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The Boy And The Sunday School by Alexander of Cappadocia

XVI THE TEEN BOY AND MISSIONS

No more difficult subject faces the Sunday school today than that of really vitally interesting the teen age boy in the missionary enterprises of the church. Missionary enthusiasts, here and there, have doubtless had success in interesting numbers of boys, but, in spite of this, the average, red-blooded, everyday, wide-awake fellow that inhabits our homes, fills our streets, and honors our Sunday schools, has little or no conception of missions, or even cares enough to make any effort to discover what missions really signify. To the average boy missions spell heathen and a collection and little more. There is no real life interest, or even contact enough to develop an interest in the subject. This is a Hunt, harsh analysis of the situation, but it is both honest and true.

Giving money is not a genuine criterion of interest. I have known lots of boys who contributed two cents a week to help the other fellow, not because it was a conviction, but because it was a necessary thing to keep in good standing on the posted bulletin, and thus to maintain the regard and esteem of leader and comrades.

Business men and social leaders have been known to hesitate in subscribing to funds until the subscription list had been perused by them, when the list of names already secured has caused them to make generous additions to the fund. The Sunday school offering is a poor index of Sunday school enthusiasm. Giving money -- even more than one can afford to give -- is not always real self-sacrifice. Sometimes it is self-saving. At any rate, it is not the reliable guide of a boy's interest.

Maybe we shall never get boys to understand the word Missions. Perhaps it is hopelessly confused with heathen -- a poor, unfortunate, know-nothing, worth-little crowd of black or yellow people -- who can never amount to anything, unless money be given to put grit enough into them to get them to try to live right -- a pretty doubtful investment, after all. Yes, this is the logic of the average boy, due to the information of the non-christian's degradation, lack of initiative, low ideals, and poor morals, as set forth by the returned missionary. Even the fact that one or two folks, by reason of the missionary's work, have been raised to better things, affords no promise of rejoicing on the part of the boy. The American teen age boy shuns |kids,| |dagoes,| |hunkies,| and everything that seems to him to be inferior. He may occasionally give them a little pity, but he associates himself in thought and interest and conduct only with his peers. His gang is as exclusive as the traditions of Sons of the Revolution. The non-christians of other lands, like the non-christians of North America, somehow or other, have got to get as good as he is -- not in morals, but in genuine worth-whileness. If they can |pull off a couple of stunts| that are beyond him, watch his real admiration and interest grow. Maybe, after a while, we will drop the word Missions and substitute another word -- Extension. Perhaps! Then the fellow whom he teaches to |throw a curve| in the vacant lot, or the foreign-speaking boy, who can |shoot a basket,| to whom he gives a half-hour lesson in English, or the Hindoo lad, who easily swims the Ganges, and who is being sent to school by his gang, will all command his interest, because they are partners with him in the common things of his everyday life. The boy grows by ever-widening circles of interest; first, the self, then the gang, then the school life, then his city, then the state, then the nation, and so on -- out to humanity. And all of it must be on a par with his highest ideals. That which falls below meets his contempt. Interest, then, in non-christian folks in foreign lands, will become the boy's interest only when it reaches his admiration and the level of the worth-while. The pity and love that burns to help another is a mature passion, and is only in germ in boyhood. It is capable, however, of great development.

The interest of the early adolescent is primarily physical. Most of his life centers in his play and games. Wise educators are using the play instinct as a medium for his education. Manual training is increasing, the formal work of the class-room is taking on the nature of competition and music, even music with its old-time monotony and routine of running scales in the practice period under parental persuasion, has ceased to be a thing of dread, and has become a delightful thing of play -- a building of houses, a planting of seeds, etc.

The heart of missions is a genuine regard for the highest welfare of the non-christian, a real interest in the lives of others. Now interest is the act of being caught and held by something. It is also temporary, as well as permanent. This depends wholly on how much one is caught and held. This fact is as true in boyhood as in manhood. Further, interests are matters of association -- one interest is the path to another. Perhaps, then, the boy's play may widen to embrace China.

A group of boys, some time ago, were playing games in a church basement, and the time began to lag just a little. A young man, who happened to be present, was appealed to for a new game, and he taught them to |skin the snake.| It |caught on| immediately, and the group of boys grew hilarious in their enjoyment. After a while, however, they stopped to rest, and one of the boys turned to the man who had taught the game, and said, |Where did you get that dandy stunt?| The reply was, |Oh, that's one of the games that the fellows play over in China.| There was silence for a moment or two, and then one of the older fellows said, |Gee, do the Chinks over there know enough to play a game like that?| Questions followed thick and fast for a little while about the boys of China, and the admiration of the boys increased with their knowledge. The boys of China are a little closer, too, to the American boys of this particular group whenever |skin the snake| is played. It is altogether too bad that the play-life of the adolescent in non-christian lands is so meager, for here in physical prowess is a real contact for the American boy. The bigness of life is the sum of its contacts.

A boy between sixteen and twenty years is essentially social in his interests. It is then that the call of the community, business life, vocation, etc., to say nothing of the sex and the home voice -- make their big appeal. It is his own personal relation to these that makes them real, and the closer his relation the deeper is his interest. The social appeal stirs his thought and leads him to investigation. The similarity of problems at home and abroad gives him contact with other lands, and makes for him |all the world akin.| The best approach to China's need is the need of the homeland. Good government here is a link of Manchuria and Mongolia. The underpaid woman in the shop, store and factory of America is the introduction to the limitations of the womanhood of India and the Orient. The problem of Africa is real only through the economic, social and moral demands of Pennsylvania, Illinois, or California. The value of all of these in his thought is the relation which he holds individually to any one. The circle of his interests grows by the widening of his knowledge. The law of his being is to accept nothing on hearsay. He must prove all things and cleave only to that which he finds true. This, however, is the path to missionary and all other interests.

How, then, shall all this be worked out in Bible class and through-the-week activity? The missionary lesson must not be just fact, but related fact. The through-the-week meeting that contemplates the deepening of interest in other lands must be recreational and social. The contacts must be real, vital, and individual -- expressed in the concrete interests of the now. This is the principle. The method must be the work of the lesson writer and the missionary expert, and, until this is achieved, missions must still be but two uninteresting facts for the teen age boy -- Heathen and Collection.

BIBLIOGRAPHY ON THE TEEN BOY AND MISSIONS

Fahs. -- Uganda's White Man of Work (.50).

Hall. -- Children at Play in Many Lands (.75).

Johnston. -- Famine and the Bread ([USD]1.00).

Matthews. -- Livingstone, the Pathfinder (.50).

Speer. -- Servants of the King (.50).

Steiner. -- On the Trail of the Immigrant ([USD]1.50).

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