As you read Mark 9:36-37 on the previous page, was there anything that jumped off of the page and into your heart? It’s not enough to read God’s Word. We should always be willing to ask the question, “What does this have to do with me and my life?” In this case, I would hope you might be wondering how these verses can help you become a more Jesus-like teacher.
A few observations I made pertaining to these verses are:
Notice that Jesus was willing to take a child and have him stand among them. Who are the “them” in these verses? The Bible is clear that it is referring to Jesus and His disciples. The disciples had just been arguing amongst themselves over who was the greatest. Jesus pulled the child among them to make a point.
What is very important to grasp here is how unimportant and undervalued children of this day were. During Jesus’ day it was not unusual to treat kids as second-class citizens. So, for Jesus to lovingly incorporate a child into His teaching showed that He cared for them dearly. He showed a high regard for those who were humble and considered practically worthless in the sight of men.
In general, children are an ideal picture of what the disciples were NOT at this moment, but what Jesus wanted them (and wants us) to be. Jesus has never been interested in the opinions of men. His concern is not what society finds acceptable but what His Heavenly Father says is acceptable. Adults of His day made it clear that kids were more a bother than a blessing. Jesus communicated otherwise by both His words and actions. Children embody the spirit of humility, meekness, and lowliness that Christ spoke of in His teachings. By holding them close to Himself and telling His followers that by welcoming these children they were welcoming not only Him but the One who sent Him, was to open their eyes to the fact that worrying about our earthly importance is the absolute opposite of what God is about.
God’s way is about humility . . . not pride. Unfortunately, at this particular moment, His disciples were eaten up with ego and He was attempting to use a child to help them see the ere of their ways. Childlike humility is what He wanted from His disciples then, and it’s what He wants from His disciples now. Most importantly, He loved and valued children and we should as well.
The Word tells us that Jesus put His arms around the child. I challenge you to find other places in the New Testament where Jesus interacted with children. I think you will find that He consistently loved them, not only in Word, but in deed as well, by physically showing them the love He spoke over them.
There are accounts of Him hugging them, taking them in His arms, placing His hands on them, and pulling them amongst His group. It makes me smile to think of Jesus as a hugger. I suppose it is because I come from a very demonstrative family-a long line of huggers. There are hugs all around for everyone each time we get together-both upon arrival and departure, and if we really want to show our affection, we’ll add on a big sloppy kiss to make sure you don’t leave wondering whether or not we were sincere enough for you. It’s who we are and what we do. It communicates love to me and my family and I am convinced that it communicates love to our students as well (minus the big sloppy kiss).
There is much power in a hug. When someone embraces another in a warm, safe, loving manner, the world simply becomes a better place to reside. At the same time, it is important to respect another person’s space. Some kids are not huggers, and we should honor that. Just remember to be sensitive to the needs of all children. Usually the ones who want a hug will initiate it. When they do, hug them back! Don’t stand there like a tree trunk. Embrace them with a sincere tenderness like only a loving teacher can.
Finally, Jesus talks about welcoming children. It begs the question: Do kids feel welcome when they come to your Sunday school class? If you don’t teach Sunday school, it still applies. All programs for kids should work overtime at finding ways to make newcomers and regulars feel welcome.
We’ve all been the “new person” at one time or another. Maybe it was the first day on the job, or at a new school, new church, new club, or party. The point is, we have all been there and we know that it is not the most desirable place to be. One of the biggest fears humans experience is that of rejection. We want to know that we are accepted by our peers. Do your students feel truly welcome? What procedures do you have in place for the sole purpose of making guests feel welcome? Your students need to be trained to help new kids feel like they belong and that they can easily become a part of the group. Making kids feel welcome should not fall entirely on the teacher, although the teacher does play a huge part, so lead by example.
Okay, so how do we make kids feel welcome? I’m glad you asked. I found a splendid article on this subject at ministry-to-children.com written by Mimi Bullock. The article was written for children’s pastors, but can be very helpful for teachers as well. I hope you find it to be as informative as I did.