Getting Your Volunteers Up to Speed

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“I learned about a dream-catcher today. If you have one by your
bed, it’ll take all your bad dreams away,” explained the
6-year-old, towheaded boy to his mother after Sunday school.
Needless to say, the children’s minister got a call from a very
concerned mother that week. After some checking, the children’s
minister discovered that an assistant teacher had taught the
children this “extra” lesson at one of the learning centers. After
further checking, the children’s minister realized that this
teacher had never actually expressed faith in Christ.

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What was she doing in a classroom shaping impressionable
children’s beliefs?

In recruiting teachers, we can’t assume that every volunteer is
a Christian and ready to teach. There are certain basic doctrines
our teachers must know and believe. James’ words solemnly remind us
of the serious responsibility teachers have: “…Not many of you
should become teachers, because you know that we who teach will be
judged more strictly” (James 3:1). Teachers have a great influence
for good or bad. They integrally shape children’s beliefs.

Questions To Ask

I faced a dilemma in my own ministry. I needed teachers. Yet the
prospective teacher before me obviously erred on some critical
biblical issues. “How do people get into heaven?” I asked.

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The woman stammered as she replied, “I’m not sure. I guess
because they do good things.”

Was this potential volunteer really qualified to teach children?
Did she understand the basics of the Christian faith? How can we
know if volunteers are up to speed biblically? Here are four basic
belief areas we use in our church to examine each potential
volunteer.

  1. View of Eternal Life — Ask volunteers: “How
    certain are you that you’ll go to heaven someday? Why do you think
    you’ll get into heaven?” These two questions will reveal whether a
    volunteer trusts him- or herself and personal good works, or
    whether the person believes in God’s grace (Ephesians 2:8-9) for eternal life. Look for
    genuine dependence upon Christ. Is this person really a Christian?
    If not, he or she should not be teaching children. How can teachers
    help children develop something that they themselves don’t
    have?
  2. View of the Human Condition — “Are people
    ‘fallen’? Do they need a Savior?” Many people believe that people
    are basically good and heaven-bound on their own, while the Bible
    clearly teaches otherwise. “I was brought into this world in sin.
    In sin my mother gave birth to me” (Psalm 51:5). If we’re not fallen, then we
    don’t need a Savior. If children have hearts that are already good,
    then they don’t need a Savior either.
  3. View of Jesus — “What is the meaning of
    Jesus’ death on the cross?” Recently, I interviewed a volunteer who
    believed that Jesus sinned just as you and I do. Was this an
    important issue? Yes! Only if Jesus lived a sinless life could he
    die for our sins and rise again.
  4. View of Scripture — “Is God’s Word altogether
    true?” Many people may believe the Bible is God’s Word, yet, they
    do not believe it’s wholly true. When your teachers present the
    Scripture, do they believe it’s true? If they don’t, how will our
    children be able to trust God’s Word and accept it as their
    guide?

Ask your teachers, “Are there things in the Bible that are hard
for you to accept?” Use their answers as insights into areas where
you can give guidance. Perhaps it’s a matter of interpretation for
which you can offer additional information. Then determine if their
existing view upholds Scripture’s truthfulness so that your
children’s faith is nurtured rather than damaged.

Bible-basic Training

The Christian education director’s phone rang one Saturday
night. The frantic volunteer on the other end said, “I’m teaching
the lesson tomorrow. Where can I get manna?”
We don’t want to squelch people’s desire to minister, but we do
need to safeguard the integrity of God’s Word as it’s taught to
children. We must equip our teachers to know God’s Word with
greater depth and insight.

How can we help our teachers become more familiar with the
Bible? Many churches use these methods to educate their
teachers:

  • Membership Classes — Churches commonly
    require their teachers to be members. Membership classes provide an
    opportunity to teach people about your church’s doctrinal
    statement. If membership isn’t a requirement in your church, offer
    orientation classes.
  • Worship Services — Encourage teachers to
    attend worship services. Don’t allow any of your volunteers to
    serve the entire morning. Offer tapes of the service for children’s
    church teachers. People catch the vision and doctrine of the church
    during the worship service.
  • Adult Education — Encourage teachers to
    attend adult Sunday school classes when they’re not teaching. When
    they are teaching, suggest that they become involved in a weekly
    Bible study. This provides not only biblical instruction but also
    Christian fellowship. If necessary, give teachers a quarter off to
    focus on their spiritual growth.
  • Good Curriculum — Each week, teachers prepare
    their Bible lessons for the upcoming week. Make that time count by
    selecting solid curriculum. Does each lesson include a Bible
    commentary or background notes?
  • Teacher’s Resource Center — Include within
    your church library or resource room Bible commentaries, doctrinal
    books, videos, cassettes, and magazines that teach volunteers about
    the Bible. See the “Passing On the Faith” box for resource
    ideas.

     

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