By Daphna Flegal
“I’ve already done my time!”
“I’m too old to teach children!”
“I can’t get down on the floor anymore!”
“Let the parents do it!”
Have you recently been asked to teach in your church’s children’s ministry? Did you respond with one of these phrases? If so, let me refer you to Psalm 71:14-19. Psalm 71 reminds us that regardless of age, we can proclaim God’s wondrous deeds and teach the next generation.
Now I know you probably don’t get up and down in those little chairs like you used to. I’m right there with you. But that’s not a viable excuse. I’m sure your church would make sure there’s an adult-sized chair in the room for you to use. The fact is the church needs your talents and your wisdom. Children need to be in relationships with persons of all ages, even those people who qualify for senior discounts. I’d say especially those who qualify for a senior discount.
Here are ten ideas for how you can continue to support and serve the children’s ministries of your church, even with gray hair.
1. Be a teacher.
Talented, caring teachers are gold. In the first church I served as Director of Children’s Ministries, there was a teacher who taught three-year-old children well into her eighties. Generations of families in the church were delighted when it was their turn with Miss Louise. No, she couldn’t get down on the floor anymore, but storytime was still a highlight of the class.
2. Be a shepherd.
As a shepherd, you work with the children and move with them from activity to activity. Your job is to relate to the children and become the second pair of hands for the teacher. There’s no planning involved. You follow the lead of the teacher. A shepherd can also help the class meet Safe Sanctuary policies by providing two adults for a group of children.
3. Be a greeter.
If planning lessons is not your thing, you can always volunteer to be a greeter. This person becomes a familiar face, greeting each child as he or she enters the room. A greeter can take attendance, count the offering, and send out birthday cards or “We miss you” cards to the children. Often, a greeter will only stay for the first fifteen minutes of class and then leave to attend an adult Sunday school class.
4. Be a substitute.
You can volunteer to be a substitute when the regular teacher has to be away. A church in Texas offered a program called SOS (Substitute on the Spot). A bag filled with the lesson plan and the supplies needed was left at the church office. If a last-minute substitute was needed, the sub simply picked up the bag and was ready to go.
5. Be a rocker.
If you prefer a rocking chair to a classroom chair, volunteer to rock babies or be an extra pair of hands in the nursery.
6. Share your talents in the classroom.
If you have a particular hobby or talent, offer to share that talent with the children. You might come into the classroom just to tell a story or read to the children. You might teach the children how to make bread when they’re discovering the story of Ruth or how to work with wood when they’re learning that Joseph was a carpenter.
7. Share your talents outside of class time.
You can also share your talents outside the classroom. You might make snacks to bring to the children, sew biblical costumes, paint walls, organize supply closets, or even mop floors. (I really did have one person tell me she’d rather mop floors than teach children.)
8. Help the teacher prepare.
Some churches have groups of retirees who meet at the church one day a week to help teachers prepare for their classes. The volunteers punch-out craft activities, separate story papers, and cut out storytelling figures. When the teacher arrives for the class, the activities are ready to be used.
9. Send notes of encouragement.
Children’s teachers often find themselves in the children’s wing or even the basement. They’re not always visible to the larger congregation. Sending teachers notes of encouragement can help them feel like the congregation appreciates the work they do with children.
10. Be a prayer partner.
Pick a teacher or a child. Intentionally pray for that person throughout the year.