2 Corinthians 4:7 reminds us that we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the greatness of the power may be of God, and not from us. Do we see each person in our class having this treasure inside them that comes from the power of God? Sunday School/Bible study is more than just a study of God’s Word; it is also a recognition of God working within each of us. It is calling and encouraging people to see that they are ministers, and helping them to discover their purpose. It begins with helping each person feel that they belong in a community of faith.
Several years ago, I was in the youth class at church on a Sunday morning before Sunday School. I was reminding them of our plans that night, when out of the corner of my eye, I saw a young non-Caucasian teenager walking down the hall towards the class. I quickly stepped outside the class and met TJ (a seventh grader) and invited him into the class. He stepped inside and had a “deer in the headlights” look as he realized all of the other youth in the classroom were Caucasian. Naturally I was worried whether he would feel accepted.
My worries were partially relieved when my son, Joseph (a rising junior football player), invited him to sit next to him. After worship, Joseph asked me if TJ could go to lunch with us and hang out at church that afternoon to play video games (Madden NFL football was one of TJ’s favorites.) Of course, I said yes. At the youth dinner that night, TJ came up to me and whispered if it would be okay to take his mom a plate. We fixed her a plate, and after Bible study, I took TJ home. Through my conversation with him on the way to his house, I discovered his mom was recovering from her second stroke. They lived with an uncle who worked most of the time, so TJ would have to make sure mom was up and had breakfast before he got on the school bus. He would return from school each day and make sure his mom had dinner. We tried to make sure TJ had a plate for his mom every Sunday & Wednesday to take home.
Naturally our entire family fell in love with TJ, and he became an official member of our family on Wednesday nights and Sundays along with retreats and other youth events. I noticed TJ was very artistic. He loved to draw and write poems, and he was quite good at it. I, and others in the youth group, encouraged him to use his gift.
The Sunday after Joseph went off to college, we reminded TJ that he was still part of our family, and he would continue to join us for Sunday lunch, time in the afternoons at the church followed by Sunday evening & Wednesday evening activities. TJ was thrilled.
In November of 2010, Katrina and I were greeting people after worship, when one of our musicians (Roger) and our Minister of Music (Gwen) encouraged us to come to the piano. TJ, without any prior lessons had begun playing a melody by ear. Gwen & Roger both realized that TJ had a musical gift and needed piano lessons, which we blessed them to do!
Gwen began giving TJ lessons the next Sunday afternoon. TJ could only practice on Sunday and Wednesday nights (for about thirty minutes before I took him home.) Since he cared for his mom in the afternoons, he couldn’t come to church and practice at other times. By Christmas he had passed all of the learning books. We encouraged Gwen to find a piece of music for him to play in worship. By March of 2011, TJ took two pieces of music and transposed and played them in worship! There was not a dry eye in the sanctuary as we recognized the power of God in this young man. After worship, Roger presented him with an electronic keyboard to take home and practice. TJ had tears of gratitude in his eyes.
Since coming to the VBMB in May of 2011, I have been delighted to hear that TJ has played in church a few more times, including the mandolin (Roger taught him!) To think it all began with Sunday School, my son inviting TJ to lunch and to play Madden NFL football! Recognize the treasure in earthen vessels and glorify God’s power at work! Next week I will talk about ways to help newcomers in your class!