I really struggle with the Sunday School classes at church. The way the teachers present the material — it’s as if they are talking about something entirely different from what’s in the manual. How does a lesson about spiritual gifts turn into an all-out debate about cosmology? I’ve gone too many weeks without saying something because I don’t want to be disrespectful. But I need better lessons and I’m sure others do, too. What can I say? How can I say it?
Dear Sunday Student,
Great question. Here are a few tips that I've used in my life that may help you with your current dilemma:
1. You can pass the buck. Typically I’m an advocate of speaking and acting for yourself, but in this circumstance, there are bishops, Sunday School presidents and other auxiliary leaders in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints whose specific responsibility it is to help teachers conduct effective and spirit-inviting lessons. If you’re feeling like Sunday School has become an uncomfortable place, communicate that with the people who oversee it.
2. Be motivated by love. Sunday School is a place where there are a lot of diverse ideas, opinions and experiences flying around. Sometimes in conversation, we can be seduced by the desire to be right: “What I believe is right,” “My interpretation is right” or “My opinion is right.” That can put us at odds with each other when really the goal is to learn, to share, to uplift, etc. When you feel a genuine love for your teacher, for the other class participants and for the Lord, you’ll choose words and communication methods that communicate that love.
3. Pick your battles. I had a friend complain that all her teacher ever did was read from the manual. She complained that she “read from the manual before she came to class so coming to class and reading it again was a waste of time.” I can understand her frustration, but what about the other attendees who didn’t have time to read the lesson? What if the hour where they got to read the lesson with other members of the church was their only spiritual study for the week? Just because it isn’t our ideal, doesn’t mean it’s not pertinent and even life changing for someone else. So be sure to ask yourself, “Is it possible that this lesson is helping to strengthen someone else’s belief in Jesus Christ?” If so, you may consider leaving it alone.
4. Offer a new perspective. If a class feels like it’s going down a crazy path (we’ve all been there), share a different thought and follow it up with a question. It’s likely that others are feeling unfulfilled, too. Your questions could be the spark that impacts the course of the lesson for good.
These are just a few suggestions that I’ve found helpful. What about all of you? Have you shared “Sunday Student’s” struggles? How do you overcome them?
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Angela Trusty is a millennial writer who lives and writes about the young single adult Mormon experience. Twitter: askange_column
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