one of them who comes to me” (John 6:37, Amplified Bible).
Let us pray that God will enable you to be sensitive to hear and see the signals they send out for help. What do they need from you today? A friend to tell all their heart to? A hug and a warm loving smile? I know the task seems great, frightening, and our resources seem small and frail. But, keep this scripture in mind. “Be strong and courageous, be not afraid nor dismayed for the king of Assyria, nor for all the multitude (horde) that is with him: for there be more with us than with him: With him is an arm of flesh; but with us is the Lord our God to help us, and to fight our battles” (II Chronicles 32:8).