Our world is chaotic at the moment and probably always will be. Older students especially will want to try and make sense of things that are happening in their world within the framework of their developing faith. They may not get this guidance at home and turn to you with their questions.
Or perhaps your students want to see if another Christian adult will confirm what their parents have taught them God wants. Or maybe they are passionate about an issue or a cause and they want to know God supports what they believe. Or a teacher at school or a peer has convinced them to hold a viewpoint they are pretty sure doesn’t align with what they read in scripture and they want your take on the topic.
As you can imagine, this is a veritable mine field for teachers. Especially volunteer Bible class teachers. It’s very tempting to brush off their questions or tell them to ask their parents. Or perhaps you hold strong views yourself and are excited about convincing them your way is the correct way to think about the topic.
There are some places where you need to be particularly careful before speaking – especially if you are teaching that this is what God wants. Using these safeguards can help you navigate the waters where faith and culture collide a little more easily.
- Stop and think before speaking. This is particularly important if you are passionate about this issue yourself. You need to be sure you are saying things that will help your students grow spiritually and not harm them in some way. Taking a minute or two to think before speaking or asking for time to research and give them an answer during the next class is a great safeguard. Don’t be afraid to ask an elder or minister for help if you are struggling with how to respond to the questions your students may have about current events and other topics.
- Separate your opinions and popular culture’s dictates from God’s commands. Did you know only 4% of Christians are morally consistent with what they say are their beliefs? And popular culture can make even Christians believe right is wrong and wrong is right. Which means you could believe God’s command, but then are teaching your students to do the opposite because of some personal experience or bias and not even realize it. Be very careful to examine all of the applicable scriptures before teaching what God wants on an issue.
- Remember God does not endorse political parties. I have learned that both sides of the political spectrum can and do point to scriptures to prove God endorses their political party. In many cases, each party and each politician has some godly and some ungodly things they support. Let parents teach their children what they want about politics. Your job is to teach them about what God wants for us and from us. If it helps, read 1 and 2 Peter again, remembering Nero was the Emperor of Rome when they were written. Nero was one of the most twisted and evil rulers this world has ever seen and yet nowhere did Peter advocate his overthrow – even though Nero was ultimately responsible for Peter’s horrible death. If there were any time in history for scripture to advocate overthrowing politicians, the years of 1 and 2 Peter would have been it.
- Point your students back to God and scripture at every opportunity. Instead of telling students what to think, look at applicable scriptures together. Talk about what they mean and how they may apply to the topic. What would living those out look like in our world today? What do they ask your students to do in their every day lives? Don’t, however, allow students to leave your room thinking you have endorsed any ungodly ideas and beliefs they may have. You don’t have to lecture, but you do need to point them back to what God commands in a loving, but firm way.
- Inform parents of the details of your discussions. What you say in class may be misunderstood or misinterpreted by your students. Or students give their parents so little information, they assume the worst. Emailing parents a summary of what you discussed, including scriptures, keeps them in the loop and helps them continue the discussion at home. You don’t need to tell parents what the students said, just what you taught them or encouraged them to do.
Don’t assume your students will get the help they need understanding the world around them in the framework of God’s commands and principles. You can help them figure out how and where their faith fits into their life. Just make sure you are doing it in ways that strengthens their faith foundations instead of weakening them.