My husband drove the church van. I went along, opened van doors, and listened to children who were returning to church. A big step for them, for their parents.
Many comments and questions. No holding back.
“How long has church been going on?”
“Is this the first night back?”
“I missed you.”
“Will my same teacher be there?”
The van holds 15 passengers, but these three clustered near the front as we assured them that more children will soon be coming as the word spreads that our church is once again open on Wednesday nights to children, just as before the pandemic.
I entered my classroom. Only three. Small in number this week, but full of goodness. We circled-up and ate snacks. We prayed about concerns. Then, I said, “Now, God and Jesus have our worries. We are free to be at peace. No need to worry.”
We moved to the other side of the room where we sang Jesus Loves Me and The B-i-b-l-e. Animated, and they grew more excited when I said, “Let’s do sign language to Jesus Loves Me!”
No one cared if someone messed up. Pride—not a problem here. They already believe in Jesus. Their hearts are open. They are ready to follow, ready to play, ready to learn.
Next, we talked about the Bibles stacked on the shelf in the classroom. (These children do not yet know there are 66 books inside the one Bible.) They each picked up a Kids Study Bible. Only one said he had his own Bible at home. Together, they discovered the pictures inside the book. I helped them locate the Table of Contents at the front of the book and to repeat (after me) the names of the 66 books. Their fingers moved down the columns as they kept up and called out book titles. (They had never done this before, so there was joy and music in the repetition.)
I told them this book would help us find a good, deep peace inside ourselves. They smiled. I continued, “So, this is the only book we will be studying. We will help each other learn.”
My goal is to teach them that they can depend on God.
It is a huge life lesson. Each time I teach it, I relearn how much God loves His children and how dependable He is.
Knowing fifteen minutes is about the limit on this age group, we walked over to a round table. There, we discussed the last several months and what our lives had been like. I asked what they disliked the most about Covid-19, the pandemic. Answers came quickly—masks and not being with friends.
We drew pictures of masks on white paper and colored them the colors of our feelings. (Mine had some black. Theirs did not.)
I asked, “How did you lighten your spirits and make yourselves feel better during this past year? Let’s draw and color your answers.” They took markers and created flowers, a jungle gym, the sun, a game.
Smart and creative! They already have some coping mechanisms.
What will I possibly teach them?
Hopefully, that they can trust God and loosen grips on worries. That they can talk to God anytime, anywhere. That they are never alone, because God is always near.
That’ll be more than enough. It’s a beginning, for faith to rise inside of them.
Their fears are not about money, health, taxes, government, but their worries are just as real, just as important.
My job as a church teacher is to underline how dependable God is. That process will look like Bible stories, games, crafts, songs, prayers, kindness and love.
If you had walked into my classroom, you might have caught us laughing and talking about the “School’s Over, Back to Church Party” with hot dogs and mac ’n cheese. But really – something bigger and deeper was going on.
At the closure of the lesson, we played a game called "Mother, May I?" Remember it? Old game, new players.
As the van approached a house, a little girl asked, “Will you pick me up next week? What day?”
When helping another out of the van, I received a hug. It’s a risk I’m now willing to take.
No telling what I’ll learn this year from the children.
P.S. Life is risky. Life is difficult. Almost nothing is easy. And yet, I am reminded, as I watch and listen to children: There is hope in this world.
A corner of a children's classroom. Photographed by Pat Durmon, June 6, 2021.
Poetry Books by Pat Durmon