Holding the Door

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By Staci Stallings

I’m always amazed by the lessons I learn teaching Sunday School.  Last week was a good example.

I teach fourth grade, which is an interesting age.  These kids are just starting their faith journey.  They are not theologians. Their faith is pretty basic and very practical, and I’m convinced that we learn as much about God in the experience of having Sunday School as we often do in the lesson I’ve prepared.

For example, the first few weeks of school I spent getting to know the kids—their names, how much they participate (or don’t)—getting a feel for them.

One young man hardly seemed the most excited to be there.  He sat at the back table, put his head down with his back to me, drew in his notebook, and generally looked like he “had” to be there.  There was no “want to” about him.  He was putting in time at best.

I noticed something else as well.  He was a quiet, subtle leader.

Now he hadn’t had enough chance to influence those at his table with his furtively hostile, dismissive attitude about the class, but I could tell it wouldn’t take much for him to.  He was just one of those kids that could pull or drag other kids their direction without much trouble.

Furthermore, he has a look that could melt steel.  His eyes kind of challenge everyone to put him down with a promise of what he will do to them if they do.

Two weeks into class, I yelled at him as the kids crossed the parking lot to the school because he was running, and I’d hate for him to get squashed by a car.  However, he’s always first out the door of the church to head to the school.

Then last week something interesting happened.  When I got to the school door, he was holding it open.  I told him thank you and went in and up the stairs.  As we got class going, I took out my stickers (because there is no way to “grade,” I give stickers and at 20, 40, 60, etc. they can get a prize).

I told the class that because this young man held the door, I was going to give him a sticker.  At first he looked angry and distrustful, then he looked confused.  When I got to his table, I held the sticker out so I could put it in his notebook.  Then he looked utterly surprised as if he couldn’t believe I was serious.

However, scrambling, he quickly found a place in his notebook for the sticker.

The transformation was quick and not-at-all subtle.  I think he raised his hand on most questions for the next 30 minutes, and he actually answered a lot of them.  He was turned toward me rather than head-down doodling in his notebook.  He was… interested!

I wondered how things would go this week, if our progress would be at all permanent.  This week we walked out of church, and when I got to the door, there he was, holding it open, waiting for me! Only this time, there was a question in his eyes as if he was wondering if I would bother to notice.

Again, I said thank you and he said you’re welcome.

But then something happened I had not expected.  One of the girls asked to help me carry one of my bags up, so I let her.  When we got to the room, one girl asked to help pass out papers, one asked to help pass out pens, one of the boys helped pass out notebooks, and two others passed out Bibles so we could get started quickly.

It was like 50% of the room had suddenly taken ownership of the classroom, and instead of me and my assistants having to get everything handed out, the kids were suddenly wanting to help!

Now I’m no dummy.  As soon as we got going on writing down the Bible verse, I broke out the stickers and told them I was giving “helping stickers” for those who had helped with something that morning.

Who knows how long this will last, or what it will ultimately teach them.  But I will tell you this, it taught me that a little bit of praise and noticing when a kid on the edge is trying can go a long, LONG way in helping them take a major turn for the better!

Amazing what a difference just holding a door can make.

Copyright Staci Stallings, 2013

 

Staci Stallings New Headshot 1 A stay-at-home mom with a husband, three kids and a writing addiction on the side, #1 Best Selling Christian author, Staci Stallings has numerous titles for readers to choose from.  Not content to stay in one genre and write it to death, Staci’s stories run the gamut from young adult to adult, from motivational and inspirational to full-out Christian and back again.  Every title is a new adventure!

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