Teachers hold a special place in our hearts for the important role they play in our growing up years, imparting wisdom and helping to shape us into who we are today.
We may never know the amount of time and effort they pour into nurturing a child and the joy they have seeing the children they teach succeed in life – but we can try.
To that end, we spoke to three such educators who shared what it’s like to start children off on the way they should go and all the joys and troubles that come with it:
- Tan Shu Yan (37), Hope Singapore
- Richard David (28), New Creation Church
- Nicolette Kum (21), Faith Community Baptist Church
When did you start serving in Sunday School? What do you do?
Shu Yan: I started serving six months after graduating from university 14 years ago. I started out as an assistant teacher, supporting the lead teacher during small group time with the primary school kids. Then I was challenged to try out different areas of the ministry: hosting, preaching, stage managing, guest relations, curriculum, drama, leading a small group of teachers.
I came into full-time ministry three years ago and am currently leading HopeKids in the North-East (three kids services, 170 kids, 60 volunteers).
Nicolette: I started serving in the children’s ministry at the end of 2019 after my A Levels.
Before the start of service, all the leaders usually gather earlier to help set up the place and pray for the session.
As for the programme itself, we have worship and teaching as a big group for all the children in the service. The leaders are rostered to teach the Word on stage.
Sometimes, there are games or skits. If I am not rostered to be on stage, I sit with the children and make sure they are engaged in the mass session.
After that, we split into smaller groups. I take a group of 6-8 children on average every week.
Here, we help them process what they’ve learnt from the Word, complete some activity sheets and share. Then, I’ll pray for them and we close the session.
In my time with them, I’ve focused on building relationships so that the children can trust me with their thoughts and feelings.
Richard: I started serving on 26 Nov 2017, which happens to be my birthday – I’ve always felt like it was a blessing from the Lord!
I taught in the upper primary school ages (11 and 12-year-olds) and my role was to connect with the kids every Sunday to let them feel welcomed and that they have a safe space to be free, have fun and learn about Jesus!
I also supported the platform teacher from the very beginning of the service from logistics (sectioning up the floor, moving props), to administrative tasks (checking in and out of class, toilet breaks) to ministering (sharing Bible stories, praying for them, worshipping).
Why did you choose to serve in this ministry? How did you get started?
Richard: Can I be real? I strongly disliked kids for a long time. When my cousin’s kids would be running around at family gatherings making a ton of noise, I just couldn’t stand them. And somehow God led me to sign up for children’s ministry!
In 2017, I realised how real Jesus had been in my life. He had saved me from addiction, depression, self-harm, bulimia and much more. He had set me free. Out of the overflow of gratefulness I wanted to serve Him, so I prayed about which area He would like me to serve in!
I was considering the video department as I had some experience in video editing and filming. But when I went to church on Sunday, there was a recruitment from Rock Kidz! (my church’s children’s department) and I felt a strange tugging at my heart even though I still couldn’t stand kids at that point.
I told the Lord, “Cannot be lah, give me something else. I don’t even like kids, why would You ask me to join?”
But the tugging just got stronger and stronger, so by the end of the service I thought I would just give it a shot and sign up.
One thing led to another, and after a few interviews and skilling sessions, I was about to walk into my first ever Children’s Sunday Service.
Boy, was I nervous. Up till I was in front of the door, I still wasn’t sure about all these kids. But the moment I stepped in and started to sit and chat with the kids, I was amazed.
Kids are awesome and they are so precious! Only God could have changed my heart of stone within minutes and gave me eyes to see the incredible potential within every single kid!
Fuelled by this new love for the next generation, I went on to serve for the next two years until COVID-19 hit.
I even had the privilege to go on a mission trip to Cambodia to a couple of children’s schools and villages to share the Gospel – how faithful is our Lord!
What are some struggles you face? What keeps you serving despite the challenges?
Shu Yan: Waking up early and sacrificing my only chance to sleep in on Sundays (for a sleep-deprived auditor) was a big struggle.
I also had to miss attending my own adult service as it ran concurrently with the kids services. By the time I finished packing up, my life group was almost done with lunch.
