My first role in the church was teaching Sunday School for four- and five-year-olds. I was a high school student and taught with an experienced teacher. As a young adult, I attended seminary and became minister of education for a church. Recently, I have come full circle and am teaching first and second graders in Sunday School. Having coordinated Sunday School at large as well as taught in the classroom weekly, I would like to share some myths about teachers for children’s Sunday School.

Myth: Any warm body will do.

Preschoolers through fifth graders should be learning two basic principles in Sunday School. They should recognize the teacher as a representation of how God relates to children. And they should learn the basic faith stories. Think Noah’s Ark, David and Goliath, and Ruth Sticking By Naomi. These stories form the foundation of our faith. If someone who just shows up for crowd control, they are modeling to children that God is present but not engaged. And if the teacher does not teach the faith stories, the children grow up lacking the basic foundation for growing in faith.

Myth: The curriculum requires very little preparation.

All learners need a variety of activities to facilitate learning. A teacher needs visual, auditory, and hands-on activities at a minimum. And children need to move. At least one activity needs to involve getting up from the table and moving the body. Therefore, a worksheet, a Bible story, and a DVD clip are not adequate. If you are teaching children, weekly preparation is mandatory.

Myth: Teachers of children don’t need to know the Bible very well.

To write that sentence makes me anxious. How can we expect children to learn if our teachers don’t know the faith stories? I recognize this is a very sticky subject but the Sunday School director, children’s minister, or a mentor teacher need to know if a perspective teacher has basic biblical knowledge.

Myth: Once in the classroom, the teacher will stay for years.

Churches are recruiting teachers using the myths above. Therefore, once in the classroom, the reality of the role kicks in. Without a teaching plan, it is almost impossible to control twelve children for an hour. And if a teacher doesn’t have some basic knowledge of the Bible, how can he/she share the story of the Tower of Babel without some idea of what the story means or even where the story is located in the Bible? With this teacher, after a couple of weeks or maybe months the director will get the “I need a break. This is not what I expected, I have other commitments” phone call. The teacher recruited on myths will not stay in the teaching role.

To address these issues, be honest with the volunteers. Not just anybody can teach children’s Sunday School. The role requires commitment and preparation. This is a reality. If your church is willing to settle for crowd control rather than actually teaching children about God, then your church is headed for a group of biblically illiterate adults in fifteen or twenty years; that is if the church can even retain the children who grow up in the disengaged Sunday School. Do we want a legacy of “Just showing up is enough” and “Not knowing our faith tradition is acceptable?” Is it a price that your local church is willing to pay? Teaching children about faith is an investment in the future church. Yet, building the recruitment of teachers on a set of myths ensures a weak return. I think the price of not teaching children is too high for the church.

Tammy Abee Blom is an ordained Baptist minister, regular contributor to BWIM’s blog, mother of two amazing daughters, teacher for children’s Sunday School, and lives in Columbia, South Carolina.