From the Desk of Mr. Zissman

The musings of an over-stimulated mind

I’m making a note here: HUGE SUCCESS

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One of the many joys I experience in this world is my Sunday School class that I teach. The real number of students is sometimes a bit unpredictable and I can have as a little as three to as many as eleven or twelve in some cases. Either way, I try to make sure that no matter how many kids I am teaching, they all walk away with a good lesson.

When I first took the teaching gig, it was for the first Sunday of every month and my grandmother was my assistant teacher. At first, I didn’t take the assignment too terribly seriously and would often not plan my lessons till I was actually walking downstairs to the class room. It would usually consist of a quick 5-10 minute speech and then coloring for the rest of the class. I tried too hard to be the “cool” teacher and figured I would give them a break from the usual arts and crafts and umpteenth singing of “Jesus Loves Me.”

But one day, while our church was hosting a youth conference which was composed of other churches from North Central Ohio, something happened that changed me. The whole day had been highly entertaining, with give-aways, prizes, funny skits and singing. The kids (ranging anywhere from 5-16) seemed to be enjoying themselves and loved the free pizza and sports merchandise we gave away. (Gotta admit, I was jealous of the kid who won the 1:24 scale Jeff Gordon diecast.) Everything seemed fine when the guest speaker took the podium for the final event of the night. He was an older gentleman, whom I would have put in mid-to-late 70’s, with a face of stone and eyes like daggers. My first clue should have been the fact he started off his ‘message’ by going “Please try and stay awake for my sermon, children.”


What followed next could only be described as some sort of horrible train-wreck of epic measures. This man began to scream in a near-senile frenzy, his face red and sweaty, the veins bulging in his neck as he slammed his fist down on the altar/podium. His voice cracked like Old Testament thunder and roared like a holier-than-thou lion as he screamed to the children about how shaved heads and Elvis (not making this up, by the way) would all be one way paths to damnation. The last straw came when I saw my Pastor’s grandson sheepishly pull up his hooded sweatshirt to hide his recently shaved head.

I stormed out of the church as soon as his ‘sermon’ was over, not even bothering to shake his hand like my Pastor had requested the church to do. I felt so bad for those kids and ashamed that they had to hear this. Not ONCE was love, forgiveness of sins, or grace ever mentioned. Instead we got a demented ranting that bullied, humiliated and served no other purpose then for a bunch of middle-aged white guys to slap themselves on the back going “A-men!” at how awesome Christians they are.

No thank you.

This was sort of my turning point and from then on I vowed I would actually take the time to come up with lessons that would allow the kids to grow closer to Jesus and not shackle them to restrictions that seemed to have come from ‘Footloose’.

I eventually left my church for several months and attended else where. During this time, I felt my spiritual growth sky-rocket thanks to the wonderful preaching at this new place and, due to several books I read by a man named Rob Bell. Eventually, I began to feel as if I was being called back to my old church and rejoined, now armed with the knowledge and growth I had occurred in my hiatus. Of course, I wanted to get right back into teaching, but my spot had already been filled up and there were no longer any openings. So I had to wait.

Eventually, a church member quit (which sadly seems to be happening more and more lately) and an opening appeared to take the fifth Sunday of each month, assuming such a Sunday would happen. Finally, August gave me a fifth Sunday and it was Go Time.

I had read about an awesome Sunday School lesson a teacher had done in one of Rob Bell’s books, this one called ‘Velvet Elvis.’ (NOTE: You really need to read this book, Christian or Non-Christian.) The point of the lesson was that there is the capability of good in all people, no matter how miniscule or small it may seem, and no matter how toxic the person would appear to be on the outside.  Because since we are created in God’s own image, then the essence of God lives in us.

My tools for this mission included a large mixing bowl, a large spoon, one egg, some flour, some sugar, some chili powder, some garlic powder and some Italian herb seasoning.  Oh and I had my ring too. I started off by telling the children how much I had missed them and how embarrassed I was by not grabbing my lesson planner, but accidentally grabbing my mother’s cooking supplies instead.

“But, so we won’t let this day go to waste, I figure I’ll just teach you how to make brownies instead. Sound good?” I said. Of course, they jumped at the concept and soon I had the large bowl in front of me. I quickly added the sugar, flour, some water and an egg and mixed it all up. Their little eyes were glued to every stir, which made the next part even more epic. “And now we had the secret ingredient, Garlic Powder. Mmmm….garlic.” I added a couple of dashes of the strong-smelling powder, as the kids looked on as if I were doing a Mexican hat dance naked.

