Friday, January 25, 2013

all i really know how to do is dim the lights & turn on music.

{photo by A Bryan Photo}

I teach Bible class on Wednesday nights at my church. 

Each week, I kind of dread going, not because I don't love teaching, but because Wednesdays are rushed, and truly, there is nothing I hate worse than rushing. I hate running home to scarf down dinner, then jumping in the car to speedily assemble last-minute craft projects and lesson plans. Rushing is for the birds, and Wednesdays, in our home, are always rushed. I am learning to accept this truth: It is what it is. Wednesdays are what they are, and for now, they are rushed, and I must therefore cope, and smile, and yes, sometimes cancel, because is there anything more unpleasant and nonsensical than a grouchy Bible class teacher? 

I run the arts and crafts room, which is rather laughable since I cannot draw or cut a straight line. But I like it, and the kids like it, and after the rushing has ended, I discover I rather enjoy dimming the lights, turning on some music, and crafting with children who probably need to be at home in bed. (School drains them, you guys.) 

The truth is, teaching kindergarten through fifth graders -- a different group of grades each week -- is not my first choice. I prefer teaching teenagers, even grown-ups. My humor, my style are better suited for that type of setting, but for now and for all kinds of reasons, some I know and some I don't, God has given me this.

I have set out, then, to be the best Wednesday night Bible class teacher these kids have ever seen, not in terms of preparation, but in terms of atmosphere. 

Wednesdays are rough, so sometimes my lesson -- completely planned out for me, by the way -- reflects that. I arrive about 30 minutes before class to prepare, but in all, it's certainly not a lot of time. (My husband, on the other hand, spends the better half of his Saturday preparing for his own adult Bible class on Sunday mornings. I try not to let this affect my competitive nature. After all, Wednesdays are what they are, and gosh, I am just doing the best I can.) 

What I lack in preparation, though, I hope I make up for in love. I'm not like Jordan, academic and prepared. I'm not like my mom, who has an enthusiasm and passion for kids' ministry I truly cannot match. (I'm really too introverted for that.) I'm not even like my cousin, who could spend hours coming up with craft ideas and activities if she were given the opportunity. 

Instead, I arrive rushed and winded, and the best thing I know to do is turn off the overhead lights and turn on the lamps. I set out supplies, and I turn on some music. Chances are, the kids are feeling just as rushed and as harried as I am, they just might not know it. I open my lesson book, and I open my Bible, and a couple of weeks ago, I read a book. I journaled. I prayed. I prepare my own heart, because I figure: Where else would I even start? 

Teaching these classes isn't something I really set out to enjoy. My mother is the children's minister at my church, and she had a need. I think she also probably knew I had a need, too, and so she stuck me in this classroom, filled with giggly, rambunctious children who often make me want to pull out my hair. 

But then there's the kid who comes running up to the door proclaiming art is his favorite class. (I'm sure he'll have a different favorite next week, but still.) There's the kid who smiles when I tell him it really doesn't matter who's president, because Jesus is in charge. (Kids, their parents, and politics: a post for another time.) There's the boy who asks questions I have a feeling other teachers might ignore, questions about whether Jesus had a girlfriend or if God has another son we just don't know about yet. 

And I think sometimes these kids like hearing a grown-up say they don't know. I think (I imagine) they like hearing a grown-up joke with them and tease them a little. I think they like being challenged and asked to do things maybe their parents or other teachers don't think they're capable of doing. (Fourth and fifth graders are entirely capable of picking out a favorite verse and putting it in their own words. If it's challenging, all the better.) 

I don't think I'm the poster child for children's ministry, and that's okay. For now, it's where I am, and I'm doing it the only way I know how: by being myself, by promoting quiet and calm, and by showing them that Jesus is the absolute most important thing in my life. They know I have other interests; they know I love books and my husband and good music, but I hope more than that they know I think Jesus is awesome and the best thing to ever happen to me. 

"Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is the whole duty of man." That's their Bible verse right now, and as someone who memorized a lot of Scripture as a child, I know the words will stick, but the meaning might not. So I made them get out their Bibles (children who have iPads: also a post for another time) and turn to the reference. I asked them what that verse meant, and when I got crickets, I told them: 

"Solomon was the wisest person who ever lived. But he made a lot of mistakes. He had a weakness for women and for money. And at the end of his life, he realized none of it mattered. Here's what matters:  at school, at home, with your friends, with your mommies and daddies, with your brothers and sisters -- love God first. Obey God first. That is the most important thing. That's what I want you to remember."

I don't know if they will. I don't remember much of anything from my Bible classes growing up. But I hope they remember I laughed at their jokes. I smiled when they walked in the room. I rolled my eyes and snapped my fingers when they were bratty. I didn't take their flak. I prayed like I meant it. And every Wednesday night, I dimmed the lights and turned on music, just for them. 


Anonymous said...

The thing they will remember the most is you and that you cared about them.

Chet said...

Annie, I loved this!

I've never been a fan of the "90% of [teaching, gospel, working with youth] is just showing up." That's all any of my Sunday class teachers ever did - just show up.

I am a fan of something Tim told me, "They won't remember what you said but they'll always remember how you made them feel."

And I think they remember what you say more than we give them credit for.

Sierra said...

I cannot tell you how much I loved reading this post. I teach 4th grade and there are times when I feel so inadequate; what could the students possibly learn from me?! But, alas, they do. And they say the funniest things in the midst of it. I love it. Thanks for sharing--and know you are not alone!
Oh, Just Living the Dream

Angela said...

This is such a great, real, post. It just reminds me that God uses us where we are at...even if it's not necessary where we thought we would be, or where we feel most comfortable. Someone told me once that as Christians we should become "comfortable with being uncomfortable" because that is what God calls us to do, and how he uses us.