by Julia Sensenbrenner (Part Two of a July-August Two-Part Series)
Each Sunday, at least 45 volunteers bring Christ’s message and love to Bethany’s children. While many members of the Children’s Ministry team are parents of young children, the roster also includes college students, empty-nesters returning for their young-child fix, young adults, middle school or high school students, singles, and even a handful of elementary-age children.
Each class is usually staffed by three volunteers (generally, one lead teacher and two assistants), with the goal to include at least one male teacher. The reasons volunteers give for joining the team are myriad, as are their experiences. This month we share the insights and experiences of a few more faithful volunteers.
Bob and Gwen Kunde have been teaching the 3 year-old class at 9:00 am for five years. The couple had been praying for an opportunity to serve together, but when they learned that up to 14 children show up on some Sundays, they quickly convinced their daughter Hannah to be part of the team (until she left for college last fall). Gwen is the crafts coordinator, while Bob tells the flannel board Bible story to a rapt audience that often requests to hear it a second time.
“It is extraordinarily rewarding to hear students excitedly sharing the story with their parents as they leave the classroom,” says Bob. “Who can resist the honest hunger of little ones who love learning about Jesus?”
Snack, music and play time round out the morning. Bob reports he enjoys playing Legos with the children, but on a more serious note, he adds, “We often gain new Biblical insights while we work out the best way to tell the story so our 3’s will get it.”
At the fourth and fifth grade level, classes are split by gender.
Joel Shoop teaches in the boys’ class. “I was drawn to it since that is such a crucial age and formative time. The more men they have to look to for examples of faith, the better.”
He also views this class as an important way to create friendships between boys who attend different schools. “They are able to connect in class and develop strong relationships in preparation for Youth Group. By 5th grade, they know each other really well.”
The all-male teaching team tells Bible stories and follows up with discussion or role plays, while leaving time for each boy to share highs and lows for the week.
Joel notes, “They are such a high energy group, apparently without lots of focus, so I am always pleasantly surprised when we do a review and the boys always remember the stories and content.”
Joel started teaching three years ago, four full years before his own son Jessie will move into the class a year from now!
Kristin Wilhite plays a vital behind-the-scenes role, serving as departmental coordinator for the 2’s class. Her job includes creating the schedule for teachers, praying for and encouraging them, and being a sounding board for any feedback from the teachers regarding the class, children, or parents.
In her own volunteering, Kristin has found the experiences she enjoys most are those with strong support and encouragement. She adds, “In modeling what has kept me volunteering, I strive to encourage, make contact with and pray for my volunteers.”
Each Sunday School class has a departmental coordinator, who is part of a team that meets every other month with Director of Children’s Ministries Dianne Ross. Kristin describes these meetings as, “a filling station to go out and do our job. Starting with scripture and prayer, we then move into a time of encouraging one another, discussing any issues, concerns, or praises. I walk away energized and ready to do my job.” This helps her with the challenge of scheduling and supporting 13 teachers and assistants, but Kristin adds, “I truly desire to meet their needs to make this a fun experience and not just an added stressful ‘to do’ in their lives.”
Susan Gates joined the Kindergarten Godly Play team last fall. She comments, “Even though we have a set curriculum and process, you never know what to expect. Each day is different; it is always a surprise.”
Susan loves the program because, “It gives children space to learn how to worship God in their own way. It is beautiful that we respect 5 year-old kids enough to give them space and time to figure things out for themselves.”
She notes that one advantage of serving as a worship leader and telling the beautiful Bible stories in this curriculum is that she gets to prepare stories—such as the Parable of the Mustard Seed—that she hasn’t spent much time with.
“I would encourage everyone to volunteer to teach Sunday School,” adds Susan. “It offers amazing insight into what our kids are thinking and doing and is a great way to meet people. I have met so many people I wouldn’t have known otherwise.”
We are still recruiting new volunteers for September-June. If you are interested in exploring the possibility of joining the Children’s Ministry team, please contact Dianne Ross: email@example.com.