Yesterday was the first day of Sunday school for the new school year in my church’s children’s ministry. I teach fifth and sixth grades, and after a nice summer reprieve I was eager to be back in the class. At this time last year, I was much more reluctant. I have always been more comfortable with infants and toddlers or older teens. I never seemed to know how to talk to kids in the middle grades. It turned out that most of the kids in my class didn’t wait for me to talk to them. The boys usually chatter on without much prompting! The girls are more quiet, but I’ve learned their interests – gymnastics, reading, dance – and I can usually draw them out of their shells.
There were plenty of obstacles this time around. Our curriculum didn’t arrive until the Tuesday before our first day. My co-teacher found out around 8:00 p.m. Saturday night that he would have to work Sunday morning. The fourth grade class was merged in with my fifth and sixth grades. And I had eighteen(!) students looking back at me from the neat little rows of chairs. Some of their faces were familiar – my fifth grade students from last year, now a little taller and in middle school – but a lot of them were new fourth and fifth grade students I was meeting for the first time. A year ago all this would have made me anxious, but not this time. By God’s grace, I found time to go over the lesson a couple of times; I trusted our children’s ministries director to find a substitute co-teacher, and his lovely wife filled in; the fourth grade students were mature and able to keep up; and all eighteen kids listened well.
God nourishes my soul in this role that I took on with so much hesitation a year ago. Our lesson was on Isaiah 40.9-23, where Isaiah celebrates God’s transcendence – his unsurpassable greatness and infinite wisdom – and notes the absurdity of comparing him to national powers, to man, or to man-made idols. God is in a category all his own, eternal and unchanging, yet leading his people with the tender care of a shepherd (v. 11). The lesson ended by asking the kids to offer up some ways in which God is unique. “He created everything!” “He can do what is impossible for us!” What does Isaiah tell us about God in this passage? A moment of thoughtful silence… Then a quiet whisper, “He’s huge.”
And there’s the lesson that kids can understand so well while adults miss it completely, the childlike faith that Jesus said was essential for anyone to enter his kingdom (Luke 18.15-17). As the old children’s mealtime prayer states so simply, “God is great; God is good,” and they recognize that with wide-eyed awe. God knows every detail of history and of the future, the solution to every problem, the cure for every disease. He knows my thoughts, desires, needs, and joys. He can handle my little problems, like the late arrival of curriculum and unexpected personnel shortages, and he’s bigger than my frustrations, confusions, and struggles. He’s greater than war, political strife, epidemics, and natural disasters. He transcends time and space. He’s huge, yet he loves me, and he is worthy of my praise and trust. My students get it, while I sometimes struggle to remember.
Let me encourage you to find a way to serve your local church if you haven’t already. The return on investment is enormous. God will show you his greatness and goodness as you serve. I am blessed to be around children (a great perk for this single woman with no kids), meet their families and partner with them in a small way in shepherding their kids, and watch them grow in their knowledge of the Bible and their love for God. Just as Isaiah called the Israelites to consider God’s greatness and shout it from the mountaintops, “Behold our God!” (v. 9b), I had the privilege of encouraging these eighteen students to ponder God’s glory, and that is awesome.