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The Vital Hour

Roy Standeven


148 pages

The Vital Hour

The Testimony review (from March 1975)

The Vital Hour

SINCE COMPULSORY education was introduced there has been a growing tendency for parents to leave the task of teaching to the school. In academic subjects this attitude is reasonable, particularly as the knowledge of parents is often outstripped. However in spiritual matters, those concerned with our faith in God and His revelation, this is not true. In fact the position today places ever greater responsibility on the parent. It is well known that teachers of academic subjects often betray their views on matters of religion and faith by chance remarks. The respect accorded to the teacher as a specialist in say mathematics or physics means that these “religious” opinions are accepted and make a deep impression. Let us all remember that it is primarily the duty of parents to teach their children the truth as it is in Christ Jesus. The words of the Book of Deuteronomy are just as relevant today as they have always been:

“Therefore shall ye lay up these My words in your heart, and in your soul, and bind them for a sign upon your hand, that they may be as frontlets between your eyes. And ye shall teach them your children, speaking of them when thou sittest in thine house, and when thou walkest by the way, when thou liest down, and when thou risest up.” (Deuteronomy 11:18,19)

This does not lessen the importance of Sunday School work; indeed where there are children from non-Christadelphian homes, as is so frequently the case, the work becomes even more vital because it may be the only influence in the direction of faith.

The author stresses in his foreword that the book is not meant for professional teachers but for the many others that may wish to equip themselves for the supremely important task of Sunday School teaching. However even professional teachers, particularly if they teach specialist subjects, will doubtless pick up hints which will be of value in Sunday School teaching.

There are a number of general principles stressed which are very important. For example, “For a pupil to be known as he is, feeling wanted and appreciated for himself, is an extremely significant factor in the teacher-pupil relationship. It does not matter how old we are we thrive on genuine appreciation … we must ensure that all children of whatever ability receive due encouragement. In this it is essential to be scrupulously fair. The list grows longer and the idea that ‘teacher’ is another word for ‘paragon’ may be developing fast, but there is more to come. He will be punctual at Sunday School, regular in attendance, active in all aspects of the school’s worship. He will be well prepared both in terms of his text, his knowledge, and its relevance to his pupils.”

Specimen notes for a number of lessons are given suited to different age groups and subjects. Extensive notes are given on various activities which can be used to give interest and pleasure. These include various visual aids, puppetry, mime, the use of tape recorders, choral work, and so on, supplemented by a section on details for practical work in many aspects. Much will depend on the physical condition under which the class is held. Where several classes are close together in cramped conditions many of these activities would be difficult to apply particularly if the age range is wide. It follows that whatever is attempted must be adapted to the circumstances in every way, and these include the ability of the teachers and the children being taught.

There is a timely chapter on examinations. Short-answer tests which enable the teacher to gauge the success of his or her lesson can be fun, but the heavier “end of term” type of examination leaves much to be desired. In classes where the ability is very wide such an examination is obviously quite unfair. In any case the ability to answer questions is not necessarily related in any way to the sincerity and attitude to the subject which is shown by the pupils. I am reminded of a colleague of mine with nearly 40 years experience of teaching in State Schools who refused to give any mark for Religious Instruction on Term Reports but would replace it by a short sentence showing his appreciation of the attitude of the scholar to the subject. Much will depend of course on individual circumstances, but there are such things as regular attendance, effort, and enthusiasm which all count as showing the general attitude to the work and, in particular, the character that is being developed.

The writer suggests that the senior children, really young adults, are best with one teacher. Ideally this may be so, however in practice with less than ideal teachers it is possible that a particular teacher may not be fully at one with all the class. Different characteristics may cause strain and lack of co-operation. Here if the work is shared the difficulties may to a large extent be avoided.

A point which is stressed in the section on visual aids can well be extended to all the work in the Sunday School; it is that what is done should be well done. Even writing on the black board should be carefully set out and not scribbled.

Readers will find this a book full of ideas, and it is for teachers to make their own selection. This applies not only to Sunday School teachers but to parents as well who wish to supplement the work of the School in some of these activities and also use them as a basis for their own instruction.


(Originally published in the March 1975 edition of The Testimony Magazine (pages 118-119), and is reproduced by kind permission.)

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