October brings to mind pumpkin spice everything, apples, apple cider, hot dog roasts, cool nights and chilly mornings…unless, of course, it’s one of those years when shorts and tank tops make one last huzzah before being put away for the winter. This year it seems we’ve been blessed with the iconic fall weather, complete with leaves changing color. Not something we take for granted in the southern half of the state.
Another thing October brings to mind is Pastor Appreciation but my mind never stops with just pastors. There are so many church workers and leaders that we often take for granted, including Sunday School teachers who show up prepared week after week after week. It’s no easy task preparing weekly lessons for a group of people you aren’t even sure are listening to you at times, and I’ve known a few who have wondered if they were making any difference at all. As a bratty, almost life-long Sunday School attender, let me say–YES! Sunday School teachers make a difference!
I’m an imported Illinoisan who has lived here for…ahem…well over thirty years. My childhood was spent on the coast of Maine where my Sunday School teacher was Evelyn Pendleton, Mrs. Pendleton to me because children didn’t use adult’s first names. Ever. She was old in my book and although she was very kind, truth be told, I didn’t always like her. You see, she was friends with my parents, despite the age gap between them (she really was old), and she didn’t let me get away with any shenanigans. None at all. Not only that, but she refused to let me get away with teacher’s pet privileges, even though I’m sure I was her favorite (a girl can dream, right?), but she made each of us feel like we were her favorite. Although she was a very patient lady, I know I tested those limits a few times. It wasn’t something that worked well for me, if you know what I mean.
Despite all this and the fact that I was only in her class a short time, Mrs. Pendleton is one of the women who had a great impact on my life. She held me to a high standard and expected me to meet that standard. During those years there was an unchurched family she and others were reaching out to. They picked up the boys and brought them to Sunday School and church every week the boys were allowed to attend, and one of them was in class with me and Mrs. Pendleton. He was able to get away with all the things I wanted to but wasn’t allowed to. I didn’t understand it and it always triggered an “it’s not fair!” moment in me. Mrs. Pendleton understood that and she tried many times to explain it to me. Sad to say, I wasn’t ready to hear it then. I was too caught up in me and what was going on in my little world. Years later I finally understood and tried to follow the example she set.
My family moved out of Maine over forty years ago, but Mrs. Pendleton didn’t forget me and I remember the lessons she taught me–oh, I’m not talking about the Bible stories that I usually knew all the answers to, but the life-lessons she taught me. Kindness. Gentleness. Love. Not just for little know-it-all church girls like me, but for boys who knew nothing of the Bible or how to behave in church. She was one of the first ones to show me the value and the power of love.
Mrs. Pendleton wrote me a few letters through the years. Her spidery, hand-written letters were treasures from home. Her letters assured me that she remembered me, and more importantly, that she prayed for me.
Do Sunday School teachers make a difference–a real, lasting difference? YES! Mrs. Pendleton made a difference in my life (as a know-it-all, bratty church kid) and in those boys’ lives who might not have ever heard the truth about Jesus if she hadn’t reached out and drawn him in to her class and her heart.
And I know I’m not the only one with a Mrs. Pendleton in my life! I hope you have one in your life too. This week, while people are thanking pastors, be sure to thank a Sunday School teacher that has made an impact in your life. And while you’re at it, drop me a line and tell me about them, too.
Written by Patty Wysong. Patty Wysong has spent the last seven years in a desert season. God called her aside, and after fighting it too long, she acquiesced and never regretted it. It was in the desert that God led her into that she found deeper joy and fulfillment. The desert became a place of beauty to her. But now God has called her out and she's learning about life again. She used to blog at Patterings, and one day soon she may again.