By Robbie Jones
Fall is a busy time in the Children’s Ministry Department. Then again, when is it not a busy time in the Children’s Department? With all the hustle and bustle, sometimes I wonder why I ever decided to give up my teaching career and come to seminary. However, I have moments where God reminds me that God has put me right where I need to be for now.
I just welcomed my new group of 4th and 5th grade students in Sunday School. I am responsible for eleven wonderful “tweens” from 9:45-10:45 on Sunday mornings. I taught 2nd and 3rd grade for seven years before seminary, but the thought of teaching 4th/5th graders scared me. They are unpredictable. You think they are not paying attention and they come up with some really deep thought/comment. They are inquisitive about everything. Honestly, I was afraid that they would ask me a question for which I would not have a sound theological answer.
Our first lesson was on Genesis 1-2:3, the story of creation. I think it is so much easier to teach this lesson to young children. God created the grass, trees, sky, animals, people, etc. Then, give them a coloring sheet with Adam and Eve in the garden and they are content. I knew this would not be the case for my 4th and 5th graders.
As I planned for the lesson, I thought about how I could make the story come alive in a different way. My Sunday School curriculum suggested letting the students create their own animal to place in the garden. We talked about what animal they wish might have never been created. We also talked about what a huge responsibility God gave to Adam in taking care of the newly created world and how we have a responsibility to take care of our world too.
The lesson was going well — then a child raised his hand and asked two very innocent questions: Where did God come from? and What does God look like?
Two valid questions. However, they are scary when you are on the receiving end! I told him that God was just there when God began creating. I also talked about the beginning of John; “In the beginning was the Word…” Then, I moved on to the next question. I was not sure how to attack it. As I contemplated my answer, another child spoke answered. She said, “There’s a part of God in each of us.” She went around the room and pointed at each person and said, “God looks like you, and you, and you, and you….and God looks like the pastor, the babies in the nursery, and the old men and women in the congregation.”
Wow! One little girl was amazed to realize that God could be referred to with a feminine pronoun. All she could say was “Really? Wow!”
This moment reminded me of why I love teaching so much. Children often surprise you with what they know and perceive if you give them the opportunity. These are also moments that will stick with these children. I may not have aced the answer, but I did help them begin to form their own theological viewpoint. I hope they will remember learning that we all created in God’s image and that God is “she” as well as “he.” They may not know what to do with this information yet, but they will file it away and come back to it when they are ready to wrestle with it.
Neither of these concepts appeared in my lesson plan. In fact, if I had followed my lesson plan word for word I would have missed this moment. I was reminded that children often make the best teachers. I have created an environment where they are comfortable asking tough questions. It will probably always be a bit scary to be on the receiving end of these questions. However, it is a privilege, responsibility and an honor to be able to explore these issues with the leaders of tomorrow! There is no place that I would rather be!
And, for now, if all else fails, I can always say, “That’s a good question, let’s ask Mr. Nathan (the Children’s Minister)!”
Robbie Jones is a second year student at Baptist Theological Seminary at Richmond, pursuing her Master of Divinity degree. She currently serves as the Children’s Ministry Associate at Central Baptist Church in Chesterfield County, Virginia.