#226…science, RELIGION, etc.: “A Sunday School Gimmick?”


[Should I say “stratagem” instead?]


Go to Sunday School again?


I loved teaching high school

Sunday school year after year.


Here’s one activity I did every week–that I’ve never heard anyone else ever do. To learn more, use the DOOR.




   First, there was Gene Dorman, an intelligent, gentle man’s man who did serious work at the nuclear power plant. And there was myself, one of those college professors you couldn’t quite be sure of. He sat at one end of the table; I sat near the other end. We shared teaching responsibilities for several years.

   Tools for what I did: dozens of 4 by 6 tablets of blank paper and a bunch of pens.

   Requirements:  “Before you leave class,” I would announce, “you must personally hand me–not pass down the row–this sheet, folded over once, with your name clearly written on it, and at least one comment. You may tell me something about yourself, maybe something you’re doing this week, a concern or question you have, or draw something, or simply say , ‘NOTHING AT THIS TIME.’ Be aware that as your teacher I can never absolutely promise that I’ll never share what you say with your parents, but I’ll do my best to keep what you say, or draw, just between us. I want to learn something about you and I need your help. And, for every sheet I get, I will write you a personal response that I’ll give you next week. If you’re concerned about seeming rude while the two of us are teaching, don’t worry, sneak onto your sheet some words without disturbing others. Life gets complicated as you grow up and often you have to learn to do two things at once.”

   Of course, I got a lot of NOTHING AT THIS TIMEs at first. I had to work to gain their trust and respect. And sometimes their words–and mine in the return notes–were pretty silly. But each kid got a personal–for-him-only–note. At the first of each class I personally handed my notes out. One really bright student, Lindsay, chided me for misspelling her name “Lindsey” and not sketching a cartoon on her sheet like I did for some others. Ever since that day now many years ago she’s been “LindsA+y” in our correspondence. Other notes would critique the lesson, occasionally share problems and difficulties, as well as alert me to birthdays, sports events, certain personal gains and losses that I would never have known about otherwise. After all, they came from six or seven different high schools (counting home schools). Such personal information was invaluable to Gene and myself as we shaped our weekly lessons.

   As minor as it seemed–and often was–each kid had a tailor-made piece of the action in every class. And they could have a “say” in what was going on.

   And with 12 or 15 or more in a class, it took a little extra time to scribble the responses they’d earned. But what a great way to think and pray about the individuals you were going to be spending time with!

   And, since the kids became increasingly clever, the notes never became a problem or interfered with lesson time. Never.

Author: John Knapp