HUNAN, China – It has been said that it is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men. Hence, teaching and nurturing children is undeniably one of the most urgent and important tasks in our world today. Besides parents and schoolteachers, who else would willingly take up this heavy responsibility? There is perhaps one more important group of people usually not highlighted— the Sunday School teachers.
Importance of the Training
Recognising the important role of Sunday School teachers and the need to train and equip them well, the Church in Hunan with the support of UBS held a four-day summer training at You County, eastern Hunan in 2015. The training saw a total of 40 teachers from 13 districts across the province gather at You County Christian Church for a time of equipping as well as fellowship. Some of the topics covered were: pedagogy of Sunday School and the process of teaching and learning, understanding children’s needs, creative ways of Scripture memory and Bible Story telling, and classroom management, etc. Time was also allocated for lesson demonstrations where teachers could evaluate one another. (Photo: Group photo of the instructor and participants of the Sunday School Teachers Training)
Sixty-eight-year-old Mdm Tang Songbo from Hengyang County, the oldest participant in the group shared, “Sunday School concerns the growth and revival of the Church in China. If we do not do anything, the church may be faced with no progeny in the future.”
“We know that children are going to be leaders of the society, they are people who would shape the future. It is so important for us as teachers to be led by God, to continuously learn and be equipped so that we can teach the children well,” shared Ms Lei Xiaoyu, 51, who comes from Changde city, northern Hunan.
It was a training that the teachers were looking forward to with a few of them having to travel for about 10 hours to reach You County. “I’m very thankful for this opportunity to be in the body of Christ, to meet fellow Sunday School teachers who share the same burden!” said Ting Fei, 45.
According to China’s sixth National Census in 2010, there are 215 million children (below the age of 14) in China. This is equivalent to more than 2/3 the population of United States. With increasing urbanisation and migration, it is reported that there are some 61 million left-behind children in the rural regions as adults seek better paying jobs in the cities. Some of these children are brought to the church by their Christian grandparents or relatives while some come from non-believing families who are open to the faith.
On average, the size of each Sunday School class ranges from 10 to 50 children from age three to 15, usually under the care of one or two teachers. With such wide age range, teachers often find themselves at their wits’ end preparing lessons with creative means to pique the interest of the children and engage them. Take for example, Ms Lei who teaches a class of up to 50 children, age four to 14. “One of the greatest challenges is the wide age range. As we do not have enough teachers, we cannot separate the children into classes.” The same applies for Ms Li Aiming, 34, from Huaihua County. “We have children as young as three to as old as 15 in one class. It is a challenge to plan the lesson that would cater to a wide range of needs.”
Besides managing a wide age range, teachers also face other challenges like parent – teacher relationship and the lack of support from church leadership, inadequate materials and training. As a result, some are struggling to run a proper Sunday School Program. “Our church didn’t have any Sunday School materials nor do we follow any curriculum. There is yet to be a fixed venue in church for our Sunday school and so we sometimes gather in a store room where there is limited space and furniture,” shared Mdm Tang, who is in charge of children aged two to 15.
It is in view of these needs and challenges that the training was held and where the UBS-supported Sunday School materials (Good Fruits Series) were distributed and introduced to the teachers. There is a need to teach the teachers well and help them be effective educators and mentors of the young in the church.
How have the teachers benefited from this training?
Many were renewed in their spirit and passion for the ministry. “My sense of burden and mission for the ministry is renewed. I see that Sunday school is not a child care service, instead it should be an important pillar of the church ministry,” said Hu Shuanghong, 54, Xiangtan County.
Another teacher, Gao Zhulan, 59, said, “I see that we need to constantly invigorate ourselves as teachers, to be continuously learning and be filled with the love of God to love the children. I hope that there will be more of such helpful trainings.”
Some have gained a better understanding of what it means to run Sunday Schools, using the Good Fruits material. First timer at the training, Deng Lina, 29, shared, “Through the training, I’ve gained a deeper understanding of the need for Sunday School ministry and learnt how to prepare lessons to better engage and lead the children.”
Zeng Zhenhua, 28, said, “I’m learning what it means to love the children. To bring them up in the way of the Lord is the most important task. We have been given the mission and responsibility to help our young ones know God’s love through Sunday School, to pass on the faith to the next generation,” On the Good Fruits Sunday School materials supported by UBS, Lei Xiaoyu said, “It is useful in helping teachers use creative methods to tell Bible stories, and through memory verses and art and crafts to help children learn.”
Liu Aili the training instructor felt that the training outcome had exceeded expectations. “One of the objectives of the training was to emphasize the responsibility of Sunday School teachers to impact lives through their actions and words, faith and love. I am glad that many of them have gained a basic understanding of the ministry and confidence in lesson planning and delivery. May the Lord bless the Sunday School ministry in Hunan.”
Story: Cynthia Oh
Based on interviews and feedback collected after the training
Edit: Angela Teo
2016 © United Bible Societies China Partnership