The factor of the boy is the more important of the two, as the Sunday school exists merely for the purpose of serving the boy. The boy, therefore, should be thought of first, and the Sunday school should be planned to meet his needs.
What then is the factor of the boy? "The boy is a many-sided animal, with budding tastes, clamorous appetites, primitive likes and dislikes, varied interests; an idealist and hater of shams, a reservoir of nerve force, a bundle of contradictions, a lover of fun but a possible lover of the best, a loyal friend of his true friends; impulsive, erratic, impressionable to an alarming degree." Furthermore, the boy is maturing, traversing the path from boyhood to manhood, is unstable, not only in his growth, but also in his thought, is restless because of his natural instability, and sometimes suffers from headiness and independence. Between boyhood and manhood he travels swiftly, the scenery changes quickly as he travels -- but he is traveling to manhood. No railway train or vehicle can keep pace with his speed. Morning sees him a million miles farther on his way than night reckoned him but half a day before. And yet, in all of it, he moves by well-defined stages in his journey towards his destination of maturity. Today he is individualistic, tomorrow heroic, a little later reflective and full of thought, but in all of it is progressively active, moving forward by leaps and bounds. His needs also increase with his pace, and must be fully and timely met, if he is to reach symmetrical maturity. He needs but three things to attain his best: proper sustenance, unlimited activity, and careful guidance. Given these three rightly and at the proper time, the quality of his manhood will go beyond our fondest hope. The sustenance must be in keeping with his years, the activity in line with his strength, and the guidance adapted to the needs of his spirit -- firm, compelling, but not irksome. In it all the boy is to be encouraged in self-expression, resourcefulness, and independent manhood. Such is a partial appreciation of the boy and his wonderful capacities, a passing glimpse into a treasure house of wealth and possibility.
What now is the Sunday school? In the days that are past, it was looked upon merely as a weekly meeting of boys and girls. Today it is regarded as an institution for the releasing of great moral and religious impulses into life. Of late there have even crept into its life the names and some of the methods of our public school system. Grading and trained teaching have also come into its life to stay; the modern Sunday school is but little like that of a decade ago, and the changes are not yet done with. Some of the innovations will be proved by experience and retained with modification, while others doubtless will be eliminated as worthless for the purposes of the Sunday school in its ideals of moral and religious education. Improvement, however, is in the school atmosphere.
However, with all the change, past, present and contemplated, the school proper has but little time for the doing of its work. Fifty-two sessions a year, of an hour's or an hour and a half's duration at best, fifty-two or seventy-eight hours a year, only one-third of which is given to Bible study, furnish a meager opportunity to accomplish its aim. Compared with twelve hundred hours a year in the public school, or the twenty-eight hundred hours a year a boy may work, it seems pitifully small, for the aim of the Sunday school is bigger than the other two. The Sunday school purposes to fit the boy to play the game in public school and work and life. It seeks to give him impulses that will help him to keep clean, inside and outside, to work with other boys in team play, to render Christian service to his fellows, and to love and worship God as his Father and Christ as his Saviour. The means it employs for these great purposes are Bible study, Christian music, the association of the boys in classes, and Christian leadership. To these the school is beginning to add through-the-week meetings for what have been called its secular activities. All this has come after a great deal of campaigning on the part of groups of devoted men and women interested in boy life and welfare. The Sunday school has had to overcome many handicaps in reaching the boy of teen age, among which were the lack of efficient, virile teachers, a misunderstanding of boy nature, lessons not adapted to the boy's needs, music that was not appealing, and the indiscriminate grouping of boys with members of the other sex. These, however, have been rapidly overcome, and today the school is fairly well organized to meet the needs of the boy.
There are yet some definite things to be written into the life of the Sunday school to win and hold the boy of teen age in its membership for life.
The first of these is the incorporation into the Sunday school activities of those things that interest and touch and mold every phase of a boy's life. It means the allotment of a definite part of the school period for the discussion of the things the group of boys will engage in during the week, and a through-the-week meeting as a real part of the school work. This allows and provides for the athletic, outdoor, camping, social, and literary outlet for the boy spirit.
Another forward step is graded Bible study, graded athletics, graded service, graded social life, and graded mental activities. The work of the school, to hold the boy, must be new and diverse in its interests, and big enough and broad enough to command his constantly changing attention. As his years so shall his interest be. To his years the work of the Sunday school must correspond.
The Organized Bible Class that is self-governing must be added to the above. Better have the gang on the inside of the church with a Christian-altruistic content, than to permit the boys to organize under self-direction on the outside. The Bible Class, too, has advantages over every other form of organization. It has the Bible at its heart, the one thing necessary to assure permanence, and never allows the thought of graduation. Other boy organizations meet the need of certain specified years; the Bible Class meets all the needs of all the years, and is flexible enough to include all the special needs that are met by other forms of organization.
The greatest need of the Sunday school is capable teaching. By it the Bible Class becomes efficient or the reverse. For the boy the teacher should be a man, a Christian man, who has personality enough to command the boy's respect, and ability enough to direct the boy in doing things. This means a comrade-relationship of work and play, Bible study and athletics, spiritual and social activity, Sunday and week-day interest, and a disposition on the part of the leader to get the boy to do everything -- government, planning, presiding, achieving -- for himself. This is true teaching and leadership. The greatest thing in the Sunday school is the teacher. For now abideth the Lesson, the Class, and the Teacher, but the greatest of these is the Teacher.
In view, then, of all that has gone before, what shall be said of the Sunday school and the boy? Each to each is the complement; the two together form a winning combination. On the one hand, the modern Sunday school should meet the boy's need at every stage of his development in a physical, social, mental, and spiritual way. It should give him variety and progression in the processes of his maturing, and suitable organization and trained leadership for character-building and man-making. On the other hand, the boy will render the Sunday school and church his service, and through both give his heart's thought, devotion, and worship to his Lord. This is the whole matter of the Sunday school and the normal boy, and is our vision of the future of the church. The past did not do it! The past is dead!
BIBLIOGRAPHY ON THE BOY AND THE SUNDAY SCHOOL
Boys' Work Message (Men and Religion Movement) ([USD]1.00).
Foster. -- The Boy and the Church (.75).
Lewis. -- The Intermediate Worker and His Work (.50).
-- The Senior Worker and His Work (.50).
Robinson. -- The Adolescent Boy in the Sunday School (American Youth, April, 1911) (.20).