The Enlistment and Qualifications of Sunday School Teachers

by Pastor Jack Hyles

(Chapter 7 from Dr. Hyle's excellent book, The Hyles Sunday School Manual)

“Then saith he unto his disciples, The harvest truly is plenteous, but the labourers are few; Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will send forth labourers into his harvest.” --Matt. 9:37, 38.

What could be more important than the teaching of the Word of God? Hence, what could be more important in the Sunday school than the proper choosing of the teachers? The enlistment of the Sunday school teacher should be done with dignity, spiritual insight, and God’s leadership. It should not be taken lightly. It is tragic, but true, that the average five-and-ten-cent store gives more thought in carefully selecting a clerk than the average church does in selecting a pastor, and Sunday school teachers are often chosen almost flippantly. They are often enlisted by telephone or through a conversation in a church hallway, or casually in a public meeting place. Easter Airlines would not choose a pilot this way. Is a pilot more important than a teacher of the Word of God? The Hilton Hotel chain would not even choose a maid that way. Is a maid more important than a teacher of the Word of God? Certainly no school board would choose a public schoolteacher that way. Is a public schoolteacher more important than a teacher of the Word of God? When will God’s people realize that the biggest business in all the world is God’s business and it should be treated as such?

A number of years ago one of our staff members was enlisting a Sunday school worker outside the teachers’ and officers’ meeting in the hallway. I overheard the conversation and immediately called this staff member to my office for a conference. I asked, “Do you think the Hammond school board chooses schoolteachers that way?”

Of course, the answer was, “No.”

“If you were on the school board, would you choose teachers that way?”

Again the answer was, “No.”

“Then do you think the schoolteachers are more important than Sunday school teachers?”

The answer again was, “No.”

“Why then,” I asked, “would you give more care in the selection of a schoolteacher than one who teaches the Word of God?”

Oh, when will God’s people realize that the biggest thing in all the world is God’s business -- the teaching of God’s Word and the carrying out of God’s program.

1. The pastor and/or the Sunday school superintendent should check the the church roll regularly for prospective teachers.

Each person on the roll should be carefully and regularly considered for a teaching position. This gives all equal opportunity and prevents the overlooking of anyone.

2. A list of prospective teachers should be kept.

As the roll is being checked the names of good teaching prospects should be listed. Then these people should be carefully observed and checked before being contacted about teaching.

3. Enlisting should be done at the prospect’s home or in the church office.

This is no task to be cared for by telephone. Neither is this a little, casual job to be looked upon lightly. The visit should be highly spiritual, very serious, and in a spirit of prayer. It should be done with a dignity of a personnel office of a big corporation choosing a key man for a position. The one doing the enlisting should carefully explain to the prospective worker that he has prayed about a vacancy in the Sunday school and that he believes God has led him to that individual.

4. The conversation should be begun with prayer. The person doing the enlisting should do the praying, asking for God to lead in the discussion and the decision that is soon to be made. Remember this is God’s business; we need His help and leadership.

5. The work should be presented to the prospective teacher. He should be told that the job will not be an easy one, but a hard one. He should be challenged by the task. People respond better to a real challenge. Such statements as these should not be used: “Oh, it is easy.” “Anybody could do it.” “It won’t take much time.” Instead such statements as these should be used: “This is a very important job.” “It will definitely take much of your time.” “We will ask you to keep certain rules and perform certain duties.” Teaching Sunday school is not a job for an inexperienced baby-sitter, rather for a diligent teacher of the Word of God. One does not have to have a seminary degree or a Bible college diploma, but he should have a definite understanding that he is expected to do a job and to do it well and that the job is both rewarding and exacting.

6. Present the duties to the prospective teacher.

He should be told about the size of the class, visiting of the absentees, the faithfulness to the class, the hour of the Teachers’ and Officers’ Meeting, the location of the classroom, etc. No stones should be left unturned in the presentation of these duties. It is better to have a good understanding before the enlistment than a misunderstanding after the enlistment.

