Mother of three, Lydia Ratnikova, is a recent student in the master’s program of Christian Education, and tells us of her journey of achieving her dream to become a Sunday school teacher.
Since childhood, I had always wanted to be a teacher. I grew up in an unbelieving family and my closest friends were books. When I was 10 years old, my mother first learned about God. We went to church and the world of Christian literature, including the Children’s Bible opened up to me. I was learning so much and everything I learned about God fascinated me, although sometimes I was doubtful, Still, it was a great joy to visit Sunday school for the first time. I went every Sunday, kept notebooks neatly, memorized Bible verses, studied Bible stories, and it was so amazing to me that I decided that when I grew up, I would become a Sunday school teacher.
When I was 12 years old, I turned to God with tears. It was no longer a superficial faith but a serious conversion; nor was it a fiery sermon that prompted me to repent but rather, the simple words of the faithful preacher during the common prayer. I was baptized a few years later and continued going to Sunday school which only fueled my desire to have the opportunity to someday teach children the Word of God.
In 2000, I was invited to be one of the mentors at a Bible camp for unchurched children who had troubled backgrounds. Thrilled by this opportunity, I excitedly threw myself into this work, attending all the planning meetings and was intently focused on preparing materials. This work impacted me deeply. I had seen firsthand how important this camp was because it established positive relations with the children, giving them hope. I felt a huge responsibility to be a great Bible learner so I could be a great Bible teacher. I also wanted to be a role model for the children to help guide them in the Christian life, and to learn more methods of reaching more children.
At that time, I was a student at Moscow Pedagogical University, studying to be a philologist. I knew a lot about pedagogy and accordingly, the camp organizers asked me to conduct lessons for the whole Bible camp. What a challenge! It’s one thing to conduct lessons among Christian children, and quite another to teach teenagers from the street. To prepare, every morning I went to pray in a wheat field and asked the Lord to help give me the right words for these troubled teens. I am thankful for that amazing experience and I knew God would help me.
Sometime thereafter, I married and took a break as the joy and busyness of marriage and having children mandated that I take a step back from this work for about five years. I loved my family life but after our third child came, I thought perhaps my Sunday school service was over and my heart ached. However, the Lord always has his own plans. After my five-year break, I learned that there was a great need for a high school-level Sunday school teacher, so I immediately stepped into that gap. It was a blessing from God to me!
I have now been serving in this church for eight years creating lessons and curricula, as well as preparing programs for holidays. A year and a half ago, the church leaders asked me to hold a seminar to teach other Sunday school workers the methods and materials I had been using. I was quite nervous about this request and knew I needed help in systematically teaching others, but was not sure where to find that help.
The answer was to study at Moscow Theological Seminary (MTS). In 2022, I entered their master’s program of Christian education taking courses in, among other things, Sunday school methods, how to train others, and creating entire Sunday school programs. I was very grateful for this and the detailed coursework they offered, specifically the in-depth instruction on how Bible teachers can find different approaches for different types of students in Christian education.
In September 2023, I became the director of the Sunday school, always staying mindful of how important it is to reach all types of children and sow the truth in their hearts.