Sheryl Haystead loved teaching kids God's Word. These writings are from her last years of teaching Sunday School and are full of wisdom and compassion for the little ones Jesus loves so dearly--Sheryl loved them, too.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Remembering A Quiet Hero of the Faith

Sheryl Haystead, beloved wife, mother and friend slipped into the presence of God the evening of January 6, 2012. Sheryl had been diagnosed with cancer of the liver just after Christmas, and was kept quietly sedated in the ICU until it was certain that she could not recover.

Sheryl always loved children: her own, her grandchildren and those she taught in Sunday School every week at her church. For over 35 years, she served children’s ministries around the world by writing, editing and creating curriculum for Gospel Light Publications. She has trained teachers across this country and abroad; she dedicated her life to drawing children to Jesus. She was a quiet hero of the faith. Many thousands of children and teachers have been impacted by an activity she created, by an inspirational word she gave at a workshop or through a book she wrote (such as How to Have a Great Sunday School, and many more). She loved talking to those who are in ministry and always said that teachers were the ones who inspired her to keep going! But she and her work profoundly inspired many others.

Sheryl began her career with Gospel Light in 1974 as an editorial assistant and after only three months was promoted to Associate Editor. In 1977 Sheryl became the Assistant to the Managing Editor and in 1978 she was promoted to Editor. During the next few years, Sheryl left Gospel Light to start her family and began working in a freelance capacity until 1997 when she rejoined Gospel Light as a Senior Editor. In 2001, Sheryl was promoted to Managing Editor and in 2004 she was promoted to Senior Managing Editor. Donna Lucas, Publishing Director at Gospel Light said, “Sheryl was a light for us, a rock to our publishing team and a teacher to so many of us; interestingly, these are all words she would use to describe Jesus her Savior. She has taught us by example how to be the best for Christ. We will all miss her deeply.” When Jesus spoke with a woman whose brother had died, Jesus comforted her as she mourned saying, "I am the resurrection and the life. Anyone who believes in me will live, even after dying." (John 11:25, NLT)

Sheryl is survived by her husband and ministry partner, Wes, her sons Andrew and Jon, her step-daughter, Karen Duzy, son-in-law, Dave Duzy, daughter-in-law, Becky, plus five grandchildren: Samantha, Abigail, Jayce, Penelope, and Anya, each of whom she cherished. She is also survived by her brother Marvin Hamstad and sister, Arlene Bishop.

In lieu of flowers, donations can be made to the Children’s Ministry of Eastminster Presbyterian Church, honoring Sheryl’s lifelong love for serving children.

If you have a message for Sheryl's family, please send it to Donna Lucas at

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Prep and Pray Time

“Oh, no!” I thought as I looked at the prep needed for this Sunday’s art activity. “I’ve got to cut a bunch of little paper circles to make ornaments.” What a bother! But I know how much kids love to glue and create, so I gathered up some paper and went to work tracing circles. It was mindless work!

But as my mind wandered, I started thinking of the kids in my class. As I thought of each one, I started praying that he or she would come and that I would have an opportunity to share God’s Word in meaningful ways. As I prayed, the prep work went amazingly fast! (I ended up tracing a circle pattern from a drinking glass, but I decided to let the kids cut out their own ornaments.)

God answered my prayers when a little girl came who had been absent for several weeks. God’s Word was shared as we talked about God’s love. We wrote down the names of every child in the class. When we said our Bible verse, "God loves us and sent his Son," we said our names instead of the word "us." Even better, we demonstrated God’s love—even as a young boy needed extra encouragement to listen when others were talking.

Too often I resolve to pray for each child during the week, but end up putting my resolve aside. But now, I think my prep time will be known as “prep and pray time.” Just what I need, and just what the kids in my class need, too.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Worth Talking About

Do you sometimes skip over the first page of the lesson and just get right to the Bible story or the activities you will be leading? I have that tendency, too! But as I looked at the lesson overview for this week, I saw that the verse was “Be kind to everyone.” At first I thought, “That again? Don’t we teach that all the time to kids? Didn’t we just teach about doing good to all people last week? Why isn’t there something fresh and different to teach about?”

But then I realized something: here is where it starts. Here is where we build the foundation of how God wants people to give and receive love—the love He gives to us in so many ways. We hear so much talk these days about kids who grow up either being bullied or bullying others. Our hearts ache for children who are teased endlessly and persecuted by their peers. As I thought about this, all at once these lessons took on a much greater significance. This is my God-given opportunity to nurture loving and kind and good relationships between children.

So how do we go about “teaching” good relationships? I think it happens when we connect God’s Word to real-life actions. So as we made King David puppets, or tossed bean bags onto pictures of people, the class not only talked about how to “be kind,” but we teachers modeled it—and we affirmed kids who practiced it. One of my favorite parts was when a kindergartner asked if he could take home the paper on which we had written the names of people we could be kind to. “We asked God to help us be kind to all these people,” I told his mom when she arrived at dismissal time. And I told all the parents, “We talked about being kind today—just like King David was. It’s worth talking about at home, too!”

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Small Scientists

As the class of preschoolers ended today, big brothers and sisters slipped into the classroom while parents chatted. The attention of the older kids was immediately hooked by the fun art activity the preschoolers had experienced. The preschool teacher had put a variety of colorful substances into re-sealable baggies (double sealed with masking tape!). There were bags of ketchup, mustard and chocolate pudding. The preschoolers and big kids both had so much fun drawing designs with their fingers, writing letters, swirling and smoothing out the bags—and all without a bit of mess!

