John Piper has immortalized a Florida couple who probably never suspected that, when Reader’s Digest used them as an example of how Americans could take early retirement, they would be held up for the evangelical community as an example of how to waste the life God has given you. In his book Don’t Waste Your Life, Piper quotes a Reader’s Digest article about a couple who took early retirement to collect seashells at the beach.
He concludes the illustration with these words:
At first, when I read it I thought it might be a joke. A spoof on the American Dream. But it wasn’t. Tragically, this was the dream: Come to the end of your life—your one and only precious, God-given life—and let the last great work of your life, before you give an account to your Creator, be this: playing softball and collecting shells. Picture them before Christ at the great day of judgment: “Look, Lord. See my shells.” That is a tragedy.
Sally Sells Seashells in Sunday School
I’d like to adapt this illustration to ask Christian teachers of children, “How are you using your time with the children God has entrusted you?” Are you simply helping Tommy and Susie collect seashells—things that really won’t matter in the final judgment? Or, when children leave your classroom, could they honestly say that they have seen a glimpse of Christ that made them hunger and thirst for righteousness?
I assume that any Christian reading this would deeply desire the second statement to be true of their class. In the ten years that I’ve been involved in children’s ministries, the majority of the seashells that I’ve seen children collect during Sunday school were not the result of ill-intentioned teachers, but the result of unintentional teachers.
Strategy Squashes Seashells in Sunday School
You have approximately one hour to present the glories of the eternal God and His plan for mankind to the children in your class in a way that will connect with their hearts.
One puny hour.
Many of them will go back to noise-filled environments where hardly a thought is given to God. But you have them for one precious, gift of an hour. How will you spend your time? How will you strategically use your time to maximize its impact? Let me offer some suggestions.
Delegate. Assign portions of the class hour to any assistants you might have. One of them could teach a verse or a song. That assistant can put more energy into that small piece of your class hour than you could by yourself. So delegate!
Relate. Use the beginning of your class, when children are still arriving, to build relationships with the kids. Have them draw a picture of their family and ask them about it. Help them with last week’s memory verse. Engage them in some activity that points to the lesson. Or just play with them. Whatever you do, seize the time!
Plan. Carefully map out your lessons. The effort you put into planning for Sunday shows whether you’re actually hoping God will use you, or whether you’re only interested in getting through “Sunday as usual.”
Prune. For each class segment, ask yourself, “Why are we doing this?” If it doesn’t in some way help you accomplish your mission of connecting God’s truth to children’s hearts, prune it!
Raise the stakes. Seek a sense of urgency. Do you believe that what you have to share with your students from God’s Word is actually important for them to know? Really? May God grant us teachers who stay on their knees until they sense the full urgency of their students’ need for God!
These are a few principles to help you make the most of your classtime.