Monday, June 06, 2011


Sometimes the basics of education get reinforced in unexpected ways.

This past Sunday, we had a less than normal turnout for our Large Group (Children's Church) time. As we sang in worship, I looked out and, of course, I knew who would be sitting, arms crossed, maybe talking with a buddy. And I was right. I mean, I've gotten used to those I call the "less than engaged." We all have them. Kids who just sit there with blank or no expressions. We do not have a large ministry on Sundays, so it's easy to spot them. It becomes painfully easy to spot them when our numbers are cut by half. Sometimes, these children will offer their unsolicited evaluation of the kids' service by breathing a heavy sigh and saying (loudly), "this is boring."

After our singing and games, I launched into the lesson from Daniel 1. I began describing the Babylonian captivity of Judah and how Daniel and his friends were swept away to a strange land. And out of the corner of my eye, I spotted...the hand. It belonged to one of my "less than engaged." And I knew it was probably a request to use the bathroom. At first I tried to ignore it, but the hand was still up. And so I said (with my best Teacher Tim smile), "hold on one second and then I'll get your question." The hand went down and I continued the section of my lesson. But when I mentioned "Babylon" again, the hand went back up. So I called on the boy with the hand.

"ummm, yeah," he started, "Isn't Babylon like where Iran is today?"

My jaw dropped. I recovered enough to affirm what he had said and did a little Bible geography (which was for a later lesson) on the spot. I knew his parents were very Biblically literate and had no doubt taught him this at home. But in spite of what I saw on the outside ("less than engaged"), this young man was actually tracking on the lesson enough to connect Babylon with modern Iran.

This wasn't the first time I have been surprised by one my "unengaged" kids. I did a lesson on prayer that seemed well received by most of the kids, but not neccesarily by one of the guys who was "too cool" for this. The lesson had 4 points about how God answers prayer.

Three days later, I came across one of the "unengaged" with a group of his peers. I walked close enough by to hear one of the kids ask about how God answers prayer. I was about ready to launch into my presentation, when the unengaged kid began rattling off the four points (along with the illustrations).

It's a basic of education: kids learn in different ways. I believe it was singer Rob Biagi who said that the kids who don't sing in our church are probably singing at home. Lessons that you think aren't going anywhere are probably getting absorbed on a variety of levels. Obviously, it is our goal as teachers to try to hit as many buttons as we can. But even if we aren't consciously doing that, it is encouraging to know that, often times, even those who seem "less than engaged" might very well be connecting with the worship or lesson on a level of which we are not aware. And when that connection manifests itself, prepare for more jaw dropping moments.

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