Ah, the joys of teaching small children! I have found them numerous in my time with the 2 and 3 year old Sunday School class. Isn’t it just a beautiful thing when a child sits and listens attentively to the important lesson you are teaching? Isn’t it wondrous when your group of little ones leans forward with anticipation and engages with you?
Don’t laugh! That actually happens sometimes!
It doesn’t happen often, but it does sometimes.
Yes, a lot of the time it feels like these wonderful children aren’t listening at all. Sometimes they aren’t. But sometimes they are. It is difficult to tell at times, but you might be surprised at how much they actually do listen, even (and especially) when you aren’t actively or consciously teaching them.
Children are like sponges – they soak up everything. It may take a few times for them to get all of it, but sometimes children have the ability to absorb more than adults do. They see what you’re doing when you think they’re busy playing. They pick up on things you didn’t tell them directly. They hear you talking to the other teachers and to their parents. Believe it or not, they do hear you when you teach a lesson. They don’t always listen to everything, but when they do, they don’t forget it – and they will repeat it!
But sometimes you are just sure that there is absolutely NO listening going on. The wonderful children whom God has given you to teach are wiggling and giggling and pestering each other. One of them is picking his nose. Another is picking at a loose thread on her dress. Two of them are best buddies (or partners in crime), and probably should not have been allowed to sit next to each other.
So you snap your fingers, clap your hands, or vocally get everyone’s attention. You tell them this is important and that God wants them to know about what is in His Bible. So the children quiet themselves, and sit as still as possible for their little energy-filled bodies.
But they start wiggling again as soon as you start teaching once more.
You manage to keep the wiggling to a “minimum,” and eventually finish your lesson. Then the delightful kiddos are allowed to jump up and do whatever comes next. You think that maybe one of them got something – maybe. You might even look to the heavens and give an exasperated prayer to God for these children (and yourself).
But then the next Sunday, someone’s mommy or daddy tells you what their child told them about the lesson you so painstakingly tried to teach. Sometimes they tell you about something else their child did that pertains to the lesson.
“He just lined up all his stuffed animals and taught them a Bible lesson!”
“She was telling her little brother all about Jesus!”
In that moment, you feel so much better! There was some listening going on!
If you are teaching children of any age, you will notice the difficulties of keeping the collective attention span. But rest assured that God has not called you to a fruitless endeavor! One of these days, these children will need to know the things you are teaching. While your lessons may be one of the repeated stepping stones along their way, one day a child will understand something very important. One day a child will follow Jesus.
And you were the same way as a young child. We never knew if you were paying attention, but you were!