A few months ago I began serving in Children’s Ministry helping with second grade Sunday school. It has been a great joy and amazing learning experience. Seeing and learning from the many leaders in Children’s Ministry has been humbling. I have much to learn but I wanted to share a few marks of a faithful Sunday school teacher. Marks that I have seen in those Sunday school teachers who have been faithfully serving for years in Children’s Ministry and marks that I am pursuing. A faithful Sunday school teacher is marked by: (1) Proper Expectations; (2) Personal Growth; (3) Patient Encouragement; (4) Passionate Teaching; (5) Persistent Evangelism; (6) Plenary Prayer.
1. Proper Expectations
A faithful Sunday school teacher understands when Yahweh says, “I will look favorably on this kind of person: one who is humble, submissive in spirit, and trembles at My word” (Isa 66:2). This is one who is saved. This is one who does not look for glory but humbles himself or herself. Every Sunday school teacher must be humble. Children’s Ministry needs teachers who do not seek fame or recognition. These teachers are not driven by instant fruit but realize they are just coworkers (1 Cor 3:9). Sunday school teachers are just throwing seed (Lk 8:4-15). A faithful Sunday school teacher realizes that he or she is laying a foundation, “Now the one planting and the one watering are one in purpose, and each will receive his own reward according to his own labor” (1 Cor 3:8). The faithful Sunday school teacher understands that he may sow seed and another might reap years down the road but ultimately it’s God who is at work (1 Cor 3:7). Faithful Sunday school teachers know that they are just laying a foundation which is Christ (1 Cor 3:10-11) but others will build on it (1 Cor 3:12-15). A faithful Sunday school teacher is marked by faithfulness and a pursuit of a heavenly reward not earthly fame or recognition (1 Cor 4:1-5).
2. Personal Growth
The faithful Sunday school teacher further understands that Yahweh looks to one who “trembles at My word” (Isa 66:2). Jesus had little tolerance for hypocritical teachers. A Sunday school teacher knows that Jesus despised false teachers although the Pharisees dispensed the truth they did not follow it (Matt 23:3-4). Paul despised hypocrisy in the church (Rom 2:21-24). Rather the faithful Sunday school teacher is like Ezra who has set his heart to know the law of Yahweh, to obey it and to teach it (Ezra 7:10). Faithful Sunday school teachers do not see the lesson as merely for children but they strive to learn and apply what is taught in the Sunday school classroom to their own lives. God opposes the proud (Jam 4:6; 1 Pet 5:5; Prov 3:34). God’s glory belongs to Him alone (1 Cor 1:16-31). The faithful Sunday school teacher humbles himself under the mighty hand of God. He applies the truth in his life and strives to glorify God. A faithful Sunday school teacher regularly examines the genuineness of his or her own faith and fruit (cf. 1 Tim 4:13). He realizes that the seriousness of his ministry and is purposeful to pursue and present an example of holiness (1 Cor 4:16; 11:1; Phil 3:17a; 4:9a; 2 Thes 3:7a). The faithful Sunday school teacher makes an effort to model the truth that was taught the week before like the apostle Paul (2 Thes 3:7-9). More often than not, children grow up and simply remember the faithful example of a teacher not their lessons. A Sunday school teacher must be sanctified for the sake of these unbelieving children in Sunday school. Therefore the faithful Sunday school teach is never separated from the body of Christ. He is consistently in the main worship service. He is looking for discipleship under godly leaders. He or she doesn’t merely come to church for Sunday school and leave. He or she is faithfully involved in the life of the church and is constantly pursuing sanctification.
A faithful Sunday school teacher knows that parents have a mandate to raise their children in the training and instruction of the Lord not them (Eph 6:4; Col 3:21). They know that parents are to be the primary evangelists and spiritual trainers of their children. Therefore the faithful Sunday school teacher relates to the parent and encourages parents to serve as a godly example, giving personal exhortation, and specific edification for the spiritual well-being of the child. The faithful Sunday school teacher doesn’t tell a parent how to raise their children but he or she is available to equip, edify, and encourage parents (Eph 4:12–16). A faithful Sunday school teacher doesn’t parent parents. A faithful Sunday school teacher seeks to support and enhance the spiritual vitality of the home. It is never the purpose of a Sunday school teacher to usurp the parental role and responsibility.
