Effective Sunday School Teaching Starts With Love

Johnny walks into your Sunday school class 25 minutes late. He’s a challenging kid, but you pride yourself on keeping an ordered classroom. You’ve planned your lesson very carefully. You’ve even prayed for you class this week.

You smile at Johnny, but inside your saying, “Why didn’t they just wait until church.” It’s too late to backtrack the lesson, so you just keep teaching.

Johnny is fidgeting. He is rustling through his Bible and making little noises with his mouth. He gets up to find a pencil. He gets up again to sharpen it. The whole class is losing focus.

Hand up. It’s Johnny. “Did we have snack yet?” You kindly redirect. Then he puts his head down and whimpers a little. Inside you wish he had stayed home today.

After church you corner his mom. “Mrs. Smith, I need to talk with you about Johnny’s behavior in Sunday school. He was very disruptive this morning.”

She begins to apologize. “We had a bad morning. His grandpa passed away last Thursday. Johnny has been having nightmares. I should have kept him at home. I thought it might help to keep our routine. I’m really sorry he was trouble.”

If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing. (1 Corinthians 13:1-3 ESV)

Effective teaching begins with love. Ministry is not about the lesson. It’s not about the classroom schedule. It’s about loving kids and pointing them to Jesus.

How many times have you missed your chance to love?


  1. Shuvai says

    thanks so much i do repent cause i sometimes find myself asking myself why a certain child is there to disturb others, but i realise i must love him as he is otherwise he is crying out for love.

  2. Melissa says

    I have just received a call to sub for the preschool Sunday school clas, 8 pm Saturday night. While planning my lesson I kept thinking of one little girl who takes over the class and wondering the best way to handle her. I clicked on this link and I been reminded how ! Thanks for my wake up call!

  3. Stacy Potter says

    Thank you for this. We all need reminders of Grace for children when teaching, & refreshed on the main reason why we are there. This will be especially helpful when I see the ones that usually need extra attention .

  4. Candace says

    I am a Sunday school teacher, and on the first day of class, I ask the students what kind of rules they want for their class. I write them down as I get answers like “no hitting, no calling bad names,” etc.. When someone breaks the rules, I remind them that these are their rules they decided on. This gives the children a feeling that it is their class, and they have a say in what goes on. Every couple of months, we go over the rules again, and I ask them if there is anything they want to add. I expect courtesy from all my students, such as please and thank you’s, may I have. This creates a friendly atmosphere. I also use the buddy system during craft time and ask students to help each other. This gives them a feeling of importance.
    One day I peeked in at another class, and noticed at snack time that the children were demanding what they wanted from the teacher. The teachers never stopped and reminded them of their manners. They only moved faster to meet the demands of the children. I believe that this is not kind to the students, and not a way to teach children to love others. Giving and sharing is an act of love and does not come naturally to most young children. Don’t be afraid to mix some discipline with love. Your students will feel better about themselves, and you will be able to teach them more about God, which is why you are there. When they are good, heap the praise on them, and they will continue to want to cooperate in learning all about the great love our Savior has for all of us.

  5. Chayla Sanders says

    I agree totally with the message. When i began teaching Sunday School, i was 24 yrs old. I had no previous training, but i knew that it was important for the children to know who God is. It was hard, I had troubled children, along with well behaved children. I stopped while i was teaching my third class, (holding a child in my arms, to stop him from climbing under the table and marking children’s clothes with a marker) and asked God is this what i signed up for? His response was “Just love them”. 11 years later, it is still the key.

  6. says

    We must learn to ask questions first!

    My husband use to work at Fuller Seminary and he heard the following story from a student.

    It was Christmas Eve and the student was at Juvenile Hall for services. The Cardinal from Los Angeles was there to do mass. Two boys got into a horrible fight and had to be taken to shut down. A nun followed them into the cell. The student said he followed her because he looked forward to her yelling at the boys.

    She sat down next to one of the kids and asked, “What has happened in your life this week.”

    “My brother was murdered in a drive-by on Wednesday.” he replied.

    It is vital we know the right questions to ask at the right time as we serve the children. We cannot allow our own biases to interfere with ministering to the children. So often we respond from our own childhood hurts.

  7. Denise Marshall says

    I would like to thank you for all your helpful info. We are looking to organize our childrens program more. The safe church info was great.
    Thank you

  8. says

    I’m sure this story has happened more times than we know. Sometimes I’ve made “the lesson” more important than the kids.

  9. says

    Well written Tony. I almost get the impression this is something which actually happened. In any event, I know I can relate to it.

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