Coptic Orthodox Diocese of the Southern United States

Guidelines to Successful Service

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"For it is not you who speak, but the spirit of your father who speaks in you" (Matthew 10:20).

To serve Christ and our children, we need to be reminded of how privileged we are to be servants of God on earth.

"He must increase, but I must decrease" (John 4:30).

The true cost of discipleship:

"For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it" (Matthew 16:25).

The only way for our children to have a good foundation for their understanding of the Holy Bible is for us to commit to our service. This requires the following:

  1. Pray and ask God to make you as wise as Solomon – "I have given you a wise and understanding heart, so that there has not been anyone like you before you, nor shall any like you arise after you" (1 Kings 3:12).

    1. Ask God to show you how to:
      1. Communicate his principles effectively
      2. Recognize teaching opportunities
      3. Seize the moment
  2. Rely on what the Holy Bible teaches, not on the teacher's guide curriculum.
    1. Would you trust a doctor who had only read books to give you a medicine or operate on you? Doctors must know how the body works and how it responds to illness and medicines. As Christian servants, we must know the Holy Bible and understand basic theology.
  3. Trust God in our daily lives - teaching children is much more than babysitting and teaching good morals. It is a serious calling requiring someone with a deep relationship with God. As a servant, we must be openly committed to living a Christian life in everything we do. We must trust God to answer our questions and rely on him in all our decisions.
    1. Always keep the Holy Bible open and ready to be used in the classroom.
    2. If you have signs posted in the classroom, make sure to use them at the right teaching moment.
  4. Lesson plan
    1. It is best if all the servants in the same class prepare the lesson every week because

      1. The children will see that all of you have knowledge about the lesson. As role models for the children, it is important for us to show them how important it is to know the Holy Bible.
      2. It will allow us to teach the lesson from different aspects. For example, all the servants can be thinking about how to teach the lesson and come up with creative ideas.
      3. In case of an absence, the lesson can remain as planned.
      4. It will let the children watch you learn something with each other, which show's them that growth is a life long adventure.
  5. Teach children about the power of prayer – This requires you to make prayer a natural part of your life.
    • Teach children that prayer is simply talking with God and how to love Him with all of their hearts. Example...Can you imagine two friends who never spoke, never got together, never shared their thoughts? How long would their friendship last?

    • The Holy Bible shows us all we need to know about communicating with God. We should share our thoughts, wishes, hurts, confusions, questions, and opinions.

    • Let them see you praying

    • Tell them that you prayed for them

    • Talk about what you learned during your prayers

    • Teach them how to pray from the Agpyea

    • Show them stories in the Holy Bible about prophets that prayed and experienced the power of prayer in their lives [ex. Elijah]

    • Tell them about the times that God answered your prayer

    • Jesus prayed when he wanted to teach his disciples how to pray

    • Group prayer if they need one (important situation for them or friends)

    • Give them a card to write something or someone they want to pray for, and then put the card on the altar. Track their prayers and God's answers in simple prayer journals.

    • Teach them to take time each day to sit for prayer

    • Ask them if they can have a family prayer project

    • Children need to know that God is not Santa; he does not make all their wishes come true. He is like mom and dad, who does what is best for you even if it doesn't seem that way.

    • Teach them prayer can be happening all day long for example:
      • Simple thanks to God for the new day
      • The sign of the cross before leaving the house
      • Ask God to help when situation occur
    • Teach them to be thankful and content

    • Pray before a meal and before and after the lesson

    • Teach them brief and simple prayers to say out loud

    • Encourage them to write their own prayers
  6. Discipline - It is important for the teacher to discipline the children in their class. God is clear on the need of loving discipline, but you must first distinguish between childishness and deliberate actions.

    Discipline for ChildishnessDiscipline for Deliberate Actions
    A touch and a small smileOne of the teachers can sit next to the child to get him to be quiet
    A serious warning lookTalk with him where you don't distract others
    Whispered reminder of forgotten ruleSeparate two children and forbid them from sitting with each other till they earn the privilege
    Suggestion of something more productive to do, to get their attention backEncourage positive behavior through positive attention or compliments

  7. Encourage children to worship God while they are young – even if this is before they can comprehend God, but let your expectation be realistic
    1. Our children live in a culture with short-lived heroes. Each Christmas brings new must-have toys. TV shows and heroes fade away after a season or two and others take their place. Consequently, it is an important part of the teacher's job to introduce the children to a God who is big enough for their worship, a God who is bigger than gangs and sweet-talking boyfriends and pounding music; a God who is worthy of their respect and not to be outgrown.

    Take more time teaching about the true nature and character of God, and less time trying to convince children of the advantages of coming to God (salvation). These Characteristics include: Holy, Powerful, Wise, King, Loving, Faithful, True, Gracious, Merciful, etc...

    Talk about God with passion ...
    • God is everywhere (omnipresent) - He fills Heaven and Earth.
    • God is wise (omniscient) - He knows everything that goes on everywhere, including every individual's life.
    • God does everything with love - He is our Father so he will guide, guard, and govern us.

