Tips for the First-Time Teacher – Part 16
As soon as you swallowed that last bite of pie at Thanksgiving dinner, you probably hit the ground running. You had “Black Friday” to conquer, cards to mail, presents to buy, gifts to wrap, packages to ship, meals to plan, relatives to host, concerts to attend, food to donate, carols to memorize, toys to assemble, stockings to hang, a house to decorate, goals to consider—your list literally goes on! And, oh yes, a class to teach! Not that teaching ever becomes an afterthought for you; but maybe, if you are a little like me, it can be somewhat of a challenge to figure out how and when to make Christmas special for your students.
The ideas below are not original with me but rather a collection of memories from my youth, when I had the privilege to sit under the teaching of some of the very same Sunday school teachers I serve with now. Whenever I reach a mental impasse during my Sunday school planning, I simply sit still for a moment and remember; and I share those memories with you today. Here is what those wonderful teachers did to make every Christmas as unforgettable for me and my classmates as the next:
• Plan a Christmas party, fellowship, or activity in class or offsite. Remember to check your activity against the church calendar and to receive approval from your pastor prior to advertising the event. Submit your activity request at least two weeks in advance.
• Go Christmas caroling. One year, one of my teachers had us visit church families and, another year, the senior saints. Another teacher had us sing in one of the children’s churches as part of the special music.
• Play Christmas games. Leaf through books or search the Internet for appropriate class Christmas games. Consider different kinds of gift exchanges.
• Because the little eyes of my nieces and nephews might see this, I can only say in the most ridiculous way possible that the practice of leaving a dairy beverage and baked confections for an exorbitantly jovial visitor from the north—whose unorthodox way of entering your home defies most laws of physics as well as breaks most local laws—is not a tradition to address. That is for the parents. If the topic arises in class, move quickly onto something else. Such a subject surfaces when the material aspect of the holiday is broached—which is normal for little children to want to talk about—so it might be a good idea to have them focus more on what Christmas represents and its meaning for people all over the world.
• Sing a Christmas song from the church hymnal each week.
• Encourage the students to help others, to give. One year, as a class project, my teacher had us bring in canned foods and other items to create a basket for a bus route. “He that hath a bountiful eye shall be blessed; for he giveth of his bread to the poor.” (Proverbs 22:9)
• Explain how Christmas is celebrated or how Christmas greetings are said around the world.
• Take a class Christmas picture two Sundays before Christmas. The following Sunday morning, distribute the pictures as “gifts” to your students.
• Encourage participation in and attendance at church Christmas activities. For example, my Sunday school teachers always encouraged my friends and me to give toward Christmas Gift to Jesus, the annual Christmas offering. We could give monetary gifts, but I also recall our giving brooms and diapers and other useful items for the ministry.
• Plan a Christmas project or craft. If you can find projects that can double as gifts for their parents or other people, even better!
• Suggest a budget. When I was a teenager, one of my teachers helped our class create budgets for our Christmas spending. The activity did not replace the Bible lesson. In fact, the lecture lasted only a few minutes; but there are still some principles from that one brief lesson that help me even today.
• Enjoy a special Christmas treat with your class. At North Valley, if you were to ask our teachers what the general policy is regarding food, they would all say the same thing: “No Food in the Building!” However, before or toward the end of the Sunday school hour, it’s not unusual to see some of our classes outside enjoying light refreshments with their teachers.
• The last suggestion of today is to always run Christmas ideas or plans by your Sunday School Director or pastor, as you would any other activity outside normal classroom routine. A seemingly harmless activity or handout might appear as such, but we must always be careful. Err on the side of caution.
The “most wonderful time of the year” is finally here, and I truly hope that the holiday season will be just that and more for you and your families.
Have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!