I finish preaching at a church and I am invited to attend a Sunday school class. Since one of the great passions of my life is to see Jesus-like transformational teaching happen in Sunday schools and small groups, I say, “Are you kidding? I’d LOVE to.”
￼I’m escorted to a very nice classroom where about 20 energetic adults are milling around engaged in what seems like good conversation to me. I hear lots of laughter and see lots of smiles. Many of these folks seem to know and love each other. I’m able to meet the volunteer teacher and several other sharp, articulate and fun-loving people before the class starts. I sense energy in the room.
I grab my cup of coffee and donut and find a seat. The subject today: God’s Word on marriage. I think to myself: This is going to be good. I can’t wait to see how this group tackles this.
A missed opportunity
Ten minutes into the class, the energy, engagement, and enthusiasm that once was, is no more. It feels like someone pulled the plug in a ￼bathtub full of fun, relationships, and learning. The longer the class continues, the stronger the vortex of disengagement becomes. I watch one very sincere and well-studied volunteer teacher stand at the front of the room… and continue to talk. He doesn’t seem to notice that the smiles, energy, and, worst of all, the learning—like Elvis—have left the building. Not once in 50 long minutes does he ask anyone to respond or participate. I look around the room to study the glazed-over faces. Just minutes ago, these eyes lit up as they conversed with each other about God and life.
My heart deflates—for both the teacher and those being taught. I ponder the tragedy unfolding before me: an untapped gold mine of biblical understanding and life experience sitting in the room… wasting away… right under the teacher’s nose. I sit and wonder. (I know, I should have been listening to the teacher.) I wonder how any of them may have enriched the learning with a personal story of God at work in their marriage. I wonder if anyone might have a related passage of Scripture to share. I wonder what could have happened-what God might do in our lives if we could stop the lecture long enough to break into groups of 4-6 people and study what the Bible has to say about marriage for ourselves first…before the teacher tells us.
And I suspect that a number of those in the class would have something biblical, fun, and pertinent to offer… something life-changing to share…. if only they had a chance.
But they never got a chance.
The class is over. Now I walk out of the room and, at my next thought, I feel a slight chill run down my spine: I wonder who will come back next week… and, more importantly, who won’t?
Here’s a wake-up-and-smell-the-coffee moment for you: The fate of your ministry is in the hands of volunteers. And it’s utterly foolish not to train them well.