Back in 1985, I had the privilege of spending nearly nine months in Brisbane, Australia as a missionary intern. At the time, I had absolutely no idea I would one day be a Children’s Ministry guy (I was a journalism major at the time). There were so many highlights to that trip that are all but vague memories some 27 years later. But there is one fascinating quote from a lecture by an Australian biker-evangelist named John Smith (Yes, that was his real name) that I can still remember like it was yesterday. With dramatic flair, Rev. Smith said: “What’s the greatest invention of the 20th Century? The indoor toilet? Sliced bread? The television? The computer? Not even close. The greatest invention of the 20th century is that Christians have found a way to make the Bible BORING!” That statement resonated with me then, and has even more so throughout the years. Honestly, it is probably what the Holy Spirit has used the most to drive me into children’s ministry, as well as the writing of Bible curriculum for children and youth.
Now I want to juxtapose alongside that idea a more recent quote from a Children’s Pastor of a mega-church here in the U.S. On a video describing their particular philosophy of children’s ministry, he said: “Our goal at XYZ church is to make Sunday the most exciting day of the week. We want our children to have more FUN here than they have doing anything else, anywhere else.” Now, I had several reactions on many different levels–as a parent, a children’s ministry guy, and just as a Christian–that go beyond the space of this post. But my first thought was that I actually felt sorry for this man. What an impossibly high bar to reach! How in the world can the church compete with all the fun things out there–the Disney Worlds, the video games, the TV shows, the sports teams, the paintball contests, and the myriad of other recreations this world has to offer? Then, my more cynical response kicked in, as I suspected that this was exactly what the “children’s pastor” wanted “children’s ministry” to look like–with a little bit of the Bible patched in from time to time. He wanted his children to have FUN doing all the fun things the world has to offer–just in the church on Sunday morning. Then, his dream of smiling children looking forward to coming to church would be achieved!
So, let’s put these two ideas together. What is boredom? It is the state of being weary or restless through lack of interest. There are children sitting in Sunday School classes all over the world that are bored. No doubt, there are teachers who find ways to make the most exciting book in the history of the world boring. And, there are materials and curricula that certainly don’t make the Bible appealing. Add to those variables the often overlooked factors of Satan and sinful weakness that cause children to be bored in Sunday School when the Bible is taught. But is the antidote for boredom the “fun children pastor’s” approach? Is making Sunday School more fun the way to keep them from the depths of disinterest? Or is there a better way?
The true antidote for boredom is not more “fun”–it is the passionate Spirit-filled teaching of the Word of God. When teachers are excited about what they are teaching, it is contagious for our children. It’s not about telling more jokes, or doing a tap dance, or trying to be silly. It is really all about allowing the thrilling nature of the stories of Scripture to exude forth in order to excite the minds and hearts of teacher and student alike. And, it should go without saying, that the Spirit must be involved as well! We are totally reliant on the Holy Spirit to open their eyes and ears, and give our children excited interest in the truths that will save their souls.
Now, for you parents and teachers out there, even when you engage children with the passionate, Spirit-led teaching of the Word, you may still have children who are bored. This may feel like a problem you need to solve. Certainly, those children need prayer, love, and maybe even correction–but we don’t need to find ways to make the class more interesting or fun for them. Their boredom could just be a sign that their heart are still hardened to the work of the LORD. Making the Bible more lightweight for the sake of fun would not remedy this problem, and may even make it worse.
Which leads me to my final thought for now: Fun is not only NOT the antidote to boredom, it’s potentially a primary cause OF boredom. The more our children depend on being entertained and having fun, anything that doesn’t look as exciting is perceived as boring. It’s the equivalent of filling your child’s diet with 90% desserts and being dismayed that they don’t want to eat their vegetables (which in reality may taste really good). Seen with new grace-given eyes, the teaching/studying of God’s Word is much better than mere fun–it is the soul-feeding activity that brings true life to our children!