“That should at least keep the vampires away….” one of them joked. I nodded and stirred in the powder, before adding the Italian seasoning, and the chili powder. By now the concoction smelled like Chef Boyardee’s gym socks and its powerful aroma punished the nostrils of anyone nearby. Of course, I had to go around the room and offer each child a smell, watching with mild amusement as their little noses wrinkled in olfactory horror. Returning to my end of the table, I smiled triumphantly as I added the Secret Ingredient.

“And now, finally, I will add my ring.” I said, slipping it off and landing it in the bowl with a plop. I faked dipping my finger in the bowl and tasting it, doing my best to show a face that was a mixture of pure revulsion and culinary murder. “Well…this was not how I wanted this to turn out, at all.” I complained. Snapping the lid back on the container, I shrugged at my apparent failure at making brownies. “Oh well, guess I’ll just throw it all away.”

“Wait!” a little girl shouted. “You can’t throw it all away, what about your ring?” Bingo. This is exactly what I wanted them to do.

“Huh? Why wouldn’t I throw it away?” I said. “You saw how bad it tasted and smelled, right? It’s rotten…it’s foul, it’s horrible. No use for anything. It needs to go in the garbage.”

“But..but…” another kid protested. “Won’t your girl get mad you threw the ring she got you away?”

“I don’t know.” I said with a shrug. “But I don’t think she would have liked these brownies.”

“You can’t do this.” another kid protested. “Not with the ring in it.”

“So you’re saying, even though this is nasty and foul, there is still something of value in here? Something good?”

“YES!” they all said at once.

Having them right where I wanted them, I then explained how I was fibbing and actually had the nasty brownies as part of my lesson. They were obviously confused, so I took it a step further.

“How many of you have ever heard the song ‘Our God is An Awesome God’?” I asked. They all raised their hands. I then opened up my Bible (NIV) and read them Genesis 1:27.

So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him…

“So then,” I said. “If God is an awesome God and God made us in his own image, what does that make us?”

A short silence fell over the class before one of them quietly peeped up with “..awesome?”

“EXACTLY!” I said triumphantly. “We are all each awesome in our own special ways. As a matter of fact, we are exploding with awesome, so on the count of three, let’s all make explosion noises to show how awesome God has made us. Ready? 1..2..3!” (Thank you Michael Bay for this commercial, or else I never would have come up with this part.)

I went around the room and offered my opinion on what made each kid awesome. For example, one was a good singer, one was very funny, one was a good artist, etc. I said that no one was better than the other, but they are all equally awesome because God made them awesome, because God is awesome.

I then proceeded to write ‘C.O.A’ on the marker board and asked them if they knew what a Certificate of Authenticity was. Nobody did, so I explained how it was simply a piece of paper that said the autograph of a sports player or movie star is real and not a fake.

“But we’re not here to make Certificates of Authenticity.” I said. “No, today we are going to make Certificates of AWESOME!” I then erased ‘C.O.A’ on the marker board and instead wrote this…






I explained to them they were to copy this form and list three things about them that made them awesome. The Genesis 1:27 was there so they would know it was God who made them awesome and I said they were free to decorate it however they wished once they were done.

The lesson went better than I could have ever hoped for. The kids, though a bit wound up, were easy to wrangle and hold their attention and they seemed to grasp and understand the lesson. Sadly, I have to wait till November for a fifth Sunday, but I am hoping maybe I can switch a teacher here and there to get more teaching time in. I love these kids and I want to make sure that they under there is more to being a Christian than xenophobia and a mistrust of anything different then things as they are. These kids are our future and if we don’t invest in them, who will?


Written by MrZissman

08/30/2009 at 6:57 PM

One Response

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  1. Hello Steven! I went to check you out on xanga and you had posted you where going here. Stay in touch please. I have found an awesome church for me. The pastor, believe or not, is named David. He gives me so much to remember and to understand, but oh well. I hope no one else has left since me, Mike and Chaylse. The kids love this pastor too. Which is something I needed to find. I am glad you are teaching the class. How was Hiliary’s visit? Sorry I did not get to see her again. Please let me know when you guys are getting married. Tell your mom and Tammi that I said hello. God Bless!


    09/11/2009 at 10:15 PM

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