Tips for the First-Time Teacher – Part 8
25. Help a helper.
Some time ago, during a Monday morning staff meeting, our administrative pastor, Bro. Ryan Thompson, addressed the need of equipping saints for the work of the ministry (Ephesians 4:11-12). One of his points debunked a well-meaning yet misguided perspective on recruiting church members to serve in different ministries of the church. Never wanting to mistreat or take advantage of God’s people, we might feel at times hesitant in asking folks to teach or help in Sunday school classes, work on bus routes, etc. After all, we love our church family and realize that their schedules are nothing short of demanding, particularly here in the heart of the Silicon Valley. But what we often overlook, as Bro. Thompson explained, is that affording people the opportunity to “serve the Lord thy God with all thy heart and with all thy soul” is not something we do to them but rather for them. He supported this statement with several reasons ranging from the spiritual (learning to love and serve others, fulfilling the Great Commission, equipping one to equip another, etc.) to the practical (involving new members, the need for laborers, etc.).
So, first-time Sunday school teacher, when it comes time for you to start thinking about recruiting a helper, remember that you are not asking someone to commit to some extraneous chore—you are further equipping a saint for the work of the ministry. The preschool helper is not simply cutting out templates for the weekly project; she is learning to recognize the needs and limits of others. The beginner class helper is not disregarding her college education as she substitutes words like abomination for expressions like really, really, really, really bad stuff that God hates a lot; she is learning the clearest way to present the gospel. The primary class helper is not just assisting with classroom behavior; he is learning what different teaching methods must be employed to ensure that comprehension is achieved. The junior class helper is not just keeping and updating the class roll; he is learning compassion as he logs prayer requests and revises records because of split custody situations, a loss of a home, etc. The teen class helper is not simply leading a song or teaching a memory verse; he is learning how he can encourage others as well as himself in the darkest moments of life. No one activity ends within itself. By asking someone to help you, you are helping him.
On a Side Note:
Ask your pastor or Sunday School Director when would be a good time for you to recruit a helper. They might want you to wait until you are more familiar with your new responsibilities.
Make sure the folks you want to recruit are approved to work in your class. Check with your pastor or Sunday School Director before approaching potential helpers.
Do be careful about asking folks who are already involved in other ministries in the church. For example, you probably do not want to ask the couple that misses the mid-week services (because they run a children’s program) to help you with your Sunday school class.
Don’t be disheartened when people cannot help you. (I must admit that I’m speaking primarily to myself on this one.) They’re not necessarily saying no to you—just to the task. And they could be saying no for any number of good reasons, none or few of which have anything to do with the class or the teacher.
Be gracious and kind when people say no. Do not be reactionary or rude. Remember, these are God’s people and the people whom your pastor and his wife have loved and served for years. Say something like, “I knew you were busy, but I just had to ask. You’re so great with people (or children)!” or “Thank you for considering it, though. Would you mind if I approach you again next year (or later this year)?”
26. Let your helper know what he can do to help and show him how.
Forgive my biased statement, but I am privileged to serve with the greatest helpers in the world!
If I had to leave the classroom for any reason, Miss Janelle, without even missing a beat, could run the program as if my impromptu exit had been planned for weeks.
Miss Abby has this uncanny ability to calm a crying child or a class of twenty-five preschool kids with no more than a few whispered words.
I believe Miss Cessy, my sister, is the favorite song leader. She’ll teach a new song, and the kids will have it memorized by the end of class. (Whenever I try to teach a new song, the children will collectively tilt their heads to the right and stare at me with this expression that can only be described as a mixture of pity and bewilderment.)
Miss Leslee, my other sister, is brilliant—literally. She’s working on her doctorate yet helps me with teaching preschoolers when she can. The kids gravitate to her. She talks with them as she does with her colleagues but in such a way that the children respond in full statements rather than with one word answers.
And then there’s Miss Julie. Never in my life have I seen anyone hold the attention of children better than she does! She could be reading through all the “begats” in Genesis, and the children will listen.
The funniest thing about this grouping is that there isn’t much communication among us during the class period, as far as what to do or what needs to happen next. Everything is like clockwork, moving forward always—because these ladies know what to do. But it hasn’t always been like this.
If you have a helper, tell him what he can do to help and show him how. (Most new helpers do not know what to do because they aren’t even sure what you want them to do and, in deference to you, do not want to overstep.) Perhaps you can make a list of responsibilities you want your helper to have. Sometime before class, go over that list with him. Make sure the items listed are tasks he can do or can learn to do. During class, help him with those responsibilities, showing him how to do them. For example, if you want your new helper to teach the memory verse each week, show him how it can be done. If you want him to help with classroom behavior, show him how certain situations should be handled. If you want him to lead singing, lead a song and then have him try leading a song. If you want him to take over making the class bulletin, work on one with him prior to class. If you want him to substitute for you when you are out of town, have him teach a Bible lesson one Sunday and then evaluate with him how he did sometime after class. You are a team now, continually working in tandem.
This list is not exhaustive, but here are some tasks that you might give to your helper:
- Assist in Classroom Behavior
- Bathroom / Hallway Monitor
- Choose CD to Play as Folks Come In
- Collect / Turn In Offering
- Distribute Class Bulletin
- Greet People
- Help Distribute Prizes
- Help Distribute Snacks
- Help Plan a Campaign
- Help Plan Class Activities
- Keep Class Records
- Lead in Prayer
- Lead Singing
- Make Announcements
- Make Class Bulletins / Song Sheets
- Make Visitor Cards
- Play the Piano
- Prepare and Copy Activity Sheets, Craft Projects
- Set up the Classroom
- Substitute (when you are out of town)
- Take Attendance
- Take Prayer Requests
- Talk with Visitors about Salvation
- Teach an Object Lesson
- Teach Memory Verses
- Visit and Go Soul Winning with You
On a Side Note:
Encourage your helper to play to his own strengths. For example, Miss Janelle is naturally creative and, at the drop of a hat, can come up with different games to play with the children incorporating a Scriptural truth or character lesson. Creativity is not a strength of mine. It would be downright foolish (and prideful) of me to force my preferences on her when I know that God has blessed her with this ability. The same goes for any other aspect of the classroom. If you know your helper can design circles around you, say to him, “You know and I know that this class bulletin needs help. You probably could do something better with your eyes closed! Would you mind taking this bulletin and just running with it?”
Ask your helper if there is something in particular he’d like to do in the class and do your best to accommodate that request. Of course, always check with your pastor or Sunday School Director if the activity is out of the ordinary for a regular class hour.
If you teach a children’s class, make sure that the children call your helper by the appropriate title. For example, the children in one of my classes call my sister “Miss Cessy” or “Miss Hussin”—sometimes “Teacher”—but never just “Cessy.”