A Word of Caution for Sunday School Teachers

Thursday 6th January, 2011

I remember as Minister of Youth and Education sitting in the office of Tyre Denney (pictured above), my pastor at Alton Baptist Church in Lawrenceburg, Kentucky. He shared words of wisdom about ministry. He had great perspectives and advice from his years of experience. He talked about the awesome privilege of ministering to and with people. He shared about the sacredness of the trust people place in pastors and staff.

Much of his advice applies to Sunday School teachers as well. Teachers, like other church leaders, are entrusted with the responsibility to "equip the saints for works of service" (Ephesians 4:11-12). And that role engenders relationships, trust, and high value on example.

What set my mind to thinking about this was the scripture verse I used in yesterday's blog post, 31 Days to Be a Better Sunday School Teacher, from James 3:1 (NIV):

Not many of you should presume to be teachers, my brothers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly.

This is a word of caution. Why was a warning necessary? What was James hoping to avoid by making this statement? I would encourage you to pause and allow God's Word to speak to you. Let me share a few reflections on the scripture:

  • "Not many of you"--God will provide the number needed; this is not a limit or way of saying there will be few;
  • "should presume"--like church staff positions, teachers should sense a call from God to serve in this way; many nominating committees have enlisted willing people who were willing but not called; it should never be sought as a position of power or visibility;
  • "because you know"--this is not intended to be difficult to figure out; this is a common sense caution;
  • "we who teach"--from a teacher (James) to those who are considering the opportunity, or call;
  • "will be judged"--by whom? obviously by God, but also by people who are taught; for what? verse 2 appears to place the burden on avoiding stumbling, especially in what is said; the words, example, and life of the teacher have influence on others and will be judged; and
  • "more strictly"--because of the impact on the lives of others, there is additional strictness beyond that of a Christian.

What would you add as reflections on this word of warning? Take seriously the privilege and responsibility you have to serve as a Sunday School teacher. Use your role and influence carefully and intentionally. Be careful to prepare. Be careful with your words. Be quick to seek forgiveness when your words, example, or life fall short. Give God and your class your best effort. Be revolutionary!

For more ideas about teaching, check out these blog posts:

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