Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
February 6, 1969
NUMBER 39, PAGE 6-8a

Teaching For Learning (XV.)

Martin M. Broadwell

Let's digress from the study of different age groups and take a look at some other important aspects of teaching. We have talked about setting objectives in terms of what we want the student to be able to do when the class period is over and when the lesson book is finished. One of the things we fail to put into our objectives is what attitude we hope will be developed during our discussion and lesson study.

Attitudes are hard things to define, and perhaps even more difficult to teach. They are not impossible to teach, though, and we should have a pretty good idea of what attitude we would like to see develop along the way as we study. We'll look at some examples. First, though, let's state what everyone knows already: attitudes — ideas about things and people — can be formed very early in life. One has only to look at those religions which teach very extensively in the formative years to see the lasting effect of such a practice. Another thing we should note, too, is that there doesn't have to be an understanding of the attitude for it later to become a firm conviction. For instance, the child who is reared not to drink coffee probably wishes he could have it as he grows through childhood, but when he is on his own, he may still find pangs of conscience when he drinks it. He may well enforce the same abstention on his own children, now with much conviction.

The point we want to remember is that we can help form many convictions in our young children by letting them take the teacher's word for something until such time as they are able to comprehend the doctrine or concept being taught. Of course, they should be given the reasons, as soon as possible, because conviction that is not eventually founded on fact and reason is easily lost in the heat of an argument or under pressure of challenge. I remember a phrase I picked up when I was about nine years old, "When in doubt, Don't." My Sunday morning teacher used this expression many times. When we would be talking about whether or not something was all right to do, she would always come up with this little rule. At the time, I doubt that I had the complete understanding of what all was included in the way of ramifications, but the fact that I recall it now indicates the impression it made on me. But even though I didn't completely know the future implications, it in reality became an attitude which gave me the means of testing new concepts, ideas, doctrines, etc. So to this day I can still be guided by an attitude that was formed in early childhood.

How can we teach these attitudes, then? By building them into our objectives. Without much trouble, we can establish a few attitudes that will carry us through most of the lessons we will be teaching. Let's look at a few and see if this isn't the case.

1. Attitude toward God: How do we deal with God with pre-school children who are trying to form a concept of God? What is the attitude that we want them to have? Basically we want God to be real to them. He must not appear as a monster, seeing everything they do and waiting to catch them doing something bad. But they must see him as being all powerful and able to see all things. It is God's motives that must appear as perfect. "You remember sometimes that your Mommy comes in and thinks you have done something wrong when you really haven't and maybe even punishes you for it? Well, Mommy and Daddy are smart and know a lot don't they? But they make mistakes sometimes. God never does make a mistake. He knows you didn't do something even if it looks like you did. Even when you do something wrong like breaking a dish when you didn't do it on purpose. Even your Mommy and Daddy talk to God and ask him for help. Aren't you glad you have someone like God that knows so much. He helps your Mommy and Daddy, too, when they ask him. But he likes for you to do what he says. How do you think your Mommy and Daddy know what God wants them to do? He put it all in a book. Do any of you know what the book is called? It's the Bible, isn't it? That's why we study Bible stories. So we'll know what God wants us to do. God is so good to us we should try to do everything he wants us to do, shouldn't we?"

2. Attitude toward God's word: What are the attitudes we want to instill in the minds of those who are too young to fully appreciate what the Bible really teaches? "Your Mommy and Daddy know what is best for you, don't they? When they tell you to do something like stay in your own yard and don't cross the street, why do you think they tell you this? That's right, so you will be safe and not get hurt. Suppose they told you to go ahead and cross the street, would you do it? No, of course not. Why not? Because your parents know what's best, don't they? Did you know that God tells your Mommy and Daddy to do some things, and not to do other things? Well, he does. "And do you know how he tells them? He doesn't talk to them so you can hear it, but he has written messages to them, and to you too! How many of you have ever gotten a letter from your grandmother or a friend? Well, this is like a letter from God. What is this book called? That's right, the Bible. And who wrote it? Fine, and who did he write it to? That's right, to your Mommy and Daddy and to me and to everyone. Now, let's go back to God telling us what to do. Suppose he told your Mommy and Daddy not to do something, and someone else told them to go ahead and do it. Did you know that some people try to get other people to do things that God doesn't want them to do? Some people will say that it doesn't matter what God has said in his book to us, we can go ahead and do what other people tell us is all right. Do you think that's very nice?"

