Teaching in the children’s Sunday School department is probably not the most glamorous way to serve the local church. Most people prefer to sing in the choir, but if you can’t croak a note, that option is definitely out. Teaching adults is a coveted position, but not everyone is a Joyce Meyer.
We hadn’t been attending our new church for very many months before we were approached by one of the elders. He began shaking my husband’s hand with the good old German pump handle technique so common in our locale. “Paul, how ya doin’? Nice to see you here so faithfully every Sunday. Say, I’ve got an idea for how you can serve. How would you like to be Sunday School teachers?” Awed at being asked to participate and willing to be helpful in any way we could, we readily agreed.
We started out as substitutes, doing the rounds of all the various elementary classes, and what with the regulars taking vacations or having out-of-town business trips, we taught nearly every week. All the children were fun, but our most memorable assignment was the fifth grade class.
The regular teacher warned us, “They’re good kids, but they’re a bunch of cut-ups sometimes. Don’t let them make monkeys out of you.” We wondered what we were in for. “I like to reward them if they say their Bible verses, and they really like gummy worms. Give them one for trying, and another one if they say it perfectly.”
Our day came, and we had a bumper crop of kids show up. They were pumped to say their verses, too. “Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? And one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear ye not therefore, ye are of more value than many sparrows. Matthew 10:29-31.”
It was a long memory passage, and we were feeling generous. We decided to bend the rules: TWO gummy worms for an essentially correct rendition, and FOUR for a perfect recitation. But we made the mistake of not withholding the treats until the end of class, and things quickly degenerated into a circus. Fifth grade girls might be genteel, but boys that age will never be, and we had a clown in our midst, to boot.
“Boys and girls, today we’re going to read about a widow who had only one son – but then he died!” We heard little giggles and a few outright guffaws. Hmmm. We didn’t know funeral processions for only sons were all that funny. They aren’t, but boys who know how to be creative are. The class clown had discovered that gummy worms fit nicely into ears. Unfortunately, he had managed to recite the memory passage perfectly, and there were two more apertures waiting to be experimented with – his nostrils.
By this time, all of us had forgotten about the poor widow woman from Nain. Gummy worms were dangling from the ears. Gummy worms were dangling from the nose. And, monkey-see, monkey-do, every boy in the class had to follow the leader.
“All right, all right, that’s good! But now it’s time for the story, so maybe you can take your gummy worms out for awhile, and show your parents what to do with them on the way home!”
It was not to be. By 10:00 in the morning, boys that age are hungry, and they aren’t particular about where their food last lodged. Out of the ears, and into the mouth. Ditto for the ones that had been in the nostrils. Meanwhile, the dainty females in the class were totally disgusted. “Oh, eww! Boys are so gross! Eww, eww!”
I’m not sure if we ever got around to Jesus raising the young man from the dead. But, perhaps because we had laughed over the gummy worms with the rest of them, we had gained their trust. To our dismay, two of the children shared with us that their parents were breaking up. They were from “nice” families. Who would have guessed? We prayed with them, shared their sorrow, and tried to let them know that their Heavenly Father cared.
“Are not two sparrows sold for a farthing? And one of them shall not fall on the ground without your Father. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. Fear ye not therefore, ye are of more value than many sparrows.”
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