By Krissa Rumsey
I taught the 5th – 7th grade girls last year and will begin teaching Sunday School again in a few weeks. I really had no idea what to expect teaching a group of tweens. I know it is a transitional period; in one moment, the girls are desperate to look 18, but they still really want to color and adorn themselves with stickers. They almost always would rather be sleeping at 10:00 on a Sunday morning, but as soon as you give them a dry-erase marker, they leap to the white board like it’s a backstage pass to a One Direction concert.
I remember the turmoil of those years oh too well. I wondered how to approach teaching the Bible to girls whose minds are focused on the next gymnastics meet, or the friend they would see in school the next day who had suddenly begun giving them the silent treatment, or how to convince their mom to start letting them wear make-up, or plotting how to procure one more pop-tart from the Sunday School snack tray.
I often felt there was no way to simply read a Bible lesson and expect them to meditate on it. We were approaching a lesson on missions and I knew reading about the trials of Paul on his journeys wasn’t going to hold their attention for more than 4.7 minutes. Even though the story of Paul is harrowing—beaten, lashed, stoned, shipwrecked—the girls were soon overcome by the thought of more pop-tarts. I decided that actually engaging them in a mission project , which they would be responsible for, was worth a try.
I decided that actually engaging them in a mission project , which they would be responsible for, was worth a try.
We talked about identifying our gifts and how we could serve others using them. We looked at Dorcas and how she touched many lives through her incredible sewing ability. We didn’t have a lot of sewers among us, but we had artists, leaders, organizers, those who encourage, helpers, speakers….we had the ingredients to pull off a service project of our own. I let the girls take control of the project and was nervous because I thought everyone would want to play the same role….or none at all. But the opposite happened.
…we had the ingredients to pull off a service project of our own
Some of the girls enjoyed taking charge of the project’s direction, researching service opportunities and calling people for more information. Others did not want to do this at all. When it came time to decide on a project, there were girls who graciously let go of their ideas and supported the direction of the group. That is a gift. When it came time to make posters and signs, several of the girls jumped right in and knew exactly how to position text and images on a page. When we needed to develop a timeline for collecting our food donations for the Hope Clinic, there were girls who knew who we needed to talk to at church and protocols we should follow.
When we discussed who would speak about it in front of the church, I assumed everyone would want the spotlight. Nope. A few girls enjoy speaking in front of groups, and the others were more happy behind-the-scenes. When delivery day came, the girls that were able to go jumped eagerly into the task of stocking the food pantry’s shelves. They asked questions of the pantry director, they sought help from one another, and they served joyfully.
Watching them take charge of a task was a thing of beauty…a work of God’s creation.
Each girl in the class played a role in the food drive they organized. While I hope they found joy in serving others and learned something about the ways in which they can use their gifts to do so, I learned a great lesson also. Observing these girls clearly demonstrated to me that God gives His people unique talents and abilities (the Body indeed has many parts, 1 Cor. 12). And, when applied appropriately, these parts result in great work being done on His behalf.
As an adult, I think I am often in the midst of getting the work done and I don’t have the opportunity to observe all the moving parts. I’m so grateful for being able to see this in my small group of tween-age girls. Watching them take charge of a task was a thing of beauty…a work of God’s creation. It let me know that, though I was their teacher, God does all the work. In them, in me, in all of us.
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