trusting . resting . following

Village Children's Ministry 101

November 21, 2016
This is a pretty long post.  Not for the faint of heart. :)  Only for those really interested in what I really mean when I say, "I help train Sunday school teachers in village churches."

This month, I've been working at Kimaga on Sundays.  Pastor Zebron had been asking for help to start a kids class.  This village church has tons of kids, but no teachers... until now. :-)

Sunday #1: The first Sunday I brought two young ladies to help me teach (Mage and Sara- Tanzanians, both in the 20s).  I gave an announcement in church that we would be coming for a month, and hoping to start a kids class with the goal that it will continue after we leave.  But we can't do that without volunteers.  I invited anyone who might be interested to join us during children's church that first week.

We had 5 or 6 come out to watch us.  After class, I asked those who were interested in helping us next week to stay after class.  Three stayed.  Yay!  Our new teachers' names: Tobias, Yudita, and Nyanda.  Mage, Sarah, and I were so excited.  God was answering our prayers!  We gave them each one small task for the following Sunday- lead a song, open in prayer, lead a game.  I've learned it's much better to start small.  Don't want to overwhelm them before they even get their feet wet.

Sunday #2: Two of the new teachers did their part, very hesitatingly, but they did it.  (You do have to admit, it is a bit intimidating to stand up in front of 80 children!)  The third teacher didn't show.  I wondered if he just got scared.  Maybe we'll just have 2 teachers.  Mage, Sara, and I taught most of the class.  They taught a lot more than I, as they can speak the local tribal language.  I've also found that if at all possible, new teachers need to watch their fellow Tanzanians teach.  I, as the foreigner, am much more intimidating and distracting (not on purpose, mind you).  They just get way more encouraged to see their fellow Tanzanians do it.  SO thankful for Mage and Sara this month!!!

After class we sat and prepared next Sunday's lesson.  This time they were given a bit more work- teach a memory verse, direct the "craft time" (Craft time in the village= draw a picture in the dirt). 

Sunday #3:   Just Sara and I went to Kimaga this Sunday.  Mage was fighting malaria.  She took a round of medicine, but her strength hasn't returned yet.   Wow, 2 answers to prayer.  Tobias returned.  He wasn't shirking or escaping last week after all, his father had sent him to herd the family cows.  Three teachers, yay!  Yudita taught the memory verse.  This is the day I realized, this girl has some teaching skills!  She's a natural.  I love, love, love watching this happen.  People you never expect, all of a sudden bloom.  Our gracious God gives everyone gifts for His service, even way out in the middle of a village no one has ever heard of in Africa!  The boys were both there, pretty shy but there doing their part.

After class, preparing for next Sunday.  Kimaga teachers were given almost all the work.  Yudita agreed to teach the Bible lesson.  The boys were each given 2 tasks.  Tobias and Nyanda have such a great heart.  They want to teach, but they are so shy.  (I'm pretty sure that will disappear once we visitors aren't there.)  They also are still struggling with reading.  They can read, but it's just very slow.  And when it's that hard to read, reading comprehension is scant.  I'm thinking they will start as awesome assistant teachers!  And maybe this will be the motivation they need read more at home.

I also brought out the set of pictures, and showed them how to find the pictures that correspond to the lesson, then we practiced cutting them out.  (also not something they are comfortable doing)

After everyone had their assigned jobs, we did a quick "dry run through."  I find that sometimes the hardest part for new teachers is just to start.  The song leader gets up in front and just stands there.  He can't come up with those magical words, "Let's stand up and sing a song."  So we practice our starters.  "Now let's sing a song."  "Bow your heads, let's pray."  I've found that for village guys who spend their days with cows and working in the fields, the simplest approach is the best.  Maybe after they've taught a year (or a few), we can look at how to come up with creative, capture-your-attention, introductions.  For now, "let's sing a song" is perfect.

Sunday #4:  Final Sunday.  Mage spent more time in the hospital last week, not able to go out with us again.  Kimaga teachers carried the class, Sara and I tried to keep our mouths shut (harder than you think!)  I'm not sure of the words- fulfilling, exciting- to watch our new teachers in action.  My heart swelled up with pride.  It takes a lot of courage to do so much in a few weeks.  We expected a lot from them, and Yudita, Tobias, and Nyanda, rose to the challenge.  I feel like a mother hen, proud to watch her little chicks grow and develop their skills! :-)  Don't get me wrong- there's plenty more work to be done!!  But still, I'm pretty confident Sunday school will continue at Kimaga.  Thank you, Jesus!

We met one last time after class, to prepare next week's lesson together.  That's when I discovered I had left their teaching visual at home.  They need it next week, and we won't be there!  Sad.  But Nyanda offered to ride his bike to Kisesa (the closest "big"" town) on Tuesday, and I'll bring the picture to him there, so I don't have to travel the whole way out. 

I left them with a teacher book and set of pictures that will last them a half a year, as my gift to them.  One other problem, only one of the teachers has a Bible, Yudita, and it's just a NT.  A couple years ago, I would have just given them all Bibles or at least one to share.  But I'm getting wiser the longer I'm here.  I already sell Bibles at half price.  (Always travel with a box in the back of my car.)  If they really want it, they can find a way to get one.   (I learned this after watching all of our village churches somehow coming up with several hundred dollars for speakers and microphones.)  They can find $4 for a Bible if they really want one.

Sara and I left, tired and happy.  Sara has been gone from her own church for a month now, she has a lot of roles that others have been filling in for her (teaching kids, helping lead singing, singing in the choir, helping children quote verses for the adults).  I think she's pretty excited about getting back to her own church next Sunday.  :-)

The weeks leading up to Christmas, I hope to visit and encourage several of our other village churches where I've already started kids classes in years past.  Then Sunday I'll be back at Kimaga for our big 7-church joint Christmas celebration.  That will be a crazy Sunday school class! :)  I wonder if Yudita, Nyanda, and Tobias will be up for the challenge. ;)

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