It can also be tough facing parents who may be demanding or unappreciative. I struggle the most when people just view children’s ministry as a place to babysit children and when they take the teachers for granted.
When I felt burnt out, what kept me going was a team of dedicated co-workers and mentors in the ministry.
I am always very inspired by these people – especially those who are working parents with a lot on their plate already – who continue to humbly give their best to serve because God is worth it.
Seeing the younger volunteers and kids grow (some kids even volunteered to come back and serve in the children’s services) kept me going too, because I know then that the sacrifices and tears are all worth it! I’m a proud spiritual mama!
Richard: What kept me serving was the joy I experienced every single service that I got to serve. I can’t explain it – it was literally heaven on earth!
I thoroughly enjoyed connecting with kids, journeying with them as they learnt more about Jesus and praying for them through tough situations in their lives.
I can’t emphasise it enough: these kids are so precious and God has a call on every single one of their lives.
It truly is incredible to see them grow in the love of Christ and to learn more about Jesus!
Nicolette: What keeps me serving despite my self-doubt and tendency to compare is knowing that I am not doing this for myself, but for God and His children.
Whenever I am tempted to be inward-looking and look at what I’m giving up like my sleep and personal time, I choose to remember that I am doing a far more important work – sowing into these children’s spiritual lives – and that it is worth it.
And God never shortchanges me.
When I choose to honour Him by showing up, He often blesses me through the Word and also the children.
Many things they tell me also touch me and speak directly into my situations (even though they have no idea what I’m going through!).
How have you grown in your faith as a result of serving?
Shu Yan: Boy, did God stretch me! I felt that each time I was finally comfortable, He would challenge me to step out of my comfort zone to attempt something new.
For example, I did not really enjoy public speaking and would get stage fright. But because of the children’s ministry, I have done hosting on stage and also preaching.
I have learnt so much from others in the ministry who mentored and invested in me along the way.
From someone who did not know how to handle kids and was afraid to talk to parents, I’ve become someone who knows my spiritual authority over the kids and is able to relate to people in different life stations.
I was someone who was even afraid to commit to a church, now I’m a full-time staff!
To be honest, I am surprised that even till today, after 14 years, whenever I talk about children’s ministry and the next generation, my heart will beat faster and that passion just overflows.
I didn’t start out being passionate about serving the next generation. But through the years, God’s heartbeat for the kids grew on me. Now, I am always so humbled and privileged to be serving the little ones.
God could have chosen someone else if I had not obeyed. But because I did, I got to grow my God-given potential and be a part in this journey to see the next generation mentored and rise up to contend for their own generation and the next.
Any unforgettable encounters or encouraging stories that left a deep impression on you?
Richard: On the first day of my first Children’s Church camp during lunch time, I saw a girl who was limping with a crutch and had a bandage on her left knee.
I felt so bad for her as she wouldn’t be able to play the games and fully participate in the camp due to her injury. So I went over and asked her if we could pray for her injured knee together with the rest of her friends at the lunch table.
She consented. Then every kid at the table reached out their hands toward her knee as they prayed for healing: “Knee, be healed in Jesus’ name!”
It was a simple but powerful prayer with childlike faith!
After the first prayer, we asked her how she felt and she said it felt like there was less pain in her knee! So we prayed again. And again, the pain lessened!
We prayed a third time, and this time her teacher got her to test her knee out by walking without her crutch – and she walked!
Starting off with barely a limp, she was soon walking at a normal speed from one end of the canteen to another.
When she walked back to the table, we asked her how her knee was. She said that it was much better, though she still had a tiny bit of pain!
We asked her to remove the bandage on her knee in faith, and we all prayed a final time.
Her teacher then told her to start running, and to jump a couple of times at the end of the canteen.
And she did! Her stride turned into a jog, and her jog into a run. Soon she was jumping up and down effortlessly at the far end of the canteen and even ran all the way back to us.
I was astounded, and I’m sure every single person at that table was too. Such is the love and healing power of Christ!
Shu Yan: Recently I found out that the youth intern in church was actually a kid from my first batch of kids I taught in HopeKids.
I broke down and cried because I remembered her as a quiet, disengaged nine-year-old who spoke little during class. And now she has blossomed into a confident young adult leading a group of university students!
