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The Boy And The Sunday School by Alexander of Cappadocia



By organization is meant, of course, boy organization, the form of organization that attempts to keep the adolescent boy tied up to the interests of the church. Today the forms of organization for this purpose are legion, and strangely enough every such form but one has its headquarters outside of the local church it seeks to serve. The one exception is the form known as the Boys' Organized Bible Class, an integral part of the Sunday school with no allegiance of any sort or kind to any organization but the local church of which it is a part -- bone of its bone, flesh of its flesh, muscle of its muscle.

These organizations that flourish in our modern church life naturally fall into three classes: religious, semi-religious and welfare. Other nomenclature, characterizing them might be used, and would be by their founders, but these words classify them for the purpose of our investigation. The religious organizations have for their sole aim the deepening of the religious impulse, and the missionary objective of carrying this impulse to others. The semi-religious are built around religious and symbolic heroes, make a bid for the heroic and the gang spirit, and seek to inculcate more or less of religious truth by the sugar-coat method. The welfare type aims at the giving of all sorts of activity in order to keep the boy interested and busy, and so raise the tone of his life in general.

The religious type of organization includes the forms that may be classed under the church brotherhood idea -- the junior brotherhoods of various sorts. They originated because of the need of some kind of expression for the religious impressions that were continually coming to the boy in his church life. The idea was good, but its release poor. Senior forms of organization were imitated, adult forms of worship and service diminutized, and juvenile copies of mature experience encouraged. Junior brotherhoods and junior societies thus have tended to destroy the genuine, natural, spontaneous religious life of boys, and have unconsciously aided the culture of cant and religious unreality.

The semi-religious organizations have gone a full step beyond those of the religious type. Societies like the Knights of King Arthur, Knights of the Holy Grail, Modern Knights of St. Paul, and others of such ilk have in symbolism sought to teach and find expression for the religious impulse. The method has been more or less the religious type in disguise -- ancient titles, elaborate ritual, initiations, and degrees, red fire, fuss and feathers, and something doing all the time to attract the boy. The result has been and is a play-idea of organization and a make-believe environment on the part of the boy. In his thought it never classifies with his school or home or general church life. It is a thing apart, some thing or place to retire to, to forget the everyday thing for a moment of romance. The mature mind that is responsible for all of this, however, seeks to bend and use this make-believe world for the inculcation of religious truth; and the product is an astonishing variety of results. Most of it is beyond the grasp of the ordinary man, the only man who at present or at any time will do this work in the church; and where set programs or ritual are followed the work itself loses its fire and misses its effectiveness.

The welfare type of organizations has multiplied in the past few years, and their less religious activities have served to keep the religious and semi-religious types alive. The Boys' Brigade, the National First Aid Association, the Woodcraft Indians, Sons of Daniel Boone, Boy Scouts, and others of like type, are in season and out of season appealing to American boyhood. Their aim is not specific, but general and vague: |Something to do, something to think about, something to enjoy, with a view always to character-building.| Their appeal is mostly to the physical and the out-of-doors; their philosophy that of the recapitulation of the culture epochs. Their promoters do not claim that they touch all of life. They seek to dominate the leisure time only, and to produce goodness by affording no free time for positive wrong-doing. The domination is also physical expression, and the mental and spiritual in the boy and his home, school, and church life are not vitally affected directly.

All three types, however, have done splendid work in the past, and are rendering good service in the present as they will in the future. The success of each depends entirely on its leadership. If a leader be steeped in the Idylls of the King, the Knights of King Arthur will be popular with the boys and the church. If the superintendent of the brotherhood or society be human and magnetic, the church and the boy will sing its praises. If the scoutmaster is an out-of-door man and has a point of contact with the boy, the Boy Scouts will be the solution of all our difficulties. Here lies the crux of the whole matter. If boys are added to the church through any organization, it is not because of the method, but because of the worker of the method. The method counts because it is part of the worker -- is in his blood.


The aim of all church work should be the production not merely of manhood but Christian manhood. The vision is to see the boy a Christ-like boy -- a physically, socially, mentally and spiritually balanced man in the making. The organizations used, then, in boys' work should be selected with this aim in mind.

Again, modern psychology has demonstrated to us that all boy activities must be graded according to each stage of a boy's development, and that there are several such stages. In the adolescent boy these may roughly be classed as the heroic and reflective stages, or as early, middle, and late adolescence. Boy activities, then, must group themselves to minister to the needs of each separate stage in order to work effectively. But psychology has also shown us that the activities of any one stage must also be graded to meet the needs of that one stage. Thus the heroic may run from the twelfth to the fifteenth year, and the activities of this phase should be graded to meet the development of the phase. This is well illustrated by the Tenderfoot Second Class Scout and First Class Scout degrees of the Boy Scouts which operate in this period.

