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The Boy And The Sunday School by Alexander of Cappadocia

XXI THE RURAL SUNDAY SCHOOL

The problem of the rural Sunday school is its size and equipment. The average number in the school is around eighty, and the building is nearly always a single room. Some very small villages, near great cities, and even some struggling mission Sunday schools in these cities have to contend with the same problem. Some of this volume will apply to the rural Sunday school, and some will not. It is the province of this chapter to point out the parts that apply.

Everything that has to deal with the Organized Class or group is applicable. The Organized Class is the unit and beginning of all organization. The boy gang, or group, is common to both city and rural district. There is no problem in either place, if there is no group of boys. The Departmental groupings may not be feasible. Usually they are not. There may not be enough groups of boys to form a club or Boy Scout Troop or a chapter of a boy order. Generally this is true. And, after all, it is a distinct gain to the Sunday school, as the grouping that is made by force of compulsion is the Organized Class or group. The chapter on the Organized Sunday School Bible Class will apply itself to the rural school, wherever there is a half dozen boys and it is given a chance.

The chapter on Bible Study will likewise fit into the rural situation. No matter whether the boys be urban or rural, they demand Bible Study that will fit into their religious, developing needs. Perhaps Bible Study courses with rural application need to be arranged, and I am led to believe that the illustrative material should be vastly different from that used for city boys, and of a rural character. However, there has been too much written and spoken of the difference between rural and urban boys. The differences discovered by the writer seem to be all in favor of the country boy -- more wholesome surroundings, more quiet and less nerve-destroying interests, and more time, because of fewer commercial amusements to really discover things for themselves. The average rural boy has read more and knows more about current events than the city-bred lad. The country boy should not be provincialized by his Bible Study, or anything else. He should be given as large a touch with the world of men and letters as any one else. The illustrations used in Lesson Helps, etc., should have some bearing on the life he leads, that the application of the study may germinate in his daily life, else the study will have little meaning, but he needs no separate, distinct courses. It is not a different selection of material, but a different treatment that is needed. The Denominational Leaders will sooner or later be forced to heed this cry from the largest section of the Sunday school field. Until they do Graded Lessons will not gain materially in the open country.

On the other hand, where there is only one group of adolescent boys in the Sunday school, Graded Lessons are practicable, as well as necessary to the best religious development of boyhood. The grading is cut down to a minimum, and it merely means fewer classes studying the same lesson. It would mean just the one group, with a new course each year. The difficulty is not with the lessons, but with the school officials and the teacher.

The chapter on Through-the-Week Activities is very applicable. The gang will get together some time, on Saturday night, if not at another time. The Young Men's Christian Association County Work Secretaries are getting the boys of the open country together for week-night meetings without trouble. |Get something doing| and see how quickly the rural boys will get together. These activities again will differ greatly from those of city boys. There will be great emphasis on the Social and Mental as against the Out-of-Door doings of the urban adolescents. The principle already laid down, to let the boys themselves decide the activity, will settle this difficulty at the start.

So as to the chapter on the Teen Age Teacher! Boys and men are the same pretty much, wherever they live. They may be more deliberate, less showy, and steadier in some places than others, but we cannot admit inferiority or lack of interest on the part of the splendid rural boy. He is filling the big jobs in our cities today, and will as long as the cities last. The teen age teacher in the rural school needs to master himself for his task. He is doing a bigger piece of work than his brother of the city school. He is preparing men for urban leadership.

To make a long story short, the parts of this book that deal with the small group are applicable to the rural Sunday school. The teen age teacher in the rural school should begin with these, and maybe after a while he will see opportunities for larger groupings. The Young Men's Christian Association County Work Secretary certainly is. Inter-Sunday school work is possible by the Sunday school forces themselves.

A fitting close to this chapter is the challenge to the teen age teachers of the rural schools, which Mr. Preston G. Orwig has hurled at North America:

|Every rural school has its quota of workers who are, perhaps unconsciously, limiting their own usefulness, as well as retarding the progress of the school, by meeting every new plan of work proposed with the statement that, 'That plan is all right for the city, but it won't work here because we have so few members and our people live so far apart.' With the exception of the man who constantly reminds us that 'we did not do it this way thirty years ago,' and who, in some cases, is really a menace to the work, there is no greater obstacle confronting workers in rural schools.

|In a recent conference of Secondary Division workers in rural Sunday schools, a speaker was advocating the necessity of recognizing the fourfold -- physical, mental, social and spiritual -- life of the scholars, in planning for the work of the class. The tremendous opportunity of teachers for reaching adolescent boys for Jesus Christ, through their physical and social instincts, was emphasized. Luke 2:52 was quoted to clinch the argument. In the discussion that followed everybody seemed satisfied that a broader policy of work should be pursued. At this juncture a man in the audience arose, and, in a most uncompromising manner, attempted to show that it was useless to promote such methods for rural schools, as the scattered population and limited membership made it impossible to develop the work along the lines proposed.

|Later in the day, two of the members in this man's own class were interviewed, and, in answer to direct questions concerning the above two points, stated that during the winter months older boys and girls, many of whom attended that very school, went as often as three nights a week to a small pond in the community to skate, some of them traveling from three to four miles to get there. Other sports were indulged in, according to the season, and, according to these boys, they seldom experienced great difficulty in getting 'a crowd' together. Frequently their games wound up in a grand free-for-all fight.

|Now, had this teacher recognized the educative value of supervised play and planned to meet his fellows on the ice, as a class, he would have formed contacts there which he could never hope to form by simply meeting them in the Sunday afternoon session. In addition to that he would have an opportunity to help the class to apply practically the truths of the Sunday lesson in the activities of everyday life.

|It would be well for such workers to remember that in some of our larger cities one must oftentimes travel from one to two hours on crowded trolley cars, in distance, perhaps, eight or ten miles, in order to meet with his class. Again, in some sections of the city, populated mostly by foreigners, the Sunday schools are often smaller, in point of membership, than many of the rural schools.

|It matters not whether the boy or girl lives in the city or country, the needs are the same. What is needed is 'Visioned Leadership.'

|It is, in a sense, pathetic, to note that these objections are always of adult origin and are not the verdict of the boys. They, however, must suffer in a handicapped development, through the shortsightedness of their leaders. Where there's a will, there's a way.|

BIBLIOGRAPHY ON THE RURAL SUNDAY SCHOOL

Cope. -- Efficiency in the Sunday School ([USD]1.00).

Fiske. -- The Challenge of the Country (.75).

The Rural Church Message -- Men and Religion Movement ([USD]1.00).

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