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Then he took the old book and autographed it for me. Between these two is a third and a larger group: those who are forgotten , because they failed to stamp a lasting impression on their pupils. This group represents the mediocrity of the profession, not bad enough to be actively forgiven, not good enough to claim a place in gratitude and remembrance. To which type would we belong?

How to Teach Religion Principles and Methods

To which type can we belong? Can we choose?


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What are the factors that go to determine the place we shall occupy in the scale of teachers? We may have forgotten many of the truths presented and most of the conclusions drawn, but the warmth and glow of the human touch still remains. To be a teacher of religion requires a particularly exalted personality. The teacher and the truth taught should always leave the impression of being of the same pattern. The teacher as an interpreter of truth. It is only to say that life responds first of all to life.

Truth never comes to the child disembodied and detached, but always with the slant and quality of the teacher's interpretation of it. It is as if the teacher's mind and spirit were the stained glass through which the sunlight must fall; all that passes through the medium of a living personality takes its tone and quality from this contact. The pupils may or may not grasp the lessons of their books, but their teachers are living epistles, known and read by them all.

For it is the concrete that grips and molds. Our greatest interest and best attention center in persons. The world is neither formed nor reformed by abstract truths nor by general theories. Whatever ideals we would impress upon others we must first have realized in ourselves.

What we are often drowns out what we say. Words and maxims may be misunderstood; character seldom is. Precepts may fail to impress; personality never does. God tried through the ages to reveal his purposes to man by means of the law and the prophets, but man refused to heed or understand. It was only when God had made his thought and plan for man concrete in the person of Jesus of Nazareth that man began to understand.

The first and most difficult requirement of the teacher, therefore, is— himself , his personality. He must combine in himself the qualities of life and character he seeks to develop in his pupils. He must look to his personality as the source of his influence and the measure of his power. He must be the living embodiment of what he would lead his pupils to become.

He must live the religion he would teach them. He must possess the vital religious experience he would have them attain. The building of personality. A strong, inspiring personality is not a gift of the gods, nor is a weak and ineffective personality a visitation of Providence. Things do not happen in the realm of the spiritual any more than in the realm of nature. Everything is caused. Personality grows. It takes its form in the thick of the day's work and its play.

It is shaped in the crush and stress of life's problems and its duties. It gains its quality from the character of the thoughts and acts that make up the common round of experience. It bears the marks of whatever spiritual fellowship and communion we keep with the Divine. Professor Dewey tells us that character is largely dependent on the mode of assembling its parts.

A teacher may have a splendid native inheritance, a fine education, and may move in the best social circles, and yet not come to his best in personality. It requires some high and exalted task in order to assemble the powers and organize them to their full efficiency. The urge of a great work is needed to make potential ability actual. Paul did not become the giant of his latter years until he took upon himself the great task of carrying the gospel to the Gentiles. Our own responsibility. True, the influence of heredity is not to be overlooked. It is easier for some to develop attractive, compelling qualities than for others.

The raw material of our nature comes with us; is what heredity decrees. But the finished product bears the stamp of our training and development. Fate or destiny never takes the reins from our hands. We are free to shape ourselves largely as we will. Our inner life will daily grow by what it feeds upon.

This is the great secret of personality-building. What to-day we build into thought and action to-morrow becomes character and personality. Let us cultivate our interests, think high thoughts, and give ourselves to worthy deeds, and these have soon become a life habit.

Let our hearts go out in helpfulness to those about us, and sympathy for human kind becomes a compelling motive in our lives before we are aware. Let us consciously listen to the still small voice speaking to the soul, and we will find our souls expanding to meet the Infinite. The secret. This will include the best in thought and memory and anticipation. It will permit none but cheerful moods, nor allow us to dwell with bitterness upon petty wrongs and grievances. It will control the tongue, and check the unkind word or needless criticism.

It will cause us to seek for the strong and beautiful qualities in our friends and associates, and not allow us to point out their faults nor magnify their failings. It will cure us of small jealousies and suppress all spirit of revenge. It will save us from idle worry and fruitless rebellion against such ills as cannot be cured. In short, it will free our lives from the crippling influence of negative moods and critical attitudes.

It will teach us to be ruled by our admirations rather than by our aversions. Above all, he who would build a personality fitted to serve as the teacher of the child in his religion must constantly live in the presence of the best he can attain in God. There is no substitute for this. No fullness of intellectual power and grasp, no richness of knowledge gleaned, and no degree of skill in instruction can take the place of a vibrant, immediate, Spirit-filled consciousness of God in the heart.

For religion is life , and the best definition of religion we can present to the child is the example and warmth of a life inspired and vivified by contact with the Source of all spiritual being. The authority of the teacher should rest on his own religious experience, rather than on the spiritual experience of others. A character chart. Nor would it be possible to trace all the multiform ways in which these qualities may combine in our characters. It is worth while, however, to consider a few of the outstanding traits which take first place in determining our strength or weakness, and especially such as will respond most readily to conscious training and cultivation.

Such a list follows. Each quality may serve as a goal both for our own development and for the training of our pupils. Teachers will find it well worth while to attempt to grade each of their pupils; for this will give a clearer insight into their strengths and weaknesses, and so indicate where to direct our teaching. Mark each separate set of qualities on the scale of 10 for the highest possible attainment.

If the strength of the positive qualities of a certain set as in No. John Dewey tells us that the subject matter of our instruction should be so well mastered that it has become second nature to us; then when we come to the recitation we can give our best powers of thought and insight to the human element —seeking to understand the boys and girls as we teach them. Our knowledge and mastery must always be much broader than the material we actually present. It must be deeper and our grasp more complete than can be reached by our pupils.

