Sunday School Management
These notes, somewhat revised, are taken from an address given at a conference of Sunday School workers, and are the outcome of many years of experience in this field of Christian service. There are certain points suggested in them which may be further amplified, and covered in future articles. The subject treated in this article is not only interesting, but is very important.—Ed.
“God is not the author of tumult,” we are told in the margin of 1 Corinthians 14:33, and in the very next verse we find the exhortation, “Let all things be done decently and in order.” These words are as applicable to Sunday School work as to any other function of the Christian assembly; remember, the Sunday School is part of the assembly’s testimony.
No school can remain long in a healthy condition where there is not good order and godly management. I believe that in larger schools especially, a godly and capable brother should have the general oversight of the school, and be free from the teaching of a class. There is much work to be done by the superintendent, as he is usually called, and as a rule he has the heavy end of the burden of responsibility to carry.
A superintendent should not act in such a way as to cause the teachers to feel they are under authority, but he should take the lead. He and the teachers should consult together regarding all matters of importance in connection with the work. Regular monthly teachers’ meetings are a good thing. At such meetings, the superintendent should ask for a full expression of opinion, nothing being withheld that might benefit the work, and each person contributing. When there is not a oneness of mind over a matter, time should be given for further and fuller consideration. Superintendents must not force anything that might cause disturbance or mar the harmony among the teachers. Remember the word, “In the multitude of counsellors there is safety” (Prov. 11:14).
Eight or ten scholars are all, in my experience, that an ordinary teacher can handle. All in a class should be approximately of the same age, so that the teacher can speak to the intelligence and capacity of every one. Older scholars, girls especially, who are in the habit of bringing younger brothers or sisters with them into the class, ought to be discouraged in this practice, for it tends to distract and hinder the attention of the other scholars. Younger ones are better in the Tiny Tots class. Classes should not be huddled together if this can be avoided. Separate rooms, where possible, are a great convenience.
When it is necessary to re-arrange classes, let this be done with the knowledge and consent of the teachers concerned. Teachers ought to be considered, especially if they have a genuine interest in the spiritual welfare of a particular scholar. On the other hand, teachers ought to be willing to part with any scholars, no matter how much they are attached to them, if it be for the scholar’s well being and the general good of the school. I think, too, that children should not ruthlessly be transferred from one class to another against their wishes, for often they are lost to the school because of this. It requires tact and prayer.
Opening promptly and closing before the hour should be observed rigidly. Promptness on the part of the superintendent and teacher can greatly help toward good order and good discipline. If they fail in this, what can be expected of the scholars?
During the time of lessons, no talking should be permitted among the scholars, nor should the teacher talk with any one child to the neglect of the others. Loud talking, reading, and repeating the lessons can be a great annoyance to the next class, and should be better controlled than is usual.
Children are like a team of frisky horses, give them a loose rein and they will soon get beyond control; notwithstanding, if they are held with a snug rein they can be guided at pleasure. Superintendents should not scold. They should speak firmly, say what they mean and mean what they say. Many children are controlled easily by a look from the superintendent. When the classes are over, the superintendent should not keep ringing the bell for order. One good ring ought to be sufficient. A great deal of ringing encourages disregard; remember the old saying, “Familiarity breeds contempt.”
Reverence during prayer ought to be insisted upon; the children ought to bow their heads while God is being addressed. On the other hand, prayers should not be too long, nor should they be vague and rambling as they sometimes are, for this wearies the children.
No teacher should be absent from his or her class without giving due notice to the superintendent; ample time should be given in order that a substitute may be found. If a teacher habitually absents himself without satisfactory reasons, he should be respectfully told that it would be beneficial to the class for him to give it up. We have known some to be absent for no better reason than the going out with friends or the going to hear a favourite preacher. One who thus absents himself, and without notice, has hardly the right to be called a teacher and no class can exist long under such conditions; it will soon fade away or become demoralized. There are times when one, truly devoted to his class, may be called away without opportunity of giving notice, but that, of course, is another matter.
Uncalled and unfitted persons sometimes find their way into Sunday School work. It is a mercy for all when they discover their mistake and take their departure.
Visiting is an important factor in Sunday School management, and in the building up of attendance. Homes of the scholars should be visited at least once a year; by so doing, interest, sympathy, and support on the part of the parents are created. Absent scholars should be followed up at once. There may be sickness or some other trouble which would call for the teacher’s sympathetic help.
I once read of a godly teacher who visited a home from which she had missed some of her scholars. When she arrived, she learned to her sorrow that an enemy had prejudiced the minds of the parents against the gospel, and that they had forbidden their children to go to the school any more. The children were very sad for they were attached to the teacher, as the teacher was to them, but although she pleaded with the parents they would not yield. As she reluctantly was leaving them, she looked lovingly and longingly at each of the little ones as they stood around, and with tears in her eyes, she stooped and kissed them good-bye. This caused the children to weep bitterly. It must have been a touching sight, and certainly was too much for the parents, for when they saw the true love of that teacher, their hearts melted, and they returned the children to their places in the school. O, dear brethren and sisters, there is wonderful power in love!
Teachers and superintendents should not show partiality for certain scholars, nor should they have pets in their classes. Attentive and interesting children may command special attention; nevertheless, the spiritual condition of all will draw out prayer and effort, but special attention should be controlled so as not to cause jealousy or ill-feeling in the class. Many a good class has been spoiled through this fault.
Sometimes, difficulty is made by older boys and girls who think they are too big, and want to leave the school. A capable teacher who has the respect and confidence of the scholars, and who is able to bring before them the truth intelligently and attractively should be encouraged to take the class. He should keep in touch with the scholars as closely as possible, and if one is absent, visit him at once. He should pray continually for each, and do his best to keep them from evil influence. Every teacher needs to be an example as well as an instructor in the doctrines of the Word. The influence of a godly teacher may be very great upon those who hear and see.
Order and discipline do not ensure spiritual favours, but at least they hinder the flesh from destroying the blessing that God gives; moreover, they help to prevent Satan from stealing the good seed. Remember, you cannot sow in a whirlwind.
Spiritual power is connected with our hold upon God, and success in the Sunday School is connected with our hold upon the children. Both are needed. Freedom with control and liberty with order form the Lord’s way everywhere, and the Sunday School is not an exception.