The Sunday School and its Work
This booklet is specially written for all who are interested in Sunday School work, in the hope of leading those thus engaged to consider earnestly the three following questions—
1. What is a Sunday School Teacher?
2. What is his work?
3. What is the best way of doing it?
Not only are these questions important, but a right understanding of them is also essential for everyone engaged in teaching.
What then is a Sunday School Teacher? In the first place, he or she must be a true Christian. How can one who is not, be able to set forth TWO of the fundamental truths of the Bible, namely, that the children are lost, and that Christ came to seek and save the lost? A blind man’s lecture on sight or a deaf man’s on hearing would be just as useful as an unconverted man telling of Christ and His Salvation. Let every intending teacher then ask, am I saved? Can I take my place as a Christian?
Sometimes we are asked “Is there Scripture for a Sunday School? Are not the children to be instructed at home by their parents? We have no definite Scripture but we have scriptural principles for a Sunday School and for Sunday School teachers.
In Deutermomy 31, we learn that children and others were gathered together to receive instruction. In Mark 16:15 we read, “preach the gospel to every creature.”
This alone is sufficient grounds for preaching to any number of children. Though a teacher is not looked upon as an evangelist or preacher of the gospel, he could be accounted as such and a good deal more.
If all parents were able and willing to instruct their children at home in the things of God, Sunday Schools would not be needed. When parents send their children to a Sunday School they tacitly acknowledge that they are not in a position to provide for their religious training. The responsibility then falls on the teacher who steps into the position the parent has relinguished, and is therefore armed with authority to take upon himself this solemn undertaking. Looking on the teacher then in a measure as a parent, we turn to God’s Word and find he has the command to train (or literally, catechise) a child in the way he should go. Timothy may be taken as an example of what ought to be the result of such teaching, who from a child knew the Holy Scriptures. (See 2 Tim. 3:15).
Every Christian is not suited for Sunday School work. It is necessary that he have a real love for children. No one who has not love for them is fitted to teach. Other necessary points are patience and perseverance.
The answer then in brief to our question — “What is a Sunday School Teacher?” is “An instructor of children in divine things — a true Christian who has taken the parents’ place (wholly or in part) as to religious training of children.” It is one of the most blessed spheres in which a Christian can act — to take and train up children for the Lord.
What is his Work? It is to instruct the young in God’s Word. Many of the places around us are setting the BIBLE to one side. Works are introduced, more on social topics with religious tendencies. In this way the child is trained for earth and not for heaven. Methods that are not in accordance with God’s ways ought to be very much avoided. Hold fast the form of sound words. Teach from God’s Word. Valuable help can be obtained from others who are fundamentally sound. Seek what help you can.
The BIBLE being then, the textbook of the teacher, his work is to teach the children in a steady and systematic manner, and from every page of Scripture find opportunity to bring the gospel message to the hearts of his young hearers.
Guard against reading favorite parts here and there without order. On the other hand avoid a cold and dry exposition of chapter after chapter, giving a certain amount of useful information but without an endeavour to lead the children to Christ.
The work of the teacher is different to that of an evangelist or preacher of the Gospel. The preacher simply delivers his message from God. He appeals and proclaims salvation to them from the Bible. He does not train or catechise his listeners. The work of the teacher is to store the mind with God’s Word and ways, thus forming a solid foundation.
Again we remind ourselves of young Timothy — “From a child thou hast known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto Salvation.” (2 Tim. 3:15).
How important it is NOT to fill the young minds with confused ideas of God’s Word!
Many in after years have had to lament the way in which they had been taught. Day-school teachers of English History would not give a fact from one part, an anecdote from another, and a few incidents from somewhere else. If they did the result would be utter confusion in the mind of the child. The Sunday School teacher should consider well the question, What is my work? It is not reading hither and thither, but carefully and prayerfully reading through the Bible, explaining as clearly and connectedly as possible the facts in the portion, laying bare the silver vein that assuredly underlies the whole, and presenting Christ to the young heart. Seek to lay a firm and solid foundation of God’s own Word, trusting to Him to bless it. If the work is thoroughly done, it will spring up sooner or later. At any rate the workman will have no cause for shame.
A teacher should not speak to his class from the Bible as if they knew it. Treat them as entirely ignorant of it. He is to carefully and systematically make them acquainted with the whole of the Bible, which is no small task.
Never fail to present Christ Himself. In some cases the truth of this lies bright and sparkling on the surface of the passage so that the child is instantly attracted; in other cases deep down, so that Christ needs to be sought for, so to speak, by the teacher and shown to his young listeners. Such is the teacher’s true work, and on it he can with confidence ask God’s blessing.
Indolence is a great barrier to successful work and needs to be constantly fought against. I am convinced that there are hundreds of teachers who are unaware giving way to this besetting sin. Let every teacher watch, because it can easily hide itself under another name.
It is easily seen that the teacher’s work to be carried out honestly needs a large amount of labour, a great acquaintance with the Word of God, and grace to bow to its value. Without doubt the coming judgment-seat of Christ will have its reward, “Well done, good and faithful servant, enter thou into the joy of thy Lord” (Matt. 25:21.)
What is the best way of doing it?—Remember, a willing mind is half the battle. The teacher’s work is twofold in character: Teaching the letter of Scripture, and presenting Christ and His Work. In other words, Bible work and Gospel work. The ultimate object is the same.
Every teacher ought as a solemn duty before God, before he meets his class, study carefully the portion he intends to read. A teacher should always be sure of what he teaches and weigh well his words. The injunction is, search the Scriptures.
The teacher is not to come to the class expecting that when there the Spirit will guide as to what he should read. The sphere of the Holy Spirit in connection with Sunday School work is essentially individual, that is to say He operates only in the individual teacher. If the Spirit did everything FOR us we would lose in a measure our responsibility. We are not to come with, as it were, closed Bibles, not opening them till led by the Spirit. But in the quietness of our own home let us read over the lesson and look to God by His Holy Spirit to guide us into the right meaning and force of it. Without this our thoughts are worthless. The idea that the Holy Spirit is opposed to order and system is not found in the Scripture.
Before leaving this part of our subject I would like to call attention to one or two most necessary adjuncts to successful carrying out of Sunday School teaching. In the first place, the respect of the children should be gained for the teacher and above all for the Word he teaches. Such respect is obtained by a serious deportment and absence of levity, a conscientious union of teaching and practice, a regular and faithful discharge of the duties connected with the position.
Another matter is to gain the affection of the child. It is true that if you love them, they cannot help loving you. Beware of partiality.
Above all, forget not the mighty power of prayer. Pray often, earnestly, believingly. Try to reach the hearts of the children, not for yourself but for Christ.