3. Attitude toward other people: How do we develop the concept of love and compassion for the people that we come into contact with? We need to tie in God's love as the example to follow, but this is a concept that is almost too difficult for adults to understand, much less the small children. So we develop a basic principle and continue to build on that. "How many of you love your Mommy and Daddy? Do you like to be close to them and have them hold you tight when you are scared or hurt? Sometimes when you do something wrong and they don't like it, does it make you feel bad? Well, they don't like for you to be bad, but do they stop loving you just because you are bad sometimes? No, of course not. God is that way, too. Do you think he likes it if somebody kills somebody else? Do you think he would want me to rob a bank or hurt somebody very badly? No, he wouldn't, would he! But would God stop loving you just because you might do something bad? No, he's like your Mommy and Daddy. He doesn't want you to do bad things, because he wants everybody to be good. It makes him feel badly when people do wrong, just like it makes your parents feel badly when you do wrong. Now let's see how you can be like God.

"Wouldn't it be nice to be as much like God as we could be? Suppose one of your little friends comes over to your house and tears up one of your toys. You wouldn't like that would you? What would you do? Well, you could go over and tear up one of their toys, but that wouldn't fix yours back would it? You could say to the little friend, 'I hate you.' But would that be like God? He loves everyone, doesn't he? It's hard to be like God, but what we have to learn to do is keep on liking the person, even if we feel sorry for them because they are so bad. Wouldn't it be good if we could help the person be better so he wouldn't tear up toys anymore? If we tell them we hate them, we probably won't be able to help them anymore. Suppose we told them we still liked them, even if they did break our toys, but we are sorry the toy is broken, because now you can't have the fun of playing with it. This might make them feel so ashamed they wouldn't act bad again. You try this the next time one of your friends does something mean or bad, then come tell the class what happens."

We could carry this same kind of thing on through a discussion of attitudes towards the church and towards sin. With a little effort we can begin to make the application of these attitudes to almost everything we teach. We can move the same concepts on up to the older children and the adults. As we study the journeys of Paul, we look at the sacrifice he made and then ask why he never complained. We look at the suffering he had and see why he went right back into the same areas and preached to the same people who had mistreated him. We study about David or Solomon or Noah and try to fit each of the stories into the attitude development patterns we have laid out. In each case, we ask the children, "How does this apply to us today? The people wouldn't listen to Noah. Do you think they laughed at him? Do you think Noah got tired of being kidded all the time? I wonder why he didn't stop building the ark, or why he didn't stop preaching to the people who were making fun of him? Do people ever make fun of you today for trying to do the right thing?"

Here is where we need to bear down and get the application made. Try to get them to tell you of examples where someone has made fun of them for going to church services all the time, or for not doing something wrong when the rest of the gang was doing it. Here is the crucial point in any of our classes. The lesson is either meaningful and lasting, or just another story in the Bible that has no meaning to us. The attitude is formed by their being able to identify the problem, the application and specific examples, so that the next time they are confronted with the same problem they will know beyond a shadow of a doubt that this is what was being talked about, and this is the application that should be made. If we fail to go this extra step, we probably have failed to meet the objectives we should have set when we identified the attitude we wanted to develop. The trick is to get them to make the application. They can do it, at any age. We should avoid doing it for them, because now they have to still learn to make the application for themselves, or make the transfer from our example to something that actually happens in their lives. If they think of an example, it will be from real life, hence be much more meaningful to them. Give them the chance and they will come through.

It'll be a lot harder for us to pick out the attitude we want to bring out than it will be for them to come up with an example. And this just gets us back to where we have been before: Good teaching is hard work. But good teaching is the only kind we want to do, isn't it?

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