7. Present clearly the qualifications for teaching in the Sunday school. They are as follows:

(1) Live a separated life. No one should teach in the Sunday school who is not separate from the world. Certainly no one should be allowed to teach in the Sunday school who drinks alcoholic beverages in any form. No one should be allowed to teach in the Sunday school who uses tobacco in any form. No one should be allowed to teach in the Sunday school who frequents such places as the theatre, dances, card parties, etc. Needless to say, the things listed above do not complete the list of qualifications of separation. Perhaps each church would have her own peculiar convictions that should be included. Now these convictions should not be simply preferences, and they should not be simply pet peeves of a few biased church members, but rather the deep-rooted convictions of the church and pastor.

(2) Be a tither. Malachi reminds that failing to tithe is robbing God. Jesus commends tithing, and no one should teach in the Sunday school who does not practice this Bible command.

(3) Be faithful to the public services of the church. It should be explained that the teachers are expected to bin the Sunday school, to attend the Sunday morning service, the Sunday evening service, and the Wednesday evening service. Those in places of leadership should set the example for those who follow. This example should certainly include faithfulness to the public services.

(4) Be loyal to the pastor and the church program. This does not mean that the teacher must believe everything that the pastor believes, or even agree with everything that the church does in its program. It does mean, however, that as long as there is no moral issue involved, the person will cooperate with the desires of the majority and be loyal to the pastor as he presents this program under God. Perhaps the most important qualification for “followship” is loyalty.

(5) Be faithful to the class. It should be explained to the prospective teacher that he would be expected to be in the class regularly. Now there will be a few Sundays in a year that a person would be on vacation, sick, or on a necessary weekend trip. However, people who have to go out of town for one weekend a month certainly should not be considered as prospective teachers.

(6) Be doctrinally sound. There should be no doubt regarding the soundness of the teacher doctrinally. He should be in complete agreement with the articles of faith and the doctrinal position of the church.

7) Be willing to seek lost souls. Now many Sunday school teachers do not win people to Christ every week. It may be that a person will chosen to teach a Sunday school class who has never won a soul. He should, however, voice his desire to be a soul winner and his intentions of becoming one as he is led and trained by the pastor.

(8) Be converted and be a member of this particular local church. It might be unnecessary for some leaders to include this in a chapter on requirements for teachers. It might be shocking, however, to some if they knew how many people teach Sunday school in churches and yet do not hold membership in the church where they teach. This is a very unwise practice.

(9) Attend the Teachers’ and Officers’ Meetings. At our church we have a weekly Teachers’ and Officers’ Meeting. Attendance at this meeting is a requirement for those enlisted to teach. If a person works on Wednesday night, he then is used only as a substitute teacher. Only those who find it possible to attend our Wednesday evening Teachers’ and Officers’ Meeting are chosen for regular teaching positions.

(10) Visit the absentees. It is explained to every prospective teacher that one of his duties is to visit the absentees in his class. The most important absentee to visit is the one who was absent last Sunday for the first time. I have often heard pastors say that the first absence requires a letter or a postcard; the second absence, a telephone call; and the third absence a visit. This certainly is contrary to our philosophy. We feel that a visit for the first absence might prevent the second absence.

(11) Contact the departmental superintendent on Wednesday night if unable to be in the class on Sunday. This is a very vital duty and requirement. It is unthinkable that a teacher of the Word of God and a leader of young lives would just casually be absent without notifying anyone at all. It is nearly as unthinkable that a teacher would call late in the week concerning an absence the following Sunday. This is practically an unpardonable sin! It should be clearly understood by the prospective teacher that faithfulness is a requirement; but when an emergency comes up or a necessary trip is to be made, the superintendent should be contacted no later than Wednesday evening.

