Five Channels of Blessing
This is the sixth in a continuing series on Sunday School work. Discipline in the school and the class will be featured in next month’s issue.
In one ear and out the other! Does that ever happen to your Sunday school lesson? Then why not use all of the child’s God-given senses, instead of just one?
Every normal child has five potential channels of learning — sight, hearing, feeling, taste, and smell. That’s the way God made him —the way He intended us all to function. Why, then, are we so prone to use only one of these channels often to the complete exclusion of the other four?
The Lord’s Example
In His exemplary teaching, the Lord Jesus frequently appealed to various senses, rather than to hearing alone. His lesson from the coin included a visual demonstration so that His audience might see as well as hear what He was talking about (Matt. 22:16-21).
In view of this incident alone, no teacher need ever feel obliged to weary his hearers with superfluous apologies for the use of teaching aids.
In describing His disciples as “the salt of the earth” and “the light of the world”, the Lord used picturesque language which appealed to their sense of taste and sight in addition to hearing (Matt. 5:13-16).
Following His death and resurrection, Jesus sought to convince the disciples that He was indeed alive. “Handle me, and see”. He said, thus calling into play their senses of sight and touch, as well as hearing (Luke 24:39).
The effectiveness of the Master’s technique is illustrated in the words of His beloved disciple, John, who in later years still referred to “that which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life” (1 John 1:1).
John, in fact, used the same technique in his own writings; for example, in his description of the occasion when Mary anointed the feet of Jesus. How vivid and real the scene becomes as we read John’s words, “the house was filled with the odour of the ointment” (John 12:3)!
Seeing is Learning
More is learned through the sense of sight than through any of the other four. In view of this, it is of the utmost importance that every teacher should utilize visual aids to the greatest advantage possible.
Verbose sermonettes are utterly inadequate for doing the job that needs to be done if children are going to learn scriptural truths both clearly and permanently. Fortunately, there is an abundance of visual aids available today; teachers ought to be using them regularly. Those who don’t are simply ignoring a cardinal feature of the Lord’s own technique; He was constantly referring to visible objects around Him as He taught the people and His disciples.
He didn’t need flannelgraphs and filmstrips, of course; he taught in the open space of nature. However, when we can’t do the latter, it’s a simple matter to bring the great outdoors right into the classroom; for example, through the use of objects, drawings, and/or paintings in a wide variety of formats.
Visual aids are useful, not only to illustrate the main part of the weekly lesson, but also to clarify the meaning of the memory verse.
And quite apart from the use of pictures and objects, no teacher should ever under-estimate the value of a child’s experience in reading the Scriptures for himself. When he sees what the Word of God says, he will remember it much better and longer than if he only hears the teacher say it. “The entrance of Thy words giveth light” (Ps. 119:130).
Ears to Hear
No encouragement is needed to employ the sense of hearing; it is used regularly and universally — in fact, excessively!
Nevertheless, its importance must not be under-rated, as indicated by the Lord’s own words, “Hear another parable” (Matt. 21:33). The Father also stressed the importance of the same sense: “This is My beloved Son: “hear Him” (Mark 9:7).
But there are more ways than one in which the child can be reached through his hearing. Simply “telling” him something throughout every session, week by week, can be terribly wearying and therefore quite ineffective.
Stories need to be told, of course. And principles and doctrines must be taught and explained. But the sense of hearing can be utilized in other ways too.
The use of melody and rhythm in singing hymns and choruses is a powerful means of teaching through hearing. Great care should therefore be exercised in choosing good words and music, as well as in teaching them clearly and thoroughly. Children often sing a scriptural chorus long after they have forgotten much of the lesson they heard.
Part of each lesson should include oral reading of the Scriptures, both by pupils and teacher. Recitation of the memory verse constitutes a further means of impressing the Word of God aurally upon young minds and hearts.
Often the Scriptures refer to certain sounds which can be imitated vocally, such as the roaring lion of 1 Peter 5:8. Others can be reproduced through sound recordings or through the use of the object itself; e.g., the tinkling cymbal of 1 Corinthians 13:1.
Some teachers take to the use of such methods more easily than others, and one must be careful to avoid extremes that distract from the main point of the spiritual lesson being taught. Also, the facilities of many Sunday schools limit the individual teacher considerably and make it impossible for him to exploit such methods without disturbing neighbouring classes (a problem which, incidentally, points up in part the great desirability of having a private room or enclosure for each class in the school). Nevertheless, all of these problems will be solved in measure through the remembrance that even while teaching solemn doctrines such as the new birth, the Lord Himself made reference to simple, well known sounds like that of the wind (John 3:8).
Handle and See
That the Lord had risen was learned by the disciples through the sense of touch as well as through sight and hearing (Luke 24:29. I John 1:1).
His power for healing was often communicated through the sense of touch (Matt. 8:15; 9:21).
These incidents demonstrate the important role which the sense of touch can play in the learning process. While this role is necessarily a limited one, feeling can nevertheless serve as a valuable supplement to the chief senses for learning; namely, sight and hearing.
Learning by doing is the principle involved in the use of handwork which is closely correlated with the theme and purpose of a lesson.
Handwork emphasizes the lesson by making it more concrete and visible. When hand-made projects are taken home, they keep the lesson alive in the child’s mind and they also carry the message to parents as well.
When flannelgraph lessons are used, children can be given some of the “feel” of the subject by allowing them to take turns in re-telling the story and re-placing the figures on the background.
Pupils can also be given the opportunity to hold an African or Indian doll whenever missionary stories are being told. This enhances their impressions of the distant peoples being discussed.
Even the story of Calvary can be made much more graphic by bringing spikes, thorns, and a model lash for the pupils to see and feel.
Taste and Smell
These last two of the five senses are not as useful as the first two, or even as the third. At the same time, there are sufficient biblical references to their use that no one should ignore their possibilities forgiving children a full-rounded experience of learning through all five senses (Ps. 34:8; 45:. Dan. 3:27. John 7:37. 2 Cor. 2:15. Phil. 4:18).
The differences between sweet and sour, salted and unsalted, leavened and unleavened, could all be demonstrated very vividly by the direct use of children’s sense of taste, right in the classroom.
Similarly, the actual odour of such things as spices, perfumes, and burnt rags can be used to make a lasting impression of the lesson; the teaching will be reinforced and the retention of learning greatly enhanced.
The Lord Himself was greatly interested in the children of His day. He is also interested in those of our own day. He wants us to spare no effort in teaching them about Himself and His Word.
The only real obstacle to the use of five-sense teaching is our own indifference and laziness — our smug satisfaction with the mediocre and the second rate. But if the latter are not satisfactory to the Lord, then why should they be so to us?
Let us all resolve, therefore, to devote ourselves afresh to the work of reaching the young, not only through increased study of the Word and prayer but also through the Spirit-guided use of all the child’s God-given channels of learning and blessing.
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Many of us are doing our best, and we are grieved that the minds of people should be more directed to our personal imperfections than to our divine message. God has purposely put His treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power should be ascribed to Himself alone; we beseech our hearers not to be so occupied with the faults of the casket as to forget the jewel.
— C. H. Spurgeon.