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B. AVAILABLE MATERIAL AND AGENCIES FOR INSTRUCTION AND
Classified Pupils and Agencies
A Program of Religious Instruction and Training presupposes that the constituency of the local church be classified or “graded,” for teaching purposes, according to natural age-groups. The boundaries of these groups are certain great epochal changes in the life or surroundings of the pupil — so great, in fact, as to mark the entrance into a new world and hence to require a fresh interpretation of God and of human relationships.
THE PROGRAM IN DETAIL
GROUP I. Children under Four Years of Age
The Church is not directly concerned with the instruction and training of children at this age. It may, however, render a very valuable service, indirectly, through the home and the parent, offering counsel regarding the formation of right habits and thus profoundly affect the later religious life. Through the Cradle Roll of the Sunday-school, the Home Department and Parents' Classes, much help may be given.
GROUP II. Children Four to Six Years of Age
Children of this age are too young to attend school, unless it be the Kindergarten, but are often found in the Sunday-school. Their life, at this period, centers in the home.
To lead little children to think of God as their Father, always present with them, strong, loving and thoughtful for their welfare; and to think of their home and of all Nature as dependent upon him and as the expression of his loving care: to help them to trust the Father's love and power and to express this attitude in simple, natural prayers, in cheerful obedience and in kind and gentle acts. In short, to enable them to live as God's children, always at home in their Father's world.
The world of little children is the home and its relationships. In teaching them it is therefore necessary to use the familiar language of home life. Though experience is limited, imagination is active. The spirit-world is very real and very near. Everything is new, and wonderful, and awe-inspiring. Stories appeal to them; stories presenting simple Bible scenes, stories of nature, stories strongly imaginative and full of mystery, in which God is represented as a kind and loving Father, exercising his care and protection over his children, and receiving from them, in turn, their trust, confidence, affection, gratitude and obedience; stories picturing the happy creatures in God's world with little children treating them kindly and showing good-will towards all through such stories the little child may learn how to think about God and how to behave toward him. A few stories, carefully selected, vividly told and retold, will serve the pu pose as well as a larger number.
Agencies of Instruction and Training The Home is of first importance, all the more because its instruction must often be casual and unsystematic. The little child's life is lived
in the home and is moulded by its atmosphere and relationships. Through its discipline, or the lack of it, the home determines the habits of obedience, kindness and helpfulness. The parent, better than any other, can develop an attitude of reverence and good-will and train in private prayer.
The church should help the home to make its teaching consistent and Christian, by definite suggestions, through sermons, the mid-week meeting and parents' conferences, through special courses of study for parents' classes and reading courses for home use.
The Sunday-school, through the Beginners' or Kindergarten Department, will provide systematic instruction. Unless very large (twenty or more), the department will consist of but one class.
The teacher, if not actually a mother, should have the "mother-spirit.” A kindergarten training is desirable.
The department should, if possible, have its own separate room, and equipment, consisting of low chairs in a circle, musical instrument, blackboard, and appropriate pictures, hung low.
The atmosphere should be as homelike as possible.
It is often customary to meet during the hour of morning church service; this relieves small children from the strain of church attendance, provides a room otherwise perhaps unavailable, allows the program to be followed without hurry or interruption, and permits mothers to go to church.
By such a plan the Sunday-school may combine instruction and training, in one program, including the circle story, songs, prayers, greetings, offerings, suggestions for putting the teaching into daily practice and plans for benevolence. Thus, each element of instruction, worship and service reinforces the other.
GROUP III. Children Six to Nine Years of Age At about the sixth year most children commence to go to school; i.e., they enter a new, strange world, in which the parent cannot personally accompany the to watch over and protect. He must partly depend upon the child to remember and obey his precepts, and must partly trust him to the guidance of another the school teacher. It is a world of wider and more complex relationships; the little child must get acquainted with many other children of his own age, coming out of other and different homes and obedient to other counsels. His world is full of new interests, new perplexities, new dangers and temptations.
To help children to realize that God, their loving Father, is still with them in these new experiences, to protect, guide and strengthen, even in the absence of earthly parents; to show them what God would have them be and do in these new surroundings; how he would like them to be regular in their habits at home and at school, helpful to parent and teacher, kind to their companions, thoughtful for the sick, the aged and unfortunate, reverent toward Nature and all living things, gentle toward animals and pets; to develop in them attitudes of love, trust, obedience, gratitude and good will; and to help them to express these daily in worship and in conduct.
