SINCE 1926 the Sunday school enrollment in Britain and America has not advanced as it did in earlier years. More than six and one-half million pupils have dropped out of their classes in the United States and Canada alone. While the decline has been arrested in recent years, and some of the small denominations are making sensational gains, it will take a long time for the Sunday school to regain its former size and prestige.
One surprising fact, which should be a source of great encouragement, is the unprecedented additions to the teaching staff. Strange as it may seem, while the Sunday school has been losing pupils, it has been gaining teachers. This was first revealed by the government census of 1936, which announced for the previous decade a gain of 93,892 teachers, despite the loss of 2,649,542 pupils. The International Council of Religious Education, in its compilation of statistics between 1944 and 1947, discovered that there was a gain of 613,289 teachers. Whereas three years ago the average class consisted of 14 pupils, there is now one teacher for every 10 pupils.
What is the explanation for this greatly increased teaching staff?
Why does the Sunday school today have more teachers than at any time in its history?
This question is not difficult to answer. The Evangelical Teacher Training Association has had a steady growth since coming into existence in May, 1931. It now has 161 schools offering its courses. Most of the listed Bible institutes, colleges, and seminaries are interdenominational, so that its ministry has reached into the churches of practically all the major bodies, as well as become the inspiration of many of the small denominations. It has sponsored perennial rather than spasmodic training, and its graduates have received a preparation that compares favorably with that which normal schools provide for public school teachers.
These graduates are fully equipped to conduct training classes where institutional training is not available.
More teachers eventually mean more pupils, and better teachers of course mean better Sunday schools. If every one of these graduates who now holds a diploma conducted a training class - and many of them are doing this - one can well understand why there are these additional teachers, and how far-reaching are the possibilities of the Sunday school's regaining its lost ground.
The Southern Baptist Convention is doing a notable work also.
Since its beginning, the Association has used my texts in Child Study and Sunday School Administration, and abridgements of these form the manuals of the Preliminary Training Course.
To complete the six units of this course, I also prepared a manual in Pedagogy. Ever since, there has been a persistent demand that the teachers be provided with an unabridged text which could also be used by the students in the Standard Training Course.
The Christian Teacher is my response.
This text, I trust, will be as useful as Introduction to Child Study, which has now run into fifteen printings in addition to an English edition. The chapter on Observation tmd Practice Teaching will be of special interest to those students who were in my classes when I was Director of the Christian Education Course at Moody Bible Institute.
These helpful young people not only assisted materially in the production of the All Bible Graded Series of Sunday school lessons, and the Superior Summer School Series for Vacation Bible School, but were instrumental, in their practice teaching, for providing many helpful suggestions for the manual on Pedagogy.
In all of my texts on Christian education, I have earnestly endeavored to magnify the teaching ministry. This contribution will have adequately fulfilled its purpose if the all-important work of the teacher is recognized and appreciated.
Our Lord must have had the teacher particularly in mind when He spake the parable of the sower. Here He answered an important question - "If the gospel is from GOD, why is it not more effective?" Well, there is nothing wrong with the Sower, who is the Son of GOD, or the Seed, which is the Word of GOD. The difficulty lies in the soil, and in the sowing of the seed, which has been intrusted to the teacher's hands. The seed scattered by the evangelist is so often "too little and too late," but the sowing of the patient, plodding teacher will eventually take root and reappear with the promise of a harvest.
It takes time and patience to press beyond the mind and reach the soul and spirit of the individual. Only as the teacher thus approaches his task is there any assurance that the good seed will not only get down into the soil, but also will have a resurrection in a transformed and fruitful life.