I have always wondered how she was and whether she stayed in church after graduating from HopeKids; God showed me this year, the fruit of my labour who has grown and is now impacting even more people herself.
I also taught a child whose parents were not believers. The amazing thing was that her father came to know Christ because of the little Bible stories and prayers that this eight-year-old shared with him.
So never underestimate what a child can do – he or she can bring their household to know Jesus!
What is one thing you have learnt from the children you’ve taught?
Nicolette: It would be their childlike faith. Children have a very straightforward view of God, and simply choose to follow what He says.
Even when they ask questions, it comes from a place of curiosity rather than scepticism.
They have taught me to hold this same attitude in my faith journey, to have faith and to ask questions because of my desire to know God more, instead of being mistrusting or cynical about everything.
“This is more than just a job”: The preschool teacher who wants to give her kids the love she never had
When I ask the children what they do when they are going through hard times, they often respond with “pray”.
Once, I asked them what they did after praying. They innocently replied: “Then I’ll go and play.”
It was a funny response, but it also made me think about their complete trust in God – they can go about their lives knowing that He is working for them.
This was very eye-opening for me; I pray but often spend the rest of the time worrying that God didn’t hear it or that nothing is going to change.
Shu Yan: God does not just work in youths or adults. Young children can also experience God – maybe even more so than us adults because of their childlike faith.
In my years as a children’s ministry teacher, I have seen kids as young as two and three years old saying that they see Jesus in their visions and praying faith-filled prayers of healing.
What would you say to those who might be considering becoming a Sunday School teacher, and other teachers like yourself?
Richard: I would say seek the Lord for His direction. If you do feel the Lord tugging on your heart, I’d advise you to give it a try! The worst that could happen is that you would realise that it’s really not for you.
Otherwise it could be an opportunity of a lifetime! Surrounding yourself with amazing kids with incredible potential, we have the privilege to sow seeds into their lives at such a young age and watch it grow into a bountiful harvest in the future!
You will never really know how impactful your actions are, even if it means just being a listening ear to a quiet kid at the back.
Who knows? You might be the only person that child feels safe enough to open up to, and they may get to see who Jesus is through you.
We get to display the love of Christ to these kids as we serve the Lord with our gifts! It doesn’t get any better than that!
And to all teachers be it present or past, thank you for all that you do. Thank you for sowing into the next generation. Thank you for sacrificing your precious time to love these precious children.
Through the ups and the downs, the seen and unseen – thank you for your faithful labour of love.
Keep doing what you do, for great is your reward in heaven, and on the earth.
P.S. For those believing for a life partner – I met my wife in Children’s Camp! Thank you Jesus, there is truly hope for us all!
Shu Yan: For those who are considering becoming a children’s church teacher, this ministry is not a babysitting ministry.
This is a ministry where we grow together with the kids. We are raising the spiritual giants of the next generation.
So whatever season you may be in, whether or not kids are your cup of tea or calling, whether you know the Bible well or not, there is always a space to serve God in the children’s ministry.
All you need is a willing heart. God does not call the qualified, He qualifies the called.
God does not call the qualified, He qualifies the called.
For the volunteers, it can be discouraging at times and you may not see fruits immediately in this ministry.
But trust me, God is watering those seeds that you have sown. And what you see down the road will be a legacy God has built through you as you faithfully invest in the little ones.
So a big thank you to all those who served in the children’s ministry, past and present – thank you for investing in the next generation!
Nicolette: If you feel that God has put it on your heart to serve and lead the next generation, but you are holding back for whatever reason, I would encourage you to adopt the childlike faith that the children have.
Choose to step out and give God your availability and time. I promise that He can and will do much more with it than you can imagine. You won’t be short-changed in the process, because as much as we serve – God pours back into our lives a hundredfold.
Doing so, you will definitely grow a more intimate relationship with Him. Don’t let your fears or the lies of the enemy hold you back from blessing.
It’s worth every tear, sweat and heartache and I would say yes, again and again!
- Consider your skills, gifts, passions and needs at your church.
- What are some ways you could help to contribute to the next generation?
- If God has spoken to you about serving, would you give it a shot this week?