The professor droned on about optimal space, light, sound, chair size and table arrangement and … . We listened because we knew what he was saying would be on the final exam.
He talked through design for the different age groups, number of students and how to set up the room for planned activities.
And we listened. And we graduated.
Then we went out into the real world.
I remember thinking about that college class when my high school girls’ Bible study was assigned to a room in the gloomy corner of the second floor hallway. A tiny beam of light seeped in the windows and quickly faded away behind tree branches. The dirty, yellow walls reflected nothing but scrapes and smudges. Although we attacked the room with a bucket of paint, and the girls covered every surface with their names and favorite Scripture – the room was still dismal.
I remember thinking about that college class the night I sat on the back hallway steps with my handbook group. Our usual space – the church furnace room had been taken over by another group and the only place left for an overflowing Awana club was the stairs themselves.
I remember thinking about that college class the morning I walked into the primary Sunday school class where I had just been assigned to teach. Decades old, brocaded drapes were half on and half off the rods. Chairs with dents, black marks and broken legs were pushed under the too-high tables.
But yes, I’ve also taught in classrooms that would make that professor proud.
The point is – many of our classrooms aren’t ideal – in fact, they are prime examples of what a classroom shouldn’t look like.
But this is reality. Even though many churches today are equipped with well-lighted rooms, cheerful bulletin boards, built-in technology and child-sized chairs, tables and bathrooms … many aren’t.
Many of you teach in damp church basements or stuffy upper-story rooms. Many of you have to carry in your supplies when you teach and then carry them out again after class – to make way for the men’s Bible study or high group who also meet in the room. And, I’m guessing more than one of you has had a Handbook Time on the steps.
But in actuality, although all the child-sized-everything equipment, the built-in technology and the brightly-colored walls are conducive to learning, they aren’t absolutely necessary.
Remember the time Jesus was teaching in a Galilean home? (Luke 17:17-26)
Lots of people were there: religious law-keepers, teachers, people who wanted to be healed … The room was packed. In fact, it was so packed that when some men wanted to carry a paralytic to Christ, they couldn’t find room enough to push themselves through the packed audience.
I’m not sure that house would’ve met the college professor’s requirements for adequate space, ventilation and light. True – the Bible doesn’t say anything about windows in the house, but we do know that in order to reach the Lord Jesus Christ, the men had to cut a hole in the roof, which doesn’t make it sound as if there were good-sized windows anywhere. Which probably meant there wasn’t a whole lot of ventilation. (Just guessing about that.)
Yet when Christ saw the faith of the man, He said, “Friend, your sins are forgiven.” That made the proud law keepers think. Who was this man? Christ went on to explain exactly. The account concludes with: All those who were there were surprised and gave thanks to God, saying, “We have seen very special things today.”
Nothing in those verses say that Christ’s teaching would’ve been more effective had this event taken place in where ever the Galilean state-of-the-art meeting place was located or if there had been less people and more space or windows or …
Because even though there’s nothing wrong (and a lot right) with buying child-sized chairs, decorating the room with bright butterflies and having the latest tech equipment … the truth is … it’s your message that counts.
— whether that’s a room approved by your college children’s ministry professor.
— or in the hall stairway.