Everybody wants to change the world …but no one wants to teach Sunday School


by Rachel Held Evans Read Distraction Free

It’s Saturday! Today’s guest post comes courtesy of Liz Digitale Anderson.  Liz and her husband Peter served  as youth pastors at a multi-ethnic Mennonite church in Chicago for three years. Soon they will be headed to London to join InnerChange, a Christian order among the poor. You can follow their adventures on their blog

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When I was in college, my favorite professor and I went to the same small church. He was witty and brilliant and paradigm-crashing in class, and it was kind of weird to see him with his wife and kids on Sunday like any normal suburban family.

After we played together in the worship band every week, he'd slip downstairs before the sermon to teach Sunday School to a very small group. Included were his own kids, probably 8 and 5 at the time. He told me,"Giving these kids an awesome Sunday School experience is one of the most important things I can do for them." 

Here was this amazing Ph.D. from whom I loved taking classes, and he was taking all his teaching expertise and gifting it to these elementary-schoolers—because he wanted them to have a great experience learning about God.

That still blows me away. 

And I realized, what we teach our kids has power. What forms in our impressionable young minds at the age of six, or ten, or sixteen, can haunt us well into adulthood, or sustain us through many hard places instead. And how we do Sunday School has power as well. If it's a dreary place where kids feel they're being babysat, or where questions are frowned upon and contradictions shoved into the background, then we communicate to them: God is boring. God will fry you if you disobey, even though He's loving. Doubt is not okay. Authority has all the answers. 

My friends have picture hanging above the sink that says, "Everybody wants a revolution, but no one wants to do the dishes..."

Sunday school's like that. Everybody wants to change the world, but no one wants to teach Sunday School. Or has time to volunteer with the youth group, or mentor a kid who needs a solid friendship in their life.

I should know; I was the youth pastor's wife for three years. And while I usually didn't teach Sunday School, every week at youth group we wrestled with how to make the revolution of Jesus real and engaging to our postmodern teenagers. We tried to create safe spaces, to teach them how to ask good and hard questions, to make them feel loved and known. We tried to model a posture of lifelong learning, to demonstrate that following Jesus is about more than knowing and parroting the right answers; it's about exploring the riches of God's love, the depths of the mystery of faith, and changing the world in the process. 

This was both awesome and incredibly difficult. We failed more often than not, but we didn't shy away from the hard questions. At one point I realized that the biggest arguments my husband and I have had in our whole marriage were over what and how to teach the youth group—because we knew it mattered, and was worth fighting for. 

"Giving these kids an awesome Sunday School experience is one of the most important things I can do for them." 

Teaching Sunday School may never be sexy. But it is one of the most valuable, sacrificial, and yes, radical things you can do for a church. So when they ask for volunteers next session, you—yes, you—should consider it.

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What are some of your memories from Sunday School? Ever served as a Sunday School teacher?

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