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Last Updated May 03, 2004

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See also Advice for Sunday School Directors

The task of the Sunday School teacher is one of the most important in the church, as he or she ministers one-on-one to the small group of pupils in the class. This small group experience has a depth and richness that cannot be found in the larger context of worship. This "advice" consists of some principles, based in scripture, which will provide guidance for some of the many privileges and responsibilities of a Sunday School Teacher.

Seek God's Vision

Where there is no vision, the people perish… (Proverbs 29:18)

You are the primary vision-caster for your class. You need to be able to see what no one else can see -- to see the possibilities beyond the present realities, to see what your pupils can become through the grace of God rather than what they currently are. In short, you must see through God's eyes, using the spiritual vision that only His Spirit can impart. You must see what God wants your class to become in His perfect will. Pray alone and with key class leaders; dream about what your class could accomplish given infinite resources (which, after all, God is able to provide); plan about how your class can do its part in carrying out the Great Commission and accomplishing the purpose of your church.

Beyond seeing the vision, you need to be able to communicate it. Articulate it clearly and enthusiastically; keep it in front of your pupils, and help them in turn to grow excited about it and put it into practice in their daily lives. Involve them in moving from the vision to practical changes in attitudes and life style.

Your vision should provide the focus of all that you do as a Sunday School class; it should help provide drive, energy, motivation, direction, and purpose in your organization, your planning, your teaching, and your ministry.

Understand Your Responsibility

This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. (1 John 3:16)

Perhaps the best way to express your responsibility is simply to say that the responsibility of the Sunday School teacher with respect to his or her class is the same as that of the pastor with respect to the total congregation. As a teacher, you are responsible for the spiritual well-being and growth of your pupils and prospects.

As an example, if you are teaching sixth-graders, you are responsible for teaching, ministry to, and fellowship with all the sixth-graders enrolled in your class. Of course, you share this responsibility with other church organizations, for some of your pupils will also be involved in choirs, missions organizations, discipleship training, etc. You especially share this responsibility with the parents of your pupils. But, because the Sunday School is the organization to which more people belong than any other, and because there are unfortunately some parents who either are unable or unwilling to take on the spiritual leadership, you need to step up to the responsibility. In some cases, no one else will.

In addition to your class members, you are responsible for reaching and witnessing to all the sixth-graders in the community who are not involved in some other Sunday School! This is the outreach responsibility, as you seek to identify and enroll prospects for your class, and also the ministry responsibility as you seek to meet their needs in Jesus' name.

A big job? Absolutely! But remember that you have help in the other teachers in your department, the general officers of the Sunday School, the church staff, and the resources provided by your church and denomination. Most of all, remember that you ultimately have the resources that God can provide -- wisdom, love, strength, guidance, inspiration, enthusiasm, and on and on. Magnify the opportunity of the task, and realize that you are a fellow laborer with God as you work to meet the needs of each class member and prospect.

Know Your Pupils

Train a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not turn from it. (Proverbs 22:6)

Because of this responsibility, you need to know as much as possible about the pupils enrolled in your class. Your teaching task alone requires that you understand where they are, in spiritual development, attitudes, and Bible knowledge, so you can begin at that point and help them move to the next higher plane. Your teaching task is to bring the truth of the Bible to bear on the life needs of your pupils, in all its relevancy and power, so that the Holy Spirit can use the word of God to bring about challenge, growth, and change. Keep a notebook about each of your pupils. Record their likes, dislikes, and aspirations. Get involved personally in their lives, even if it's just a lunch date once a quarter or a quick Coke shared at McDonald's. Remember that you can learn much about a teenager by visiting his or her room. Pray for each pupil by name each week; get to the point where you know what their own prayer concerns are and what they can celebrate.

Involve Your Class Members

Do not merely listen to the word, and so deceive yourselves. Do what it says.   (James 1:22)

I hear; I forget.  I see; I remember.  I do; I understand.   (Axim)

It's important that you do not try to take on the whole load yourself. You need to involve your pupils in practical application of the Bible to minister to one another, as you involve them in structured and non-structured opportunities to minister, witness, and fellowship. This will give them direct experience in practicing ministry, expose them to the joy of Christian service, and equip them to take on the responsibility of a mature Christian.

Form a Support Group

Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed. (Proverbs 15:22)

For many valid reasons, you need a group of trusted friends who will advise and share in the leadership of an organization as important as a Sunday School class. The composition of this group will vary with your circumstances; ideally it will include your Sunday School Director, any class officers, and key class members. For workers with children and youth, it should include fellow workers with the same age group. In any case, it should consist of people of kindred spirit to your own, who see the importance of the Sunday School, are willing to give you frank and helpful advice, and are capable of sharing in the responsibility of leading the class. If nothing else, enlist a trusted prayer partner.

Some of the benefits of a solid support group include:

They bring diverse viewpoints and knowledge to support better decisions
They share in responsibility for decisions and can help communicate policy to different constituencies
They provide personal accountability and act as a sounding board for your own ideas
They commit to mutual support in prayer and encouragement

Plan, Plan, Plan

 Commit to the LORD whatever you do, and your plans will succeed. (Proverbs 16:3)

Because you have a weekly class contact responsibility, the discipline to prepare weekly for your teaching assignment will come easily. But go beyond this to include special plans for

Class Fellowship Activities
Class Ministry Activities
Class Outreach Activities
Support of special events, such as revivals, High Attendance emphases, stewardship emphases, etc.
Developing your pupils to take their own places of service responsibility
Your own personal development, both from a spiritual and teaching skills perspective

Obtain Training

Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a workman who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly handles the word of truth. (2 Timothy 2:15)

Let him who dares to teach never cease to learn. (Axim)

The single best thing you can do to prepare for your job is to attend a summer Sunday School conference at one of the national conference centers at Ridgecrest, North Carolina or Glorietta, New Mexico. This week-long experience will motivate and equip you for your job by exposing you to top-notch trainers, first-class Bible teaching and preaching, and fellowship with others who are preparing for the same task.

If you can't get to a conference center, check with your state or associational office for any available training locally. They may even be able to provide one-on-one consulting at no charge.

The best print resources I can recommend are:

Your teacher's quarterly. Don't neglect the helpful support articles found in most curriculum pieces (in the center section of adult teacher's quarterlies).
The appropriate leadership magazine for your age group (Leading Adults: Energizing Dynamic Ministry for adult leaders, Leading Student Ministry for student (youth) leaders, or in mINistry for workers with children and preschool)—quarterly resources full of helpful ideas and suggestions for both administrative leaders and teachers in each age group. These can be found on the dated literature order form from LifeWay.

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Updated: Monday, May 03, 2004