The factors of the problem, then, to be considered in the method are: First, Christian Manhood; second, the fact that there are distinct and separate stages of growth in a boy's development, each stage having its own well-defined steps of growth; and third, the selection of existing boy organization activities to meet the need and produce the aim or desired result.

By way of illustration, let us consider a group of boys just past their twelfth year. All their physical, social, mental, and spiritual needs are to be met. The boys are just adolescent and their outlook because of that is altruistic. They have reached the |ganging| period, and so must have some form of organization. What organizations can be used to lead them into Christian manhood between the twelfth and fifteenth year? There are the Knights of King Arthur, the Boy Scouts, the Junior Brotherhood, the Christian Endeavor, and the Sunday School Bible Class. There are others -- hosts of them -- but these widely known forms will suit the purpose. For physical purposes we have the Scouts, for social purposes the Scouts, Knights, and the Bible Class; for mental purposes the Knights, and for spiritual purposes the Knights, Brotherhood, Endeavor, and the Bible Class. To see a boy get his own full development under this plan he must needs belong to at least five organizations; and the principle of association among boys is not gangs but the gang. However, much can be done under difficulties. The Scouts will afford free, physical, outdoor expression, without which there is no boy. The Knights will furnish mental ideals and objectives; for the Knights of King Arthur is the mental expression of the Boy Scouts and the Boy Scouts is the physical expression of the Knights of King Arthur. Both of them, with the Bible Class group, will furnish social stimulus and the Bible study, and the more or less valuable devotional expression of the Endeavor and Brotherhood will take care of the spiritual. In using an organization, a clearly defined idea of the end sought should always be in view.


In all church work for boys, efficiency should be sought. It should also be kept in mind that it is church work for boys.

In all our discussion two things must seem striking: first, that we must at present use at least five organizations to meet the boy need, five gangs, when the principle of boy association is not gangs but the gang; and second, that all of these organizations, with the exception of the Bible Class, have their headquarters outside of the local church itself. The headquarters are in New York, Detroit, Boston, Cincinnati, Baltimore, etc., while the work they seek to do is the local church's business. Further, they have all had their birth in the misunderstanding of the church as to her mission for boys. The church, however, has now a new vision of her mission, as manifested by her patience and forbearance in trying out and listening to the voices of all these organizations that would help her from the outside. The church is awake to the need, but is confused in the method, because she recognizes that no single organization that knocks at her door is sufficient and complete enough for her task. She needs all their methods without their organization. She cannot assume their organization, because it is not of her own flesh and blood.

A boy's allegiance cannot be split up among gangs. He must be a member of the gang. One organization is all that he can comprehend with loyalty at one time. This organization must be also of the local church. But the church needs no new organization. All she needs is activities suitable to the boy's growth. She has an organization that the boy cannot outgrow -- the Organized Bible Class. At fifteen he is through with the Scouts and the Knights, and at eighteen or twenty he is through with fraternities and orders, or ought to be; for, if a boy be not starved for these things when a boy, he will outgrow them as he outgrows a suit of clothes. Graduation from these orders very often means graduation from the Sunday school and church; for no single organization can be conceived, that with ritual and form can bind together the activities of twelve to fifteen, fifteen to twenty, and twenty to thirty. However, there can be no graduation from the Organized Bible Class, flesh of the church's flesh, blood of her blood, muscle of her muscle; and the Organized Bible Class is flexible enough for an adjustment to every stage of boy development, and to all its physical, social, mental and spiritual needs. The organized class between twelve and fifteen can include all the interests of those years, and when the next stage of growth is on, can discard these for the interests that lie between fifteen and twenty, and so on to the end.

The Organized Bible Class is simple in organization, is modern and elastic, affords the minimum of organization and the maximum of efficiency, is big enough to meet all the boy's needs, and is the church's own. Into it can be poured all the activities of all the organizations ever known, and it can be made the richest and best adapted organization to the boy life of the Church that has yet been conceived.


Alexander (Editor). -- Boy Training (Chapter on Auxiliary Organizations) (.75).

-- Sunday School and the Teens (Chapter on Organizations) ([USD]1.00).

Foster. -- The Boy and the Church (Chapter on Books and Notes) (.75).

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