A recent writer has said, "We have come to a fairly definite understanding that we must take the boy as he is; we must inquire into his needs; we must consider the conditions of his religious development. We must ask, then, of the Bible, how far it can be effective to meet these needs and this development. The fixed factor is the boy, not the Book. At the same time, we are not obliged to begin always as if the Bible were a new thing in the world, and its claim to value as religious material were to be considered afresh. We know that the Bible has proved itself good. We know that it has been effective in the life of boys. The question, then, really before us is, What parts of the Bible are really desirable for the boy, and how are they to be presented so as to be most useful?"
This, in other words, is Graded Bible Study, and, possibly, were we to give a Bible to the boy and induce him to read it, the parts which he would read would help us a lot in determining the material that would challenge his interest. The parts he skipped over would also fix our problem for us.
The writer had a unique experience in his boyhood. His folks were members and officers of a church where long doctrinal sermons were the rule. These had little interest for the growing boy, but parental persuasion kept him in the pew for hours at a stretch. The boy, under these circumstances, had to do something in self-preservation, so he spent the long hours in reading the Bible. The stories of the Patriarchs, the Judges, the Kings, and the Acts were his peculiar delight. The sermon period ceased to be tiresome and often was not long enough. He never read Leviticus, or the Prophets, or the Gospels, or the Epistles, however. They had no meaning for him. As well as he can now remember, between his ninth and twelfth years, his favorite Scripture was the Patriarchs and Judges. Between his twelfth and sixteenth years he was passionately fond of the Kings and the Acts. After that he began to feel interested in the Gospels. He was pretty well grown up before he cared either for the Prophets or the Epistles; they were too abstract for him.
The writer's experience corresponds fairly well with the growing modern usage in Bible study with boys. The philosophy underlying Graded Bible Study is merely to meet the present spiritual needs, as indexed by the characteristics of the period of his development.
At present there are many schemes of Graded Bible Study for boys on the market. Some of it has been prepared to meet a theory of religious education. The University of Chicago Series of textbooks and the Bible Study Union (Blakeslee) Lessons are examples of this trend. Both of them are exceptionally good. Other courses have sprung up, being written and used among boys here and there, and later worked together into a Bible study scheme. The Boys' Bible Study Courses of the Young Men's Christian Association are recognized as such. Then there is the present system of Graded Bible Study of the International Sunday School Association. Fifteen complete years of Graded Bible Study, from the fourth to the eighteenth year, may now be used in the Sunday school. Great care has been exercised in the selection of the material with the aim of fixing definite ideals of Christian life and service. These courses are divided as follows:
=Possible Present Use of the Graded Lessons=
=Departments Years Courses of Study=
Beginners " Four "
" Six "
" Nine " Lower -- A Unit of two
" Thirteen " Lower -- A Unit of two
" Seventeen A Unit of one year.
Lesson Committee Leaflet No.2,
THE ORGANIZATION OF THE PUPILS OF A SUNDAY SCHOOL, AND CHARACTER OF GRADED LESSONS FOR EACH DEPARTMENT
=Divisions Departments Age or Grade Themes of Lessons=
/ /Four -- 1st year -- God the Heavenly Father, " BEGINNERS / our Provider and Protector. " \ Five -- 2d year -- Thanksgiving, prayer, helping E " \ others.
ADULT Grading and Classification and Courses now being studied by a Special Committee of the International Association.
Prepared by Professor Ira M. Price, Secretary International Sunday School Association Lesson Committee.
These International Lessons are undoubtedly the best on the market at the present time, although they are very far from being perfect. Gradual changes, coming from experience in the local Sunday school, will modify them considerably in the next few years, and they may actually prove to be forerunners for an almost entirely new series of courses and lessons. They have been generously received by the eager workers in the local Sunday school, as an advance on the Uniform Lessons, and where they are now being tried satisfaction, for the most part, is being evinced. A great deal of dissatisfaction has been found with the treatment of these Graded Lessons in some quarters, the Lesson Helps being too mature for teen age boys. However, in appraising the value of these Graded Lessons, two things should be kept in mind, viz.: the selection of the Lesson Material, and the Lesson Help Treatment of the selected material. Opposition to the lessons should never be taken because of the Lesson Helps. These can be remedied by the denominational publishing houses, if their attention is called to the weakness or mistake of treatment, and the teen age teacher can give great assistance to the denominational editors by counseling with them.
Here and there the suggestion has sprung up for a Graded Uniform Lesson. That is precisely what the treatment of the Uniform Lesson was for a number of years, and is yet. It is not adaptation of treatment that is needed, but adaptation of material that is demanded -- courses of study that fit the religious, spiritual need of the various stages of development. This much is positively settled.
There is, however, some good reason and very strong ground for uniform cycles, based on seasonable development rather than on chronological years and intellectual rating. In some places the present Elementary International Graded Lessons are being used just this way, although they do not yield themselves readily to this usage. Cycles of four courses for the three main divisions of boyhood, nine to twelve years, thirteen to sixteen years, and seventeen to twenty years, four courses to each period, based on the general, seasonable development of each period, have much in their favor. Thus we might have four courses built on Individual Heroism, four on Altruistic Heroism, and four on the Social Adaptation which marks the reflective period between seventeen and twenty. Boys do not mature by years. Growth and development is a jump from plateau to plateau.
This would fit in also with the general objective of the Sunday school, and is not the mere impartation of information, but the letting loose of moral and religious values in life. The latter is produced more by contact of personality with personality than by intellectual processes. Should such a plan ever be adopted the courses of study must be pedagogically arranged and in keeping with the best findings of psychological usage.
At any rate, whatever be the course of study, the teen age boy needs to have his life and activity center about the dynamics of the Bible. "The Art of Living Well" can only be learned out of the textbook of the experience of the ages. The ordinary tasks and interests of boys, as well as daily conduct, can be made great channels for life's best achievement only in proportion to the dynamic throb of the Word that has inspired men to heroism amid the commonplace and the uncommon, to self-sacrifice and peace.
BIBLIOGRAPHY ON BIBLE STUDY
Alexander. -- Sunday School and the Teens ([USD]1.00).
Horne. -- Leadership of Bible Study Groups (.50).
Starbuck. -- Should the Impartation of Knowledge Be a Function of the Sunday School? (.65).
Use of the Bible Among Schoolboys (.60).
Winchester. -- The International Graded Sunday School Lessons (American Youth, April, 1912) (.20).