    Also, children who live in a culture that is exposed to news of rapes, murders and divorces long for security. Sadly, some parents don't give their children a feeling that parents are in control, because they hesitate to discipline their children for fear of hurting their feelings or their self-esteem. As teachers, we can do the following:
    1. Give them the security of knowing you are in charge
    2. Be mature and consistent, loving and firm
    3. Protect them from each other and teach them love and awareness of negative peer pressure
    4. Don't allow inappropriate conversations or language
    5. Pray for them during the week
      • Their purity
      • For God to work in them and their parents' hearts
      • To erase some of the effects of the evil done against them
      • To bring along others to love them and to tell them of Christ
    6. Show love, concern and be a part of their lives
  8. Learn to be humble and patient - We need to learn to lean on the Holy Spirit, because patience is a fruit of the Spirit.
    1. Recognize that some children have a strong need to test every role, and to test the adult's love before they trust. So you need to be:
      1. Consistent
      2. Take the child's fear and joy seriously
      3. Respond to him as a person made in the image of God
      4. Follow the commands you teach them
      5. Protect him from physical and emotional harm
      6. Give attention equally
      7. Love and respect your students
  9. Teaching respect – Earning respect is hard work. It takes patience, respect on your part, being gentle but firm, and prayer.
    1. Teachers who have order in the classroom will gain more respect than those who don't.
      1. Children feel class is safer, easier, and more effective when there is order in the classroom
      2. Children who test you should never have the option to disobey (If you ignore or give in to direct disobedience, you and the child both lose)
      3. Put as much energy into the first confrontation
      4. Bring in another adult to reinforce your discipline
      5. If the child is defiant beyond your ability to handle, tell him that you will deal with him later, then:
        1. Speak with him alone
        2. Ask another adult to deal with him
        3. Talk to his parents
        4. Restrict him from an activity the class is doing later
        5. Ask him to find a solution for the problem

    But, make sure it doesn't become a battle of wills, in which you descend to his level (fight). A big part of discipline is avoiding problems that haven't happened yet. You must demand his obedience:
    • I know you don't want to sit in that seat, but I didn't ask you what you wanted.
    • You haven't earned the right to sit wherever you want.

    These are commands that are given respectfully, but that are expected to be obeyed. In matters of discipline, you shouldn't be gentle. Learning discipline comes gradually through experience of what the child can and can't do.

  10. Irregular Attendance - Don't overlook the importance of ministering to such children, even if they are challenging students or they seldom come.
    1. Form a personal relationship with them
    2. Ask for their phone number and call them
    3. Send them a greeting card
    4. Greet them by name
    5. Let them get involved in the class
    6. Make them feel welcome and that they belong
    7. Have a connection with their family
  11. Know your students
    1. Occasionally be acquainted with TV shows that they watch

    2. Talk with a teacher that had the class before and ask for their help (they have a year or more of experience with the children)

    3. Notice the vocabulary level your Sunday school children use

    4. Pay attention to the kinds of stories that best illustrate the lessons

    5. Sit down with your children one by one and ask them good questions about what they like to do

    6. Observation: Visit other classes in your church or others

    7. Take time to observe your class, take notes
      • What do they talk about?
      • What is their vocabulary level?
      • What are their interests?
      • How do they interact with each other?
      • How do they interact with the teacher?

    It is also a good idea to ask another experienced servant to attend your classroom and give you a report of your strong and week point in the setting and the lesson plan.

  12. Recognize the need for a male servant in the classroom
    1. Good influence in their lives

    2. Has possibility for authority

    3. Boys can look up to them, so they figure out what it means to be a man

    4. Reinforces what kind of behavior is expected
  13. Show you care. Some things a Sunday school teacher can do:
    • Children love to get mail, so send each of your students a picture, postcard, letter, etc.

    • Visits can be quite natural at Christmas or birthdays (bring a little gift)

    • Greet children in the church not only adults

    • If you know a problem child in the class below you, and he will be coming to your class soon:
      • Learn his name
      • Greet him in a friendly manner each week
      • Be kind in order to unlock their heart and secure their attention

    • Take your class out for a day in the park, zoo, mall, etc....

    • Go with them for family outings

    • Have them over for a party
    All of this will make your children feel like:
    • They are liked and that you respect them and will not ignore them

    • Someone notices them and makes them feel special

    • They are important because someone is talking to them
    Some of your children may be desperate for the love of an adult. Children are looking for you to care enough to give them your best effort, not for perfect conversation skills.

  14. Make the lesson effective for the children - Think back to your days as a student in school. Who were your favorite teachers? Why? They probably made learning fun and exciting. The way you approach the lesson plans can make all the difference. But don't lose focus on your goals.

    Teaching can be happening during eating time, activity time, lesson time and praying time.
    • Encourage good listening
      Keeping distracted children 20 minutes extra leads to resentment of Holy Bible teaching, not to learning. In addition, teaching the lesson exactly as planned, even after you lose your children's attention, is not a good idea. Your children will begin to compare your class to their least favorite class in school (something to endure).