4. Passionate Teaching
A faithful Sunday school passionately teaches the Word of God first because he or she has personalized the truth which is taught. He teaches with conviction because he has personal grown from the spiritual truths in the lesson. The faithful Sunday school teacher teaches with compassion. The Sunday school teacher is weekly pleading one soul to another, “Be reconciled to God!” (2 Cor 5:20). This compassion is seen even in the tone, volume, and fluctuation of a Sunday school teacher’s voice. Yet, a faithful Sunday school teacher does not teach to please children or entertain as an actor. His passion is also marked by with authority. The faithful Sunday school teacher is humble and doesn’t teach out of his or her ego or haughtiness. He speaks as an ambassador of the King of kings (2 Cor 5:18-20) and preaches the message of the King with the King’s authority (Matt 7:28-29). God has not called Sunday school teachers to give suggestions but to say, “Thus saith the LORD!” Furthermore, the faithful Sunday school teacher teaches with imagination. That is to say that his or her teaching is marked by powerful words, figures of speech, illustrations, visuals, stories, direct address, and above else all clarity. A faithful Sunday school teacher works hard not to teach over the heads of children but rather puts in the hard work to use words and illustrates that children will understand. Faithful Sunday school teachers understands that the greatest need for children is the gospel and therefore they teach with urgency. Children are sinners and are bound for hell. Children need the gospel! A faithful Sunday school teaches about the near judgment of sin and the final judgment of sin (Gen 19:1ff; Rev 20:11-15). This doesn’t mean the Sunday school teacher teaches about hell every week but it means that the fires of hell fuel the urgency to call children to repentance. This leads to the next mark of a faithful Sunday school teacher.
The church has a mandate to take the gospel into the entire world and to share the good news of Christ with every person (Mt 28:18–20; Lk 24:46–47). Thus the motivation for a faithful Sunday school teacher begins with God’s command to evangelize the lost, which also includes children (Acts 2:39). A faithful Sunday school teacher realizes that a child’s greatest need is regeneration because children are dead in their sin and without hope of salvation (Rom 3:23). Yet, children can receive forgiveness of sins, a relationship with God, and purpose in life through trusting in Christ as Lord and Savior (Rom 10:9–13). The faithful Sunday school teacher knows that assurance of salvation comes as the Holy Spirit illumines the child’s mind (1 Jn 5:13; 1 Cor 2:10-14; Jn 16:8-13) to understand Scripture and then strengthens him to obey it (1 Cor 2:4-5; 1 Thes 1:5). Therefore, the faithful Sunday school teacher knows that his ministry is heart preparation as he cultivates the soil of children’s hearts through sowing the seed of the gospel. He knows that it is God who saves not the Sunday school teacher. The faithful Sunday school teacher doesn’t omit discussing the attributes of God, Christ’s blood, the cross, atonement for sins, the resurrection, Christ’s lordship, eternal punishment, repentance, forgiveness, grace, and mercy. A faithful Sunday school teacher avoids soliciting salvation professions but rather encourages the fruit of genuine repentance. Yet the faithful Sunday school teacher knows that he is planting seeds for a harvest that may not bear fruit for many years. Furthermore genuine fruit survives and grows through times of testing (Matt 13:8).
6. Plenary Prayer
A faithful Sunday school teacher knows that it is not their role to parent children or to parent parents rather the faithful Sunday school teacher prays for both the children that meet in classroom and the parents who are outside of the classroom. Their prayer for children and parents is unlimited and complete in all respects. Faithful Sunday school teachers prayer for everything as they express their dependence of God. A faithful Sunday school teacher realizes that he or she needs wisdom and prays for help in teaching children and encouraging parents (Jam 1:5; Job 1:5). Above all a faithful Sunday school teacher knows that the greatest need for children is their salvation. They passionately desire the salvation of the children in their Sunday school class (Rom 10:1-2). They know that Scripture is able to save even from childhood (2 Tim 3:13-17) and so they pray. A faithful Sunday school teacher knows that God is the one who reveals knowledge and prays that God would increase their own understanding of God, parents’ understanding of God, and children’s understanding of God (Prov 2:1-5). Paul constantly prayed for people to grow in the knowledge of God (1 Thes 5:23-24; Eph 1:18-21; Phil 1:9-11; Col 1:9-11) and so does a faithful Sunday school teacher. A faithful Sunday school teacher prays for the protection of children (Prov 18:10; Rom 15:30-31; Eph 6:10-18). Children do not always understand the world in which they live. They do not understand why their parents get divorced or why their grandmother dies. A faithful Sunday school teacher prays that children and their parents will grow in trusting God’s sovereign purposes (Jam 5:14-15; 1 Pet 4:12-13). They pray for strength and comfort in the trials that children and their parents face (1 Cor 1:3-5; 2 Cor 12:7-10; Phil 4:6-7; 1 Pet 5:7; Rom 8:28).A faithful Sunday school teacher prays for wisdom for parents in their present and future decisions (Col 1:9-12; 1 Thes 5:21-22; Pro). Children need good friendships and so a faithful Sunday school teacher prays for children’s relationships (Prov 17:17; 1 Cor 15:33). They pray for parents and children to have a heart for ministry (Rom 12:3ff).