I took a deep breath, looked a few of them intentionally straight in the eyes, and sincerely apologized.
In over 25 years of student ministry, I can’t ever remember starting a Bible study this way.
They were gracious and, I believe, appreciative of my honesty and transparency.
In the weeks that have passed since, I have been so very blessed by these teens, that I had to share.
I have learned from them. God has taught me so much. Prayers were answered. My eyes have been opened and I have grown.
Before any of this could’ve begun to happen, I had to to confess my sin, first to God and then to them.
I’m not proud of my sins. The specific ones that had led up to this particular confession are a couple of my go-to “favorites,” the ones I commit without intention and seem to creep into every aspect of my perceptions and self-centered reactions.
The class had ceased to be “fun” for me to teach. The students attending seemed to be bored and apathetic. There was no evidence of anyone having any spiritual growth over the 3+ years I had been teaching it. I was frustrated with what I perceived to be there inattention and un-appreciation.
Looking back, I am not sure how He did it, but He did. The Holy Spirit genteelly pointed out that I was the one who was bored and apathetic AND that I had gotten that way because I was self-righteously and pridefully judging these young believers.
My self-perception of being this “great” teacher who had written these “fantastic” Bible studies led me to fully embrace the belief that I was better than these students, who came every Sunday morning to Sunday school. After all, I had been a Christian far longer than anyone of them had even been alive and none of them would even agree to open our time together in a word of prayer. They were dependent on me to do that for them too. I looked at that at as another reason to judge and condemn them.
But God . . .
He reminded me that each believer is on his or her own journey with Him. He is working, weaving our paths to intertwine and cross in ways that exceed our imaginations. I am not to judge how close those teens are to God based on an hour or so I spend with them once a week. How can I really tell whether or not that they are growing spiritually on their journeys or not?
Prayerfully, I wanted the class to see each other and our time together as an oasis from the pressures they face in their worlds outside of church. Public school, jobs, family issues, expectations (I was even heaping those on them) and more all weigh so much heavier on them than when “I was their age.”
Through another Bible study I had been preparing for, I saw how Anna welcomed Baby Jesus and his parents to the temple. She encountered God, had lifelong prayers answered and then went and told other believers of the great thing God had done for her and was doing for all of them. This is what I wanted the teenagers to do – encourage each other by sharing how God was working in their lives and answering their prayers.
Now, we are all learning and growing together through His Word. They are starting to share how God is showing them cross-references in their personal Bible studies and how His Spirit is intervening to help them make right decisions. No one is volunteering to pray aloud – yet, but they are listening to each other – and I am listening to them too. How did God do this?
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