    • Teachers need to interact with their children in order to keep their attention. This can include:
      • Making a timeline for the life of Jesus that fits with event when he walked on earth.
    • Group study about finding information in the bible such as:
      • Prophecies about Jesus and fulfillment (born – raised)
      • Finding verses about a topic (ex. worry - Exodus 32)
    • Gospel trivia for review about the lesson that was taught

    • Talking about things in the world and what the bible says? (lying, stealing)

    • Faith story journal to help them to reflect later in life

    • Have the students write
      • A brief synopsis of the story – their thoughts – and a verse that they like/feel they can apply in their lives
    • Work on your storytelling ability to keep the class moving
      • Examples: use Puppets, Flannel board, Drawing, Dress up, and Group involvement. Organizing your class period to keep your class interested. It is much better to slow down and refocus the lesson. Ask questions to get their focus back if you lose it.
    • Have them repeat something a character said.

    • Have them look at the passage in their Bibles, and then ask questions about it.

    • Try to get the class back on track by letting them know that you care whether or not they learn.

    • Much teaching can take place by means of singing hymns and memorizing verses (fitting your teaching purpose).

    • Holy Bible review games

    • Show the class on a map where the lesson took place

    • Adjust your speed of talking (are they sleeping, or confused?)

    • Involve the children by asking them questions or having them read or write the verses will
      • Show us how much the children remember or learned
      • Show them that we care whether they learned or not
      • Open a class discussion
      • Force them to think and pay attention
    • As weekly homework, make them a note pad and ask them to investigate two words (such as "sin" and "wisdom").
      • A definition of the word in the dictionary
      • A definition of the word in the Holy Bible and a verse relating to it
    That will help them to:
    • Expand their knowledge about words

    • Learn to search in the Holy Bible

    • Learn more verses and their location in the Holy Bible
    What kind of storytelling goes well with your lesson? Jesus used stories and parables to teach his disciples and followers.
    • Is my story visually appealing?

    • Is my story telling authentic to the Bible story?

    • Is my story creative?

    • Am I enthusiastic and interested?

    • Do I have fun with my story?

    • Is my story short/long enough?
  15. Making Mistakes - Don't hide your mistakes or your children will learn to do that. If they think making mistakes is shameful or stupid, they will be afraid to try new things unless you guarantee success. But simply admit it and ask God's forgiveness.

  16. Rewards – Can be nice sometimes, but it's important that children not be motivated by rewards, but by understanding. When the children are in first grade, it is advisable not to give rewards every week, but rather once a month, depending on = Attendance = Bringing his folder and Holy Bible = Doing his home work = Class participant

    Also...A fun outing or special gift to recognize only the children who did and do all that been asked of them.

  17. Memory Verses - Show them how to use a verse to make a decision or deal with a situation.
    1. Learning verses by heart helps us:
      • Take them wherever we go

      • Whenever we need them

      • Remember what Jesus said to keep us out of trouble

      • Make decisions and gives us direction

    2. Teach them what the verse means, because it will help them to not forget
      • Buy a verse calendar for them to keep on their desk

      • Give them cards to write the verse on and then have them read it aloud

      • Ask them to use it for their prayers all week

      • Discuss what they think the verse will help them to remember to do or not do in their daily lives

      • Teach them verses relevant to their lives and translate it into terms they can understand (verses about argument, courage, doubt, anger, fear, friendship...)
  18. Communicating on a Child's level
    Don't be afraid to use big words especially words that are important to the Christian faith...Just be sure your students know what they mean (grace, repent, sin)...But also try to learn how to use child-friendly words when you are preparing your lesson for young children or you will have
    • Many discipline problems

    • Children who are less likely to learn

    • Confusion or cause the children to worry
  19. Divine Liturgy and the Holy Sacraments
    Children in our church are full members of the body of Christ, even if a child cannot yet understand all that is happening. That is why it is a good idea to start the Sunday school year with an introduction to the Holy Divine Liturgy...Such as
    • How to prepare yourself for the Holy Communion?

    • Why Confession is a very important Sacrament?

    • Why Saints are an important part of our lives?

    • How we conduct ourselves during Divine Liturgy?

    • What and why is the preparation for during the Divine Liturgy?
    With Children at young age it is important to use
    • Simple points to describe of what goes on during the Divine Liturgy

    • Pictures from the Divine Liturgy

    • Objects from the Altar

Most of all, the Key to service is Abiding in Christ

"Abiding is the key to success as a Christian. Studying the Bible only tells us what we must achieve and avoid. To know the truth, you have to be taught by Jesus himself, personally, about Himself. His living words must abide in you. To abide in Christ, is to abide in his Light, in his presence, in his living word" (The Missing Cross to Purity).

"But all things that are reproved are made manifest by the light: for whatsoever doth make manifest is light" (Ephesians 5:13-14).

"I will put my law in their minds, and write it on their hearts and I will be their God and they shall be my people" (Jeremiah 31:33).

Written by
Nagwa Abdou


Dunlop, Cheryl Follow Me As I Follow Christ

Sr. Magdalen Children in the Church Today "An Orthodox Perspective"

You Must Eat My Flesh and Drink My Blood. 'Our Daily Bread' The Missing Cross to Purity

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