“And besides this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; And to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity. For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Pet. 1:5-8).
We Can be quite sure that when the Apostle Peter penned these words he did not have in mind the Sunday School Teacher; nevertheless, drawing from his wide experience in public life, he, herewith, sets down in chronological order definite practical principles which if followed, will aid the Christian in the field of Public Relations.
The Apostle begins with faith without which it is impossible to please God. Now faith is the link that binds us to God, but is unseen by the world. In our dealings with those about us it is the outward manifestation of this faith that is apparent.
The Apostle begins by declaring that the key-note of all Christian activity should be diligence. This word takes on a deeper and more significant meaning in the field of our study when we remember that it comes from a root word “deligo” which means “to love earnestly.” How appropriate! Surely, if this characterizes our motives we will leave no stone unturned in our efforts to bring the children out under the sound of the gospel. Lately we have been privileged to sit under the ministry of two of the Lord’s servants on successive mid-week meetings. Both spoke on the subject of prayer; the one on its personal application, the other on its significance in assembly life. Neither knew of the other’s talk; both emphasized the need for persistent prayer. In our understanding of the word diligence the idea of persistence is found.
The practical lesson to be found here is the need for regular and frequent contact with the parents. The subject of home visitation will be taken up by others, but we must not limit our meetings with the parents to these. The parents should be invited to the Hall. Normally, they come to the Sunday School Picnic. These are occasions that the teacher should seize upon to establish a closer relationship with fathers and mothers. At such times they are more susceptible to our suggestions and more responsive to our invitation to come again. In our assembly we have a Mothers’ Meeting every Thursday at 2.00 p.m. The mothers of the neighbourhood come with their babies, and there are sisters who act as baby sitters while the mothers listen to a message given on many occasions by a sister of the meeting. In this connection use is made of any visiting missionaries or other servants of the Lord. This should be carried on by sisters not otherwise connected with the regular Sunday School work. A Parents’ Night for parents and children alike, could serve as another occasion for meeting with and talking to the parents. This could take the form of a supper which need not be elaborate. (We have sandwiches, cakes, and cookies, with tea and ice cream for dessert.) This meeting should be held early in September. We believe that the speaker on such an occasion ought to be, preferably, one of the teachers. The lesson should be at the Sunday School level. In this way the emphasis is placed on what we are doing for the children. In a word of welcome to the parents, the Superintendent should outline the programme for the year, including a contest among the pupils to see who can bring out their parents most frequently to the gospel services. It is an excellent idea to have the meetings for the month on printed pamphlets to give to the parents on such an occasion. A copy of God’s Way of Salvation would be accepted at this time without demur. These and other means of making the parents feel welcome should be employed.
Now diligence is a most excellent thing, but our enthusiasm must be tempered with patience. In between these, Peter interjects virtue. It would hardly seem necessary to say much on this point. It is taken for granted that all our teachers are characterized by those moral traits that would make us respected in the community. It is needful that we keep in remembrance, however, that we are under constant surveillance and any act that might cast doubt on the high ideals we profess must be painstakingly avoided. Christian virtue is marked by faith, hope, and charity, but the world looks for prudence, fortitude, temperance, and justice. These must be practised with a consistency that will refute criticism. Since much of the parents’ observation of us is through the eyes of the children it is before them we must display these qualities of character.
Up to this point we have been concerned with our actions and behaviour, but a comprehensive plan of action must be founded on a knowledge of the problem involved. Each parent presents a different problem and a thorough knowledge of the individual is necessary if we are to win his or her confidence. The first contact is always the most important one for this either establishes a liaison or creates a gulf. It is our experience that a good listener is never dismissed curtly. It is at this point that patience plays an important role. It is wise, after introducing yourself, to let the parents do the talking, interjecting a word here and there to encourage them. Above all avoid getting into any theological discussion that will permanently close the door. We have had on numerous occasions children of Roman Catholics in our Sunday School. This has been possible by avoiding any possible discussion that could lead to conflict of opinion. As time goes on the parents are won by our honesty, sincerity, and good will. Even if the children of parents of widely diverging religious persuasion are encouraged to come to our Sunday School for a year or more the seed will have been sown, and God in His mercy may use it to the saving of a precious soul, in His own way and in His own time.
Having won the consent of the parent to allow the pupil to come to the Sunday School, the problem of keeping the child coming is often a trying one. The enthusiasm of the child can soon be dimmed by the total indifference of the parent. Every thing that we can do to arouse an interest in the parent is a step towards keeping the child a regular attender. There are available a number of pamphlets and brochures on child delinquency that might prove useful. One by Mr. Edgar Hoover of The Federal Bureau of Investigation reveals that children who attend Sunday School regularly are less likely to run afoul of the law in later years. Articles such as these read by the parents may awaken in them a deeper appreciation of what we are trying to do. While these booklets do not contain anything of the gospel, they do contain good sound advice and if we can get the children to our Sunday School we will get the gospel into the homes through the Sunday School papers, and even the little choruses the children sing.
A knowledge of the parents’ circumstances sometimes gives us the opportunity to display the brotherly kindness and charity that should be our letter of commendation to the world. A basket at Christmas time, or a half ton of coal in a basement in the coldness of the winter has opened more than one door to the gospel. Let us be “instant in season and out of season,” ready always to preach the Word, “redeeming the time because the days are evil.”
May God, in His grace, so exercise our hearts that we will be found willing to heed the message of 2 Pet. 1:5-8.
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It is ever a fatal mistake when we measure the difficulties of service by what we are. The question is what God is; and the difficulties that appear as mountains, looming through the mists of unbelief, are nothing to Him, but the occasion for the display of His omnipotent power.
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It takes very little effort to find fault with God’s people, but it requires very much exercise to find food for God’s people.