In his book, Show Them Jesus, Jack Klumpenhower doesn’t just speak to the head. He engages heart and hands as well, giving teachers an inspiring and practical framework for preparing Bible lessons, classroom environments, and family ministry where Jesus is the focus.
Throughout this month, I’ve been interviewing Jack about teaching kids. Be sure to read the earlier posts and check out Jack’s blog, jackklumpenhower.com. Today’s question explores what teacher’s can do to help their classrooms to be grace-centered environments.
Jared: Kids learn more from what we do than what we say. What can children's ministry leaders do to have a good-news environment in their classrooms?
Jack: My very best classes have been those where everyone felt it was safe to confess sin and seek help from Jesus.
That’s basic Christian living, but it’s still hard to foster that kind of environment. American kids are taught to be achievers, and they come to Bible classes thinking they need to look like the best Christians—memorize the most verses, give the smartest answers, and above all hide their sin. Even bratty kids have the idea that Sunday school is for good kids, and being good or bad is how you fit in or stand out.
Kids desperately need a classroom where that kind of pressure melts away as everyone rests in the only truly good person we know, Jesus. I’ve never gotten it to work as well as I’d like, but I’ve found a few things that seem to help.
First, I as the teacher have to be open about my sin. Within appropriate bounds, I need to talk now and then about shameful things I’ve done, show my sorrow, and share my confidence in Jesus both to forgive me and to help me do better. When it’s clear that I’m a sinner in need of grace, the kids start feeling it’s okay to admit the same about themselves.
Second, I must be quick to pray in class about anything and everything. Prayer is the chief way we practice faith in God. When concerns lead to prayers for help, and sins lead to prayers for grace, and successes lead to prayers of thanks—then it’s hard for anyone to get too self-focused about their goodness or lack of it. Constant prayer keeps us looking to Jesus. Where it thrives, self-pride dies.
Finally, I need to celebrate repentance rather than false perfection. Instead of acting shocked when kids misbehave (“We don’t do that in Sunday school!”), I need to treat the classroom more like a doctor’s office. Everyone is there because we have sin problems, but we expect to make progress and to leave more hopeful than when we walked in.
I’m so thankful for Jack Klumpenhower sharing his time and thoughts with us for the last month. If you’ve enjoyed this interview series, share your thanks with Jack in the comment section below.