By Meredith Cook
I was volunteering at a local kid’s club one day in June, as I’ve done almost every week for the last two years. I normally have around 15-20 kids in my group—which makes it a challenge to keep them relatively calm while also teaching the Bible story.
Most days I wonder if anything I say is landing. Questions abound in my head such as: Do they hear the gospel? Do they understand it? Are they just regurgitating facts so I’ll give them candy? Often, the kids seem more concerned about showing off for each other and getting candy than listening to anything I tell them.
But on that particular day I only had two kids (summer club tends to be smaller, but this was unusual) so we were able to have a deeper discussion about the Bible story and how it applies to our lives.
Without the distraction of a large group of peers, these boys talked about what they learned. They asked thoughtful questions. We talked about how powerful God is and that He’s always with us. We talked about how that means we don’t have to be afraid.
One of the boys shared about his struggles, which allowed me to speak truth and encouragement to him. I explained that he has a loving, heavenly Father who will never leave him. We went on to talk about God’s character and how He’s provided for us through the gospel. And as we spoke, I realized that these kids had, in fact, been listening to me all along.
That simple interaction hit home and caused me to remember the following three things about teaching.
1. The Local Church’s Role in Teaching.
Towards the end of our conversation, one of the boys asked me how I knew “all this stuff.” I explained to this boy that just as he has me and other leaders to teach him, I too, have teachers who help me understand God’s Word.
This reminds me of how God graciously gives us His Word and Spirit so we can know Him. But God is also gracious to give us teachers in the local church to help us understand things we might not be able to easily figure out on our own.
The Bible is full of exhortations to teach one another. Though some passages speak of teaching as a specific spiritual gift, it seems clear that we all share in the responsibility of building one another up by proclaiming God’s Word to each other.
Deuteronomy 4 instructs us not to forget what we’ve seen and heard and to teach it to our children and grandchildren. Psalms 78:3, likewise, talks about passing down “things we have heard and known” to the next generation.
Paul told Titus to instruct older women to teach younger women (Titus 2). Meanwhile, Colossians 3 exhorts us to let the Word of Christ dwell in us and to teach one another through psalms and hymns.
Our need for teachers doesn’t end when we transition into adulthood. While some of us were blessed to have been taught the Bible at a young age, others were adults before we had anyone to teach us about God.
Either way, we’re not meant to live out this life of faith alone. We don’t have to figure it out all by ourselves.
2. The Spirit’s Power in Teaching.
Anyone who teaches in some capacity—especially in the role of a pastor—may often feel as I did teaching those kids. You may wonder if what you’re saying is making a difference.
This doesn’t happen just with children; it happens with people of all ages. It can be frustrating to expend energy on teaching others how to know and obey the will of God, only to have them seemingly ignore or dismiss you.
These occasions remind us it’s not up to us to change people. We’re dependent on the Holy Spirit. The Spirit speaks through us to deliver a message. But the Spirit also works in those who receive that message to change their hearts and sanctify them.
We may not be able to see how the Spirit is using us in another person’s life. We can be confident, however, that the Spirit is working, and maybe, we’ll receive encouragement like I did at kid’s club that day.
3. The Weight of Teaching.
It’s easy to become discouraged when we don’t know how others are receiving our teaching, but that discouragement can’t lead us to become lazy. Teaching God’s Word carries a weight that reminds us to take it seriously.
My conversation with those kids was proof that they’re listening, even if I’m not aware of it at all times. And what I’m teaching may be the only gospel truth they hear during their week.
For this reason, it’s imperative I prepare and keep my mind focused on what’s above, praying for the Spirit to speak words of life through me to those kids.
This is true for anyone who serves in a teaching role in their church, especially pastors. We simply can’t afford to rely on our strength or wisdom to teach God’s Word.
James 3 communicates the gravity of teaching, warning us about the stricter judgment that awaits those who teach. Teaching God’s Word is a privilege. It’s a responsibility we should take seriously.
MEREDITH COOK (@meredithcook716) is the wife of Keelan, an editor for IMB.org, and an M.Div graduate in Missiology from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.