Children are now more vigorous, physically, and more active. Therefore, they enjoy stories which have in them. movement, action. They wish to see in imagination passing before their eyes, a world like their own in which are persons whose perplexities and difficulties are like theirs, whose experiences they can live over again, in imagination. Old Testament stories portraying primitive family life, stories setting forth the simpler community relationships, stories suggesting concrete and contrasted acts of right and wrong, accompanied by pleasure or pain as the marks of God's pleasure or displeasure, will help them to build up a knowledge of God's will for them. Stories from the New Testament, especially those relating the kind acts of Jesus and his disciples, will present to them satisfying pictures. Stories of little children in other lands will awaken their sympathies while stories suggesting the needs of others — especially of other children - will call forth the impulse and desire to help. Stories of animal life and of Nature will tend to bring them into sympathetic relation to their fellow-creatures in God's world.
The Home is still a potent influence, but must now share with the school and with the church the responsibility of teaching. The church may help to interpret the school and the home to each other and also to stimulate parents to be more faithful and intelligent in the training of their children in habits of prayer, obedience, kindness and helpfulness.
The Sunday-school, through the primary Department, will now assume a large share, both in the instruction and the training of the children. Its organization should include three grades: the first grade composed of children 6 to 7 years, second grade of those 7 to 8 years, and third grade of those 8 to 9 years old. Each grade may constitute a class, unless it is larger than twelve or fifteen in number or unless the class is compelled to meet in too cramped quarters. Boys and girls may be in the same class and the teacher should be, generally, woman, possessing in general qualities and experience similar to those suggested under the previous department. If a mother, or professional primary teacher, is in charge of the department as a whole, the more mature girls of the church may sometimes work under her direction in the teaching of the grades.
An ideal equipment consists of a room for each of the three grades, these rooms capable of being thrown together into one for purposes of group worship and enlisting interest in larger group activities and service. These rooms should be provided with low tables, seating six, eight or ten in chairs of proper height and each in charge of an assistant. The tables will be needed, after the telling of the stories, for various forms of picture pasting and other expressional work. If separate rooms are not available they may be improvised by means of movable partitions or screens. There should be a piano or organ for the use of the department as a whole, and pictures relating to the lesson material or to the themes of worship. Pictures for little children should be the best possible, photographs or masterpieces, free from too strong coloring. They should represent imaginatively the truths to be built into a little child's experience.
Training in Worship will be provided in connection with the department worship program. The material of worship, songs, prayers, etc., may be learned in the class or grade work, and should be selected with the purpose of bringing it close to the material of instruction, on the one hand, and also, on the other hand, of stimulating the emotional life to appropriate expression in conduct. The teachers of the individual grades will encourage as much originality of expression as possible in private prayer.
Training in Service and Benevolence may also be planned in connection with the grade program and the department program. Simple acts of service in the daily life of the home and school will be suggested as a part of the response to the story-lesson. Individual members of grade, or department, will report cases of need to be helped by all — sending messages to fellow-members who are ill, caring for children in a hospital, adopting a child in some far away country and sending him to school, etc.
The Teachers' Equipment for the Primary Department should include a carefully selected list of reference books bearing especially upon the needs of children at this age.
GROUP IV. Children 9 to 12 Years
No single event, like the entering of school, definitely marks the beginning of this period. Nevertheless, the recently acquired ability to read, opens up a new world of fact and of history. A brief pause in the child's physical growth, occurring at about the eighth year, is followed by a new accession of physical energy and an eager appetite for information and possession. This is a period of restless activity, of self-assertion and of acquisition. Life has three foci the home, the school and the playground the two former finding in the third a keen competitor for a place in the child's interest. Here, upon the playground, with all its larger rivalries and conflicts, youth begins in earnest the game of life, with a passion for reality and an admiration for achievement.
1. To interpret to the child his world of conflict as a world of law, an orderly world, a divine world. He needs to learn that penalty always follows broken law, but also that law is kinder than anarchy, that God is just and inexorable because he is loving. To this end,
2. To store the child's mind with the stories of the great adventures of faith, the significant facts of Biblical and Christian history, the splendid