Any Sunday school volunteer who’s male, 6’7”, and weighs 250 pounds will always—and I mean always—be paired with a rowdy group of fifth-grade boys.
I speak from experience because I’m that volunteer.
I’ve served in Sunday school for more than 40 years and the vast majority of those years I’ve spent with fifth-grade boys.
Boys who’d rather entertain their friends than listen. Who prefer triumphant fart jokes to lessons about Triumphant Entries. Who bounce off walls in ways ping-pong balls can only envy.
At first I longed for a helper, a teaching assistant who’d pitch in with crowd control and untie me when the boys took me hostage. If only I could find someone who’d show up each week to…
And then I realized: I already had a helper. A great helper. I had the Holy Spirit.
And so do you.
The Holy Spirit is with us
Paul said as much when he reassured believers in Corinth the Holy Spirit was with them, bringing God’s presence into their lives.
“Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?” he wrote. (1 Corinthians 2:10-11) It was less a question than a reminder: They weren’t alone. God wasn’t loving them from a distance; he’d moved right into their daily lives.
He was with them when they dealt with tough bosses or faced hard choices. When they were suffering or couldn’t make their money stretch quite far enough.
He’s with you in those situations, too.
And he’s with you as you lead kids in Sunday school.
The Spirit leads you to truth
If you’re like me, you show up on Sunday ready to roll. You’ve read the lesson, gathered your supplies, and all systems are go.
Except, on any given Sunday, maybe what your kids need to hear isn’t what you’ve so carefully prepared. Your lesson about the Temple won’t matter to a child whose parents just announced a divorce, or when a beloved pet has died.
Yes, the Holy Spirit guides you to the truth of Jesus’ teachings and God’s love—both very good things. (John 16:13)
But that same Spirit can also help you sense another kind of truth: when it’s time to set your lesson aside and deal with an immediate need in the room. When it’s appropriate to take a child aside for prayer or to dig deeper into why a child seems so desperate for attention.
Invite the Holy Spirit to give you wisdom when you’re with children, to lead you to the truths in their lives, to be present for them the way the Spirit is present for you.
The Holy Spirit keeps you learning and growing, too
When you’re ready to take a risk, invite the Holy Spirit to teach you the same lessons you want your kids to learn.
Because the Holy Spirit is never through teaching us teachers, too.
Paul told the church in Thessalonica the Spirit was working to separate them from the world so they could come closer to God. (2 Thessalonians 2:13) He’s still doing that in your kids…and in you.
So ask God to, through his Holy Spirit, grow you in the ways you want your kids to grow. But don’t do that until you’re ready; he often says “yes” and takes you places you might find uncomfortable.
The Holy Spirit is like that.
The Spirit super-sizes your impact
Signing in on Sunday without the fruit of the spirit ripening in your life is a recipe for disaster. I know. I’ve done it.
I recall a season when I was still leading a class, but I’d all but walked away from my faith. I’m not sure why I kept teaching—maybe because even when we’re disobedient, hope dies hard.
My lessons weren’t connecting and I knew it. Kids don’t spare your feelings when you miss the mark; their yawns and drifting eye contact tells the story. My lack of faithfulness was hurting not just me—it was impacting children God loves deeply.
And the sharp slap of that realization led me to repentance…and a fresh dependence on God.
When the Spirit fuels your patience, you can handle the rowdiest child. When the Spirit is loving kids through you, kids feel in their bones they’re loved.
The Holy Spirit makes you a more impactful Sunday school leader because the Spirit is ever and always calling you to holiness, convicting you when you choose to put anything but Jesus first. (John 16:7-8)
And when you teach from a place of focused, surrendered Spirit-fueled strength, your impact is tremendous. Kids aren’t just hearing from you; they’re hearing from God.
The Spirit empowers you—in Sunday school and beyond
Jesus told his disciples they’d receive power when the Holy Spirit came (Acts 1:8), and that’s still true.
Through the Spirit you have access to the same power that raised Jesus from the dead and brings new life to millions. It’s power that’s not out there somewhere waiting for you to find it; it’s in you, courtesy of a loving Father who gifts you with himself when you become his.
Which means you never walk into your classroom or sit with your small group without the Spirit being with you, eager to empower you.
The Holy Spirit is your helper—so ask for help
If you had a classroom assistant would you let that volunteer just stand in a corner week after week?
So don’t relegate the Holy Spirit to that role, either.
Before the first child peeks into your classroom or races over to you for a hug this week, pause and give the Holy Spirit full access to your heart, your mind, your soul. Ask for guidance and wisdom. Ask for the power to listen, to learn, to love.
Then—and only then—are you ready for the next thing a fifth-grade boy tosses your direction.