There are other qualifications that perhaps would vary with each local situation, and there are other qualifications that perhaps we should have mentioned with the appropriate notes above. The important thing, however, is to have qualifications and present them clearly and plainly to the prospective worker.

8. The conversation should be closed with prayer. The person doing the enlisting should ask God to give wisdom to the prospective worker and thank Him for the nice visit. Before leaving, the prospective worker should be asked to pray for a few days (not more than a week) about the opportunities presented. It is usually best not to get an answer immediately, but to give him time to solidify his decision and know the mind of God.

9. Kindness and gentleness should prevail during the conversation. Some of the above qualifications, duties, etc., may seem to be a bit hard on paper, but in no case should the pastor, Sunday school superintendent, or person who is doing the enlisting be harsh, unkind, rude, or excessively frank.

Following is a typical conversation between the person doing the enlisting and the person being enlisted:

(By Mrs. T. D. McKinney, Director of Literature, who has had the duty of enlisting new workers in our Sunday school)

Mrs. McKinney: Please come in, Mrs.-----. I appreciate your keeping this appointment with me. Won’t you sit down here? I’ll sit here.

When I called and asked you for an appointment to meet with me, I told you that it is one of my duties to enlist workers for our Sunday school. You have probably guessed that I would like to talk with you about the possibility of working in our Sunday school. Before we go any further, let me tell you that I have asked Brother Hyles for his approval to talk with you about teaching, and he has given that approval. Before we begin our conversation, let’s bow our heads now for a word of prayer.

(There is a short prayer asking for the Lord’s guidance in conversation and in decision making.)

Mrs.-----, we very carefully choose those whom we wish to work with us in our Sunday school. This is the Lord’s business, and we want the right people to work in it. We do not look for people, necessarily, who have had experience in teaching or who think that they are good teachers. Since the Lord can enable us to do whatever He wants us to do, we do not worry whether prospective teachers have teaching ability or not. We are concerned for getting the Word of God into the minds and hearts of children and adults. Now I have said that we are not concerned with previous teaching experience when we ask a person to teach in our Sunday school. We are concerned, however, with other qualifications. There are certain requirements which must be met by each person before he is a teacher, and there are certain duties that each teacher must fulfill.

Let’s discuss these requirements and duties for a few moments. We have mimeographed a list of the requirements so that you can see them while we discuss them. (The following form is then given to the prospective teacher.)

First of all, we require of our teachers that they be faithful in their attendance to all the public services of the church. Through listening to the preaching of the Word we are constantly instructed in the Scriptures, not only in knowledge but also in Christian living. We have noticed, Mrs.------, that you are faithful to attend church services Sunday morning, Sunday night, and Wednesday night.

Secondly, we require that any prospective worker in our Sunday school must now be giving strict adherence to the church’s policy concerning separation from the world. Naturally, if we are handling the Word of God and teaching how Jesus would have us live, we must be doing all that we can to be clean vessels and to be living as Jesus would have us live. We do not think that you drink liquor or that you smoke or that you dance or that you play cards or that you go to the movies. If you do any of these things and we are not aware of it, then, I’m sorry, we cannot use you on our Sunday school staff. Can you say that you meet this requirement of separation from the world?

Mrs.-----: Yes, I meet this requirement. I do not smoke or drink or dance or play cards or go to movies.

Mrs. McKinney: Our third requirement is that every teacher in our Sunday school

be a tither. Our pastor makes it plain that neither he nor any other person in the church office knows how much a person gives, but we believe that tithing is the Bible way of giving. Do you give a tithe of your income to the Lord?

Mrs.-----: Yes, we tithe.

Mrs. McKinney: We require of our Sunday school teachers that they be loyal to the present program of the First Baptist Church. We do not mean by this that they have to blindly follow every opinion that is stated apart from doctrinal beliefs, but that they would never speak against any phase of its work to any other person. Concerning doctrine, we ask that they agree in every point as they have heard it preached from the Bible.

