Sunday, September 23, 2007

Sunday School, Soapbox-Style

Our church had the annual men's retreat this weekend. Knight has taken a larger role in the men's ministry, and he was a key player in getting things organized. He approached me last week about teaching the High School Sunday school class this weekend so that the guy who was scheduled to teach it could go on the retreat. I believe his actual statement began with, "Now, I'm not asking you to do this yourself, but..."

A few years ago, before I got my current teaching job, I taught Jr. High Sunday school every week for about a year. Then, after I started teaching full-time again, I found it to be too much. My calling and the passion that God has given to me is definitely for teens, but my full-time ministry is my teaching at school. After a full week of "ministering" to teens, I wasn't able to love on them on Sundays. I found myself short on patience, as well as short on time to properly plan a lesson for them.

So last Sunday, the guy (who is not our youth pastor; he's just a normal guy, volunteering for the job) approached me and said something like, "So, you're teaching next week? You may need some help with those boys. They can be unruly."

I was like, "You do know you're speaking with a trained professional, here?" I didn't say that out loud, of course. But I was thinking it.

We both went to the youth pastor to let him know I was teaching. I talked with him for a few minutes about curriculum, and told him that I'd come up with something on my own. It's more authentic, and usually more effective, that way. Guess what he said?? "You might need some help in there. I'll call around and see if I can get one of the men who's not going on the retreat to sit in with you."

He called and left me a message on Friday just before he headed out to the retreat to let me know he'd contacted one of the men, and that he was willing to help me ride herd.

At this point, part of me is thinking, "What have I gotten myself into?" The other part is thinking, "I know pride goeth before fall, but I've been doing this full time, everyday for seven years. How bad can it be?" I knew I couldn't send them to the principal's office, and I knew I needed a great lesson to hold their attention, but still. I'm a teacher. Born that way. I've mastered the body language. The Look (one eyebrow raised, saying "Excuse me?!?!?").

Saturday rolls around, and I've been mulling over what to teach all week. Still, I got zip. Lord, whatever I come up with has to come from You at this point. I got nuthin'. It's been a crazy week, and I know you know that, so I'm believing You'll come through.

My dad was on the retreat, too, so I invited Mom over for homemade vegetable soup for dinner on Saturday. On a whim, she'd bought a DVD of Christian stand-up comedians, and brought it over for us to watch. Jeff Allen was one of the comedians, and the first three minutes of his schtick is about his teenage son. It's not the same clip, but you can see something similar here.

It just galls me that the church that hired this guy thinks it's okay for him to stand up there and slam his son. I don't think it's okay for him to get paid to describe his son's antics with an attitude that says he (the son) is just a dumb, money-grubbing, self-centered, ungrateful jerk.

This is probably my biggest pet peeve. It's stereotyping. By a man who claims he's a Christian. And the whole group of church-goers in the room is laughing with him.

I didn't think it was funny.

So I decided to show it to the youth and see what they thought. Guess what? They didn't think it was funny, either. Sure, they laughed at first. But when we really got down to it, they admitted that they were offended. Some of them are angry that "society" sets such low standards for them, as if they (as a group) have nothing to contribute. So, basically, I contrasted Jeff Allen's portrayal of teens with God's portrayal.

He used young people. David. Daniel. Two of Paul's letters to Timothy are included in the Bible. The first 9 chapters of Proverbs are directed explicitly to young people. What does that say about what God thinks about young people? They're IMPORTANT. He has a plan for them NOW, TODAY. They don't have to wait until they "grow up" to determine God's plan for them.

I was pleased to report to the youth pastor this afternoon that the kids were GREAT. In fact, I told them what he had said, along with the guy who was supposed to be teaching, and THREE other people that morning. I asked them what they are doing to contribute to or bust out of the stereotype. I think it was a good discussion... several of them had ideas, and were honest about what they could change about themselves.

I know it was a great lesson, because it wasn't from me. Several of them came up to me afterward and thanked me for teaching. All I could say was that it wasn't me.

My dilemma now is whether or not I should say anything to the guy who was schedule to teach them. He spoke with Knight this morning, around the time I was teaching, and made some snide comment, wondering how I was doing because the kids could smell fear. Perpetuating the stereotype. I wish I could come up with a way to tell him that they're unruly for him because of how he thinks of them. It shows that he has low standards for them, but I wonder if he makes the connection between his actions and their reactions. That bugs me; I'm angry on their behalf. I don't know if it would do any good to approach him about it, though. Maybe someday.