Fill-in Teacher Now Can't Be Dragged Away

November 11th, 2012

The junior high Sunday school teacher was going to be away, so the youth director asked John if he would fill in the next Sunday.

"Sure, no problem," John replied. "I'll be glad to fill in."

Guess what? John is still teaching that class. Is he complaining? Far from it.

"I have an absolutely great time teaching," he says. "You would have to drag me away from that class. I look forward to it."

Working with kids wasn't a new experience for John. He and his wife, Amy, had been helping out occasionally with the Sunday evening youth group.

"We try to make the youth class and the evening session flow together," he says, a mechanical engineer. "They are both part of a program we call 'The Mountain.' The Sunday school class is the 'base camp,' and the youth evening session is 'the outpost.' The base camp centers around study and the outpost centers around a devotional and fellowship, but they overlap."

To encourage students to attend both Sunday school and the evening session, the church has an incentive program: Youth who come to at least 80 per cent of both sessions are rewarded with a free trip during the summer. The two sessions also unite for mission projects, which they do one Saturday every quarter and one week every summer.

John says the seventh- and eighth-grade students he teaches are eager to learn and have lots of energy. Class attendance is usually between 10 and 15.

One key to the success of the class is having co-teachers and he now has two.

"The co-teachers, Lynn and Doug contribute a ton," he says. "If all the students hear is my voice, pretty soon it turns into background noise and they tune it out.

"When one of the other teachers speaks up, there's a different voice, a different personality and sometimes a different perspective. Since the co-teachers have had different life experiences, they can offer opinions or information that supplements what I say. And when they have a different take on things, that sparks the students' interest all the more."

Co-teachers also helps John hold students' attention and maintain order.

"They help me be aware when students who are normally engaged start zoning out," he says. "When kids lose interest in our class and start talking among themselves, we don't keep pushing, we change tactics. We have a backlog of games we can play to get them up and moving for a few minutes, and then we settle down to study."

Teaching junior high students for several years has also helped John grow in his understanding of the Christian faith and his commitment to it.

"Sometimes youth ask me what I believe about some passage in the Bible or some theological question. When they ask me, I want to have a good answer. So teaching stimulates me to think through what I believe."

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