Our teachers must, of course, believe that the Bible is the divinely inspired Word of God and that men wrote the Bible as they were led by the Holy Spirit.

Now, Mrs.-----, are you in accord with our soul-winning emphasis, our doctrinal stand, and the program of our church?

Mrs.-----: We agree wholeheartedly with the preaching and the program here.

 Mrs. McKinney: Very good. Now, it goes without saying that we expect of our Sunday school teachers faithfulness in their attendance to Sunday school. Unless illness prevents or the vacation period includes a Sunday, we expect our teachers to be in their places every Sunday ready to teach their classes. If for any reason a teacher has to be absent, the departmental superintendent must know, it at all possible, by the previous Wednesday night so that a general teacher can be prepared to take the class. As soon as it is apparent that he cannot be present in Sunday school, each teacher must let the superintendent know this.

We have a weekly teachers’ meeting. The meeting is held on Wednesday evenings. We eat a meal together at 6:00 and begin the meeting at 6:30. We do not require that our teachers be present for the meal, although it is a good idea to plan to come for convenience sake, but they must be present every Wednesday night just as faithfully as they are present for Sunday school. At the teachers’ meeting, plans for the coming Sunday and other future plans are discussed. The Sunday school lessons are distributed at the teachers’ meeting and then the lesson is discussed by the pastor in the hearing of teachers who are in Junior I and older departments. Teachers who are in the Primary II and younger departments meet individually and discuss the lesson with their superintendents, because there is a little different approach for them to the same lesson material. After the discussion of the lesson the group divides into a methods session. A visual aid method appropriate to each teaching level is presented in these groups.

Can you be present at the teachers’ meetings on Wednesday evening?

Mrs.-----: Yes, I can come. I will also be able to come for the meal. What do you do--furnish dishes potluck style?

Mrs. McKinney: It is a modified potluck style. The meat dish is ordered by someone in the church office and the teachers bring salad and vegetable dishes to accompany the main dish. A fifty-cent charge is placed upon the meat for each person. You will be interested in knowing that the entire family is invited to come and eat with us. When the meeting begins, the children and teenagers have their choir programs so that they are cared for while the teachers have their meeting. We have one last requirement for our teachers. Because it is mention- ed last, please do not think that it is unimportant. It is very important! We ask that every teacher in the Sunday school set aside some time each week for visitation in the homes of his or her pupils. Visits should be made particularly upon those pupils who were absent the most recent Sunday. Can you arrange your schedule so that you will have regular weekly visitation upon your class?

Mrs.-----: Yes, I can.

Mrs. McKinney: Mrs.-----, we would be most happy to have you join the teaching staff of our church. We have an immediate need for a teacher of a girls’ class in the Junior II department of our Sunday school. Mrs. Meredith Plopper is the superintendent of that department. I would like to be able to inform her that I have found the teacher that she needs there. May I enlist you to work there and to teach a class of fifth-grade girls?

Mrs.-----: Yes, I would like to teach there.

Mrs. McKinney: Can you start immediately? Will you be able to attend your first teachers’ meeting this coming Wednesday evening?

Mrs.-----: Yes, I can be there, and I will gladly begin immediately.

Mrs. McKinney: All right. I will tell Mrs. Sandi Plopper to inform the pastor that you will be there. If there is an emergency of any kind that prevents your coming to that meeting, will you let me know before Wednesday morning?

Mrs. -----: All right, I will.

Mrs. McKinney: If you have not seen the Junior II department, I would like to show it to you now. Would you like to look into it?

Mrs. -----: I think that I know where the department is located, but I have never been inside it.

Mrs. McKinney: Then, let’s go look at it. We go this way.

(Upon parting, the enlistee thanks the new teacher for coming and assures her or him that the superintendent will learn of the new appointment. The superintendent is introduced to the new teacher before the teachers’ meeting, and the superintendent acts as guide to the new teacher on Wednesday night.)


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