I felt compelled this morning to thank God for and publicly recognize someone: Mrs. Mary Klepper. Mrs. Klepper was my Sunday School teacher from about the age of 7 to twelve or thirteen. We went to a small church, and my own mother had been the only other Sunday School teacher I had until then. I remember thinking it was a tremendously big deal to go to Mrs. Klepper's class, because that's where my older brother had been and my little brother would not be, at least for a little while.
When I started in her class, there were literally only two kids in the class, including me, and the other was her grandson. I realize that no one here, or very many places for that matter, will know or remember such a lady, but God used her faithfulness to have a big impact on my life at an early age.
You see, Mrs. Klepper's class was very different from Sunday School classrooms then, and definitely now. We were elementary age children, but we didn't do crafts every week, we didn't do silly songs or dances, and there was absolutely no place for us to make a lot of noise. I realize in stating this that some people will think that I am crazy in praising such a woman who obviously didn't understand that such young children needed constant stimulation to help them learn anything, but I think Mrs. Klepper was wise beyond this world.
The main focus of Mrs. Klepper's class was always the Word of God. We read it, even when we weren't very good readers. We memorized it, even when I would've rather done anything else. We weren't allowed to talk about the Bible in any way that might be irreverent or silly. And she was never afraid to discipline or worse *gulp* send you to your parents in the adult class and let them discipline you. (This latter part was often what happened to me, and there was seemingly nothing that could make my parents more upset than for me to be sent out of my class and into theirs in front of all the adults, so that I could tell them why I was being sent out, and inevitably be spanked on the church steps.)
What I remember most about Mrs. Klepper was that she was not a dynamic personality and didn't exactly draw people to her. For the most part, she was timid, quiet, and modest. She was not a gifted teacher, nor did she have any kind of special methods for keeping our attention. As a matter of fact, I think what I admire most about her, is that we weren't pampered and she wasn't trying to captivate our attention. She was simply going to teach God's Word, and we were simply expected to give her and the Word our utmost attention and reverence. She came every week and taught so faithfully, even when I was such a terrible kid to have in class (I was constantly cutting up in class and being disrespectful in general).
I now honor and revere the fact that she at least didn't let on that she cared whether or not we wanted to be there or learn, we were simply expected to do it. I know that to most people, especially now, this seems foreign and even cruel, but I learned more in her class than anywhere else in my young life about the most important thing I could learn from, The Holy Bible.
I think if there is anything I can learn from this precious saint's persevering, it's that when it comes to God's Word we must be reverent and we mustn't allow our children to be otherwise. I also can see how the things we think may be enabling children to learn more easily, especially in church, may actually be hindering learning and distracting or confusing them about the things of God. We can send mixed messages to our kids if we're not careful.
It's hard to convince anyone that the high and holy truths of God are important and real and serious if you're presenting it in a clown suit. So often I see in myself, and in others, the temptation and the giving in to that temptation, to try to make the Word of God more exciting or interesting to kids by entertaining them. My own daughter and I started, by accident, to read through the entire Bible together, and I've been shocked at what she's learned from it. We don't skip any passages, and as of last night, we finished the book of Habakkuk.
I have yet to find a text where Jesus, the perfect teacher, had to dress up in silly clothes or play games or do crafts in order to get His audiences attention, and there were often children in that audience (Matthew 10:19; Mark 19:14; Luke 18:16).
There is nothing more serious than where your soul will spend eternity, and the understanding that an eternity in hell is the only just and right judgement for us all. Simply telling our kids that Jesus loves them is leaving out some of the most important things, like, sin, death, righteousness, hell, and the real reason we love Jesus, His atoning death on the cross. Without an understanding of our sinful nature and our inability to please God in it, our kids will have a misunderstanding of the true gospel. Yes, Jesus loves me, but why does that matter?
The entire book of Proverbs is for instruction from childhood to adulthood.
Kids are capable of a lot more than we often require of them. It wasn't too long ago that everyone in church, regardless of age, was expected to sit quietly and give the preaching of the Word of God their full attention. Kids don't need more entertainment, they get that everywhere else 24 hours a day. What they need is the same thing that all who are lost to salvation need, they need the gospel, pure and
The best example I can think of in Scripture as to how we are to educate our kids is in Deuteronomy 6:6-9: "And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart: And thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up. And thou shalt bind them for a sign upon thine hand, and they shall be as frontlets between thine eyes. And thou shalt write them upon the posts of thy house, and on thy gates."
This is not to say that we have to find ways to be more entertaining and creative in the things of our everyday lives, it simply means that we are faithful at all times and in all things, using the opportunities that are given to us constantly.
I'm not advocating that we can't be creative or sing songs or use any of the arts either in teaching or in worship for that matter, but what I am advocating is a deliberate seriousness to what we are doing. And a clear differentiation between everything we do to teach our children about the things of God in order that they may see the reality and seriousness of the nature of God. I want my daughter to know that what we do at church is different that what we would do on a play date or at a library kids group. I want her to see a distinction between the things of God and the things of the world, and I want her to know that this is real and is the most important thing to her parents and to her.
I'm sure Mrs. Klepper has long since passed away, the last I heard of her was when I was in college and she was in a nursing home then, but I'm also sure that she is in the very presence of her Lord and Savior now. Let's endeavor to do as Mrs. Klepper did, and simply be faithful and reverent as we teach all of God's Word and leave the instilling of that Word in the lives of the young ears around us to the work of the Holy Spirit. Remember, we can't save ourselves, let alone anyone else, so why not just be serious with your kids about things that are truly serious, and trust God for the saving of their souls. And may we always remember what Jonah had to find out the hard way, "Salvation is of the LORD." (Jonah 2:9b)