Sometimes I fall into the trap of thinking that in this high-tech world, kids need electronics to keep their attention. But for the kids I observed today, the adventure of creating and discovering was all the fun they needed. Children are small scientists: for them, art materials are not a means to make a pretty product by adult standards, but the means to discover what happens when materials are arranged and rearranged again and again.

God is the author of such creativity! He has given each child the capacity to create and express. Occasionally, a child will ask, “Can you draw it for me?” A wise teacher once told me her response to such a question: “I don’t know how to make the one you are thinking about.” Value each child’s creativity—and look for ways you can nurture and encourage the unique way God has made each young child in your care.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Teacher, Am I Bad?

The faces of the children in my group were very serious today and their eyes were focused on me. I was telling the story of Peter’s lies when he denied knowing Jesus. I told them how sad Peter was after his lies, and that the Bible says he cried because of his sorrow. And then we talked about how Peter may have felt that Jesus couldn’t possibly love him anymore because of his lies—his sin. I could tell that the kids identified with this feeling. I think they’ve all experienced the fear of being unloved because of their wrong actions.

The look on the kids’ faces made me wonder how many of them have been told that they are bad when they do something wrong or when they disobey. The Big Question of our story today was “When I sin, does that mean I’m bad?” I was so glad to be able to tell these precious young children the Big Answer: “Because God loves you so much, when you sin you can ask God to forgive you and He will! Our wrong actions can be called “bad,” but you, a child in God’s family, are not bad. God will always love you, and He will help you do what’s right.”

One of the best parts of the class came at the end. Parents trickled in, one by one, so that I had time to give each one a recap of the Big Question and the Big Answer. I’m praying that parents can use these same words and assurances of God’s love as they guide and direct their kids in following Jesus.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Every Day of the Week

“When are some times you hear Bible stories?” I asked my preschool class last Sunday. One young girl quickly responded by shaking her head and saying, “I don’t really do that very much.” I was saddened at the reply, but at the same time very grateful for her honest response.

“How many of you have a Bible at home that’s just your own?” I asked.

Every child replied with “I do.” Some eager children even started trying to top the others by saying, “I have three Bibles.” “Well, I have five Bibles!” Trying to get a word in, I said, “That’s great! I’m glad you have so many Bibles at your house. And do you know what you can do? Every night before you go to bed, you can ask your mom or dad to read a story from the Bible to you. Bedtime is a great time to read God’s words to us.” And then I asked, “What do we do every Sunday at church together?” They all got the answer to that question: “We hear Bible stories!”

This conversation reminded me of several things:

• Encouraging kids and welcoming them to Sunday School is so important because it just might be the only time during the whole week when they hear the words of God in Bible stories and verses.

• Parents still struggle with finding time in their lives to communicate and teach Bible truths.

God's Story for Me Bible Storybook

I want to take advantage of every opportunity to share God’s Word with kids and parents. That’s why I give a copy of God’s Story for Me Bible Storybook to kids who don’t have a Bible. I love that every story ends with a Connection Circle—words for parents to say about how the story connects to a child’s daily life.

This week, I think I’ll pray for each child in my class and ask God to bring His Word into the hearts and minds of each family—on Sundays and every day of the week!

Who's That Sharing?

“But Teacher, I don’t even want him SITTING by my castle!”
“Look, he’s only (long pause while the distance is estimated) 11 inches away from MY castle.”

Right there in the block corner, two boys were focused more on keeping each other away from their buildings than they were on actually building their structures. Both of these boys have been told by parents and teachers alike to share their toys, share their snacks, share the cars and trucks, share the crayons—well, you get the idea!

We all know that learning to share isn’t something that comes naturally to a young child. So how do we as teachers of preschoolers handle this dilemma? And how do we connect the sharing struggles with the lessons we are teaching?

First of all, I recognize that a child isn’t “bad” because he or she isn’t an expert at sharing. (After all, I know some adults who aren’t so accomplished at sharing, too!) I try to remember that each child is in the process of developing the skills that will help them get along with others.

Secondly, while I sometimes think I can avoid the arguments over toys by simply providing enough of the toys, blocks or markers for every child to have his or her own, I know that helping kids practice taking turns is a good thing. So when we’re gluing, I set out one glue stick for each pair of children. In the same way, the bin of blocks is shared by several kids, and the toy boats are divided evenly. My goal is not only to provide opportunities for kids to share but to also have enough of the item so that kids don’t have to wait too long for a turn.

Third, I take advantage of the opportunity to teach God’s Word. Today our Bible story was about Jeremiah and Baruch writing God’s Word, and that God’s Word teaches us ways to love and obey God. So in conversation with my castle builders, it worked out great to say, “God’s Word tells us so many ways to love and obey God! One of those ways is to share with each other. That’s what you’re learning to do today. I know you’ll both be careful as you build.”

I’m sure there will be many times when I repeat the words, “In Sunday School, the toys are for everyone! We take turns and share.” But I’m also glad for the opportunity to be one of the people who get to play even a small role in helping kids in the early stages of growing up to “love their neighbors as themselves” (Matthew 22:39).