On Teaching VBS – or – Going Outside My Comfort Zone

The VBS theme for this year is space.  So here, have some space loveliness!

The church’s VBS theme for this year is space and the universe. So here, have some universe!

I signed up to teach at VBS this year.

Well, kind of.

I looked at the signup sheet, and was feeling daring that day.  I thought, “Hey, I’ll step outside my comfort zone and just do this.”

I put my name down for the 3rd grade – with a question mark next to it.  I wanted to be able to shift around, of course, if a better, more experienced teacher came along!  I still wasn’t sure I was up for the task.

A couple weeks went by.  On Easter Sunday a friend approached me at the church breakfast.  He said, “I see you’re teaching third grade class at VBS!”

“Yes,” I said, “I think so.”

“No, you are,” he informed me with a teasing grin.  “I erased your question mark.  I initialed it to make it official.”

Well then.  I guess I’m all in!  This is good for me, I thought.  It’ll stretch me, and allow me to practice this “gift of teaching” that I supposedly have, according to spiritual gift tests I’ve taken.

This Tuesday was the VBS planning meeting when all the teachers get together to discuss the curriculum and schedule.  And I spaced it (haha…get it?…space?).  I completely forgot the meeting was happening at all.  My next-door neighbor (a fellow church member) appeared on my doorstep later that day, with a stack of materials she had been given to pass on to me.

It was a rather large stack.

I picked up the teacher’s manual and it only took a few pages of skimming for me to freak out.  This was so involved.  And confusing.  There was so much stuff I had to teach.  And the curriculum suggested I should act a part during the lesson??

This is when I realized that if my comfort zone is planet Earth, teaching a group of children is probably somewhere on Pluto.

Panic set in and I regretted writing down anything except for that question mark.  “Gift of teaching”??  Why was I so cocky as to think I could do this job?!

Sharing the gospel is hard for me to do simply with my kids – let alone a whole group of children not my own.  I was sure these third-graders were going to stare at me like I was a freak, and nothing I would say would speak to them.  Worst of all, what if I slipped into hypocrisy in my efforts to be a good teacher, and became that condescending adult preaching Kid Friendly Jesus?  As a teacher I felt like I was somehow representative of all adult Christians, and making a bad impression might jade all the children in regards to me, to Jesus, to all believers, maybe to adulthood in general.  Most of all I was afraid of marring the message by my stiff or awkward presentation.

Kneaded

I think sometimes God works on our hearts the way my sister might work with a stiff dough when she bakes bread for her market stand.  She has to knead it for awhile, until it becomes soft and pliable.  And then it has to sit and rise in a warm spot.  You know that bread is done rising when you can poke it and the indentation will remain in the dough.

We are all little balls of bread dough.  Some breads take an hour to rise, but others take days and are worked on in cycles.  God has to knead us, let us rise until His fingerprints are visible, roll us out, knead us again, let us rise – over and over until we are ready for the oven, A.K.A., death, when we are transformed to be like His glorious body (and His body is often symbolized by bread…funny how that works).

For several hours, God kneaded my heart, working out all the stiff little anxieties I had about teaching.

I saw that I was putting my faith (or rather, my lack of faith) in my own efforts, which I was sure would be puny.  I wasn’t trusting His power at work in me, and I wasn’t trusting that He has it all in His hands.

Also, if I’m grown-up enough to not care so much what other adults think of me, why do kids scare me?  They shouldn’t.  Children are smart and perceptive, but they are also more open and forgiving with adults and their flaws.

I also realized, hey, the theme is space.  I love space!  I love contemplating the expanse of the universe, and the glory of the stars, and the constellations, and unexplored planets, and how it all sings His praise.  I love how the universe draws our eyes up in awe and worship.  This hits my geeky sweet spot like no other VBS theme I’ve ever encountered!  It deals with God’s designs visible in creation, and deep questions about human nature.  In a word, it’s just the sort of theme that I personally gravitate toward when I am trying to express the glory of God and His salvation.  This is why I write science-fiction, to capture that glory and put it in front of people in book form.

Once I realized that, it was as if God had poked my nicely-kneaded doughy-ness and said, “Hey, you know, I did put this job together for you.”

For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. – Ephesians 2:10

That doesn’t mean it will be easy, or that I won’t have moments of anxiety again as VBS comes around (but it really helped that my neighbor was willing to come over and talk over the curriculum with me today!  Phew, I don’t have to do any acting!).  However, remembering these things reminds me that I can leave the fruit of my efforts in His hands, and trust Him to open young hearts to listen, and my awkward mouth to speak truth.

The heavens declare the glory of God,
And the sky above proclaims His handiwork.
Day to day pours forth speech,
And night to night reveals knowledge.
There is no speech, nor are there words,
Whose voice is not heard.
Psalm 19:1-3

Do these questions at the end of my post ever engage you?  Nobody seems to answer them.  I can stop doing them if no one is interested.  Just checking to see if you’re paying attention!  😉

Leave a comment

7 Comments

  1. I like the questions at the end of the post. 😉
    Awwww! This will be so good for you! I wish I could do it with you!
    And just have fun!

    Reply
  2. Kessie

     /  June 20, 2014

    Oh, don’t worry, you’ll have fun! You’ll get up there, and all the kids will be so excited, they won’t notice if you make mistakes or anything. Let us know how it goes!

    Reply
  3. Katie

     /  June 21, 2014

    Lovely post!! Nothing would ever get done for God’s glory if we humans didn’t ask Him to help us everyday. Sometimes it is hard as humans to first rely on God before going into freak mode when we realize we can never do it on our own.

    I’ve been working in my church’s VBS for 8 years now. It was only 2 years ago that I was asked to teach. I remember initially thinking, “hey! I’ve got this! I’ve been helping out in classrooms for several years now!” And then bam! The teacher’s meeting happened and a HUGE folder filled was papers was stuck in front of me. Like you, it felt like the weight of the world and I was freaking out until the moment VBS started. But you know what? The week went by so great! Relying on God truly is the greatest thing.

    Ever since then, I’ve been teaching and I love it more and more every year! I’ve always helped/taught 3rd grade as well and have grown very fond of that age. The kids are old enough to comprehend well, but not old enough to be too much of a know-it-all. You’re going to have fun! 😉

    Reply
    • Hello, Katie! Thank you for your encouragement and sharing your story!

      That was my logic in choosing 3rd grade, actually. I’m glad to see my guess reinforced, because I have little experience with kids that age!

      Reply
  1. Looking Back on VBS - The Simmering Mind

I love to hear your thoughts!