I was an eight-year-old student in Sunday school when my teacher told us the story of the Pharisee and the publican praying in the temple.
She said that the Pharisee was on one side praying loudly something like, “Oh, God, thank you that I am so marvelous, thank you that I am so wonderful!” Well, I figured him out quickly: this guy was a knucklehead. You’re not supposed to pray like that! Any kid knows better!
But the publican was a different story. She said that he was in a dark corner, beating his chest and saying, “God, forgive me, for I am a sinner.”
I didn’t understand why he was a sinner, so I asked, “Teacher, what did he do wrong?”
She said, “He was a publican.”
I just sat there and thought about that for a moment. A publican?
Which led to this conclusion in my eight-year-old mind: “So, my dad’s a RE-publican, which means that whatever this guy did, my dad did again?”
It wasn’t until years later that I learned that by occupation this man was a thief. OH! A thief! Why didn’t my teacher tell me that?
Maybe if I had known he was a thief, maybe I would have learned a life lesson, and maybe I wouldn’t have stolen that Hollywood candy bar from Thrifty Drug in 1966.
And if you are thirty years old or younger, you’re just as confused now as I was then. You’re thinking, “What is a Hollywood candy bar? What’s a Thrifty Drug? And was there ever really a 1966?”
My teacher assumed I knew what a “publican” was. But I was eight and did not have a clue.
After attending one particular Sunday school class, a little girl wondered out loud to her mom, “Where were all the parents?”
“Where were all whose parents, Honey?” replied Mom.
“Our teacher told us that Moses led the children of Israel out of Egypt. Why did he take just the children? Where were their parents?”
There is such a language as “Christianese,” and if you have been hanging around the church for any length of time, you are probably fluent in it. “He’s a doubting Thomas.” “Are you hungry for God?” “You’re preaching to the choir.”
Though these idioms are acceptable among adults, the children in your circle are not as well-versed in the language.
Remember that when you are working with kids, please say what you mean and mean what you say.
I was even told once that I should gird my loins with truth. I still don’t know what that means.
Brent Randall Regnart has served in Children’s Ministry leadership for over 25 years. He is available to conduct a Teacher Training or Children’s Ministry event in your church or district. He and his wife Rachel live in Stockton, CA. For an informational brochure call or text (209)601-4315 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Website: www.brentrandall.com.