The Further Adventures of John the Baptist

You may recall that, for the past month, I have been dressing up as John the Baptist every Sunday morning in an attempt to teach Sunday School for the first time in my life.  You may also recall that the number one thing I had managed to impart as of last week was that I am very fat.

The problem is those older kids.  They sass-talk me and don’t pay attention, and then they tell everyone that I have clearly been eating too many locusts, but they are already jaded and half-grown.  Luckily, with each passing week, I rotated to a younger group of kids.  Finally, this past Sunday, I had Ruby’s class.  Pre-school and kindergarten.  Surely they would be into what I was doing.  Right?

Let me take a quick pause here to make a statement in which I will attempt not to pass any judgement.  The behavior of the children at my church is….ummmm….how can I put this?  Less than controlled?  Now, on one hand I have a lot of respect for the teachers, and the pastor who can get through an entire children’s message with kids yelling and interrupting and being generally ridiculous.  On the other hand, where the heck are these kids’ parents, and why is it okay for this to go on?  I know that kids will be kids, but man, if I ever did anything remotely close to what these kids get away with in church, you can believe that I would have been yanked out of that sanctuary before you could blink.  I would have been ejected from church so quickly that only God would have seen it.

And in case you were wondering, this is the church I grew up in.  It is, in some cases, the exact same adults who taught my Sunday School when I was a kid.  So it’s not like I have arrived at some new, differently cultured place.  And now I am digressing, but I guess the point I want to underscore here, is that the kids interrupt each other, and their teachers, they run off in the middle of lessons, and they generally are, in my opinion, fairly rude, and the teachers just either ignore it, or sigh and ask the kids to stop.  But it doesn’t stop.  And me being new, well I wasn’t sure just how much leeway I had in this department.  Could I tell the kids to be quiet?  Was I allowed to put a hand on them to get their attention?  At what point was it acceptable to punch them in the face?  None of this was covered in my training, of which I had none.

So there I am, standing in front of Ruby and her class, and I see the boy.  Now, after complaining for the last two paragraphs I feel that I should mention that most of the kids are pretty good.  None of them would have lasted five minutes in MY old Sunday School classrooms, but for the most part they at least allow things to progress and spend their time whispering and giggling amongst themselves without being obnoxiously disruptive.  Not the boy.  I can’t tell you his name, because that’s obviously not cool, but anyone who goes to my church and is reading this already knows who I am talking about.

There is one boy who is the model of disruption.  He clearly needs to be on some sort of medication, and I don’t mean that in a funny or snarky way.  More like in a, wow, I hope he actually gets on some medication for his own good, sort of way.  He bounces around all over the place, shouting, laughing, crashing into things, and generally making it hard for anyone else to pay attention.  He’s not a bad kid in any sense of the word, he just seems to be completely unrestrained and totally unable to control himself.

I started my talk about the life of John the Baptist and it seemed to be going well.  The kids were paying attention, and Ruby was super excited that I was teaching her class.  The Boy answered all of my statements by saying something like “No you’re not,” but I ignored him, as I had seen everyone else do.  It was around the end of my story that I noticed that The Boy had been pulling pieces off of the plastic table cloth and eating them.  I’m not sure if I was supposed to do this or not, but I pulled a big chewed up piece out of his mouth and told him to stop.

Luckily it was time for a craft.  Unluckily, the craft I brought involved markers and bowls of water.  We were going to write on coffee filters and then dip them in water and watch as the writing disappeared, appropriate for talking about baptism.  Everyone followed my instructions very well, except for The Boy, who drew pictures of Wii games he liked to play and splashed water everywhere.  And the sillier he got, the sillier everyone else got, and soon it was chaos in the classroom.

I took their bowls of water away, and tried to talk to them about the baptism liturgy, and why we do the things we do, hoping to keep their attention for a few more minutes.  At this point The Boy just got up and ran out of the classroom, shouting and laughing.  I did have an assistant that was helping me hand out bowls and stuff, so she went out in the hallway to fetch him while I finished the discussion.  This brought us to what should have been the end of church, and the end of what I had planned.  Sadly, church went almost 20 minutes late.

I had nothing.  No plan, no more activities.  I got the water out again, but things quickly deteriorated again and I had to take it all away.  Finally I asked them to play quietly with the toys that were in the room.  This was their cue to run around and scream at the top of their lungs.  And every time I would get them calmed down again (they were still young enough to fall for the “who can be the quietest” game), The Boy would just start shouting and running again, and that would be the end of it.  But what really was the end of it was when The Boy ran into the wall and I saw the blood.

There was a lot of blood.  It was all over his face and coming out of his mouth at a pretty steady rate.  As it turns out, he had knocked a tooth out.  We cleared everyone out of the area to look for his missing tooth as I prayed that it was one that was supposed to be coming out soon anyway.  The class helper took him to the bathroom to clean the blood off of himself while I continued the search for the tooth.  At least everyone was finally being quiet.

I found the tooth eventually, and we confirmed that it was a baby tooth, although no one was quite sure if it had been loose to begin with or not.  He was pretty pleased with himself for having knocked out his tooth, and the everyone else in the class was now in total awe of him.  He was a hero.  The rest of the time was taken up by The Boy trying to think of what toy the tooth fairy was going to buy for him, and the rest of the class asking to look at his new smile.

I don’t know if there is a point to all of this.  Maybe just that I don’t understand the new rules of raising children.  Maybe I just wanted to tell you about this crazy thing that happened.  I don’t know.  My father always says that each generation of parents is perfectly suited for raising kids to grow up in the environment that the parents themselves grew up in, but the problem is that the environment has changed, and so the parents really have no idea what to do in this crazy new future that their kids are living in.  That seems true to me, but if there’s one thing I’m sure, it’s that my weight will not be the thing that Ruby’s class remembers from last Sunday.

Posted in Church, John the Baptist, Sunday School, Teeth.


  1. Interesting experiences you are having in Faith Village! First of all, thanks for doing it. Second, I do agree with you that some of the behavior is challenging in terms of know how to deal with it. Maybe we can talk a bit more about it.

    • That sounds great. I think a big part of my concern is not knowing what our specific policies are, and trying to do what I had seen others try to do wasn’t working for me. As I mentioned in the post, I don’t know how you do what you do. There’s no way I could have held their attention for an entire origami segment!

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