My son Bryan was in fourth grade when we went to a start-of-the-school-year open house. We said “Hi” to the teacher, checked out Bryan’s desk to see if it was somewhat clean (since it was the beginning of the year there was a chance that it was clean) and admired his artwork on the wall. We chatted with a couple of other parents. We had done this before so this was nothing new.
But this year was memorable for us. One of the things we saw was a mobile Bryan had made. Hanging from the ceiling was a hanger with people’s names written on it. There were the names of family members: mom, dad, and his three sisters. Then there was another name: Mr. Mulder. Mr. Mulder wasn’t part of our family.
We asked Bryan why Mr. Mulder’s name was there. The mobile was about people who were an important part of your life and the children were asked to list someone who wasn’t in their family as well as family members. Mr. Mulder goes to our church and he had been Bryan’s Sunday School teacher in first and second grade. He had come to watch Bryan play Little League baseball. He came to watch his games at the end of third grade too, even though Bryan had moved on and Mr. Mulder had other kids in his class now.
I’m sure that Bryan was not Mr. Mulder’s best Sunday School student. (We have somewhat realistic expectations for our kids.) But Bryan was there — and so was Mr. Mulder. Did Mr. Mulder ask Bryan about his faith when he sat at baseball games? No, Mr. Mulder did talk about his faith in Sunday School, but those might not be the times that had the biggest impact on Bryan. What really mattered to him was that Mr. Mulder walked next to him, encouraging and showing him how to live his faith — and talked about being a good catcher. That is what church is. That is what a Sunday School teacher is — not just a teacher, but part of the family.