For only this will give us the mental perspective demanded of the teacher. Only this will enable our thought to move with certainty and assurance in the field of our instruction. And only this will win the confidence and respect of our pupils who, though their minds are yet unformed, have nevertheless a quick sense for mastery or weakness as revealed in their teacher. A danger confronted by teachers in church schools. They constitute a larger body than those who teach in the day schools, yet the vast army who teach our children religion receive no salaries.

They are engaged in other occupations, and freely give their services as teachers of religion with no thought of compensation or reward. The time and enthusiasm they give to the Sunday school is a free-will offering to a cause in which they believe. All this is inspiring and admirable, but it also contains an element of danger. For it is impossible to set up scholastic and professional standards for our teachers of religion as we do for the teachers in our day schools. The day-school teacher, employed by the state and receiving public funds, must go through a certain period of training for his position.

How to Teach Religion by George Herbert Betts - Free Ebook

He must pass examinations in the subject matter he is to teach, and in his professional fitness for the work of the teacher. He must have a certificate granted by responsible authorities before he can enter the schoolroom. He must show professional growth while in service if he is to receive promotion or continue in the vocation. Greater personal responsibility on church school teacher. No compulsion can be brought to bear; all must rest on the sense of duty and of opportunity of the individual teacher. Yet the Sunday school teacher needs even a more thorough background of preparation than the day-school teacher, for the work of instruction in the Sunday school is almost infinitely harder than in the day school.

Religion and morals are more difficult to teach than arithmetic and geography. The church building usually lacks adequate classroom facilities. The lesson material is not as well graded and adapted to the children as the day-school texts. The lessons come but once a week, and the time for instruction is insufficient. The children do not prepare their lessons, and so come to the Sunday school lacking the mental readiness essential to receiving instruction.

This all means that the Sunday school teacher must rise to a sense of his responsibilities. He must realize that he holds a position of influence second to none in the spiritual development of his pupils. He must remember that he is dealing with a seed-time whose harvest involves the fruits of character and destiny.

With these facts in mind he must ask himself whether he is justified in standing before his class as teacher without having given the time and effort necessary for complete preparation. The teacher and his Bible. This means far more than to know its text and characters. The Bible is history, it is literature, it is a treatise on morals, it is philosophy, it is a repository of spiritual wisdom, it is a handbook of inspiration and guidance to the highest life man has in any age conceived.

To master the Bible one must have a background of knowledge of the life and history of its times. He must enter into the spirit and genius of the Hebrew nation, know their aspirations, their political and economic problems, and understand their tragedies and sufferings. He must know the historical and social setting of the Jewish people, the nations and civilizations that surrounded them, and the customs, mode of life, and trend of thought of contemporaneous peoples. Not all of these things can be learned from the Bible itself. One must make use of the various helps and commentaries now available to Bible students.

Ancient literatures should be placed under tribute, and every means employed to gain a working knowledge of the social medium out of which the Christian religion developed. The teacher's knowledge of children. Now we know better. We know that the child differs from the adult not only in the quantity but also in the quality of his being. It is the business of the teacher to understand how the child thinks. What is the child's concept of God? What is the character of the child's prayer? How does the child feel when he takes part in the acts of worship? We talk to the child about serving God; what is the child's understanding of service to God?

We seek to train the child to loyalty to the church; what does the church stand for to the child? We teach the child about sin and forgiveness; just what is the child's comprehension of sin, and what does he understand by forgiveness? We tell the child that he must love God and the Christ; can a child control his affections as he will, or do they follow the trend of his thoughts and experiences?

These are not idle questions. They are questions that must be answered by every teacher who would be more than the blind leader of the blind. Coming to know the child. Professor George Herbert Palmer sets forth a great truth when he says that the first quality of a great teacher is the quality of vicariousness. By this he means the ability on the part of the teacher to step over in his imagination and take the place of the child.

To look at the task with the child's mind and understanding, to feel the appeal of a lesson or story through the child's emotions, to confront a temptation with the child's power of will and self-control—this ability is the beginning of wisdom for those who would understand childhood. The teacher must first of all, therefore, be a sympathetic investigator in the laboratory of child life.

Not only in the Sunday school, but daily, he must observe, study, seek to interpret children. Nor should the teacher of religion neglect the books on the child and his religion. Many investigators are giving their time and abilities to studying child nature and child religion. A mastery of their findings will save us many mistakes in the leadership and training of children.

A knowledge of their methods of study will show us how ourselves more intelligently to study childhood. Comprehension of the principles they represent, coupled with the results of our own direct interpretation of children, will convince us that, while each child differs from every other, certain fundamental laws apply to all childhood. It is the teacher's task and privilege to master these laws. Knowledge of technique.

True, there are those who claim that anyone who knows a thing can teach it; but often the teacher who makes such a claim is himself the best refutation of its validity when he comes before his class. Probably most of us have known eminent specialists in their field of learning who were but indifferent teachers. It is not that they knew too much about their subjects, but that they had not mastered the art of its presentation to others. The class hour is the teacher's great opportunity. His final measure as a teacher is taken as he stands before his class in the recitation. Here he succeeds or fails.

In fact, here the whole system of religious education succeeds or fails. For it is in this hour, where the teacher meets his pupils face to face and mind to mind, that all else culminates. It is for this hour that the Sunday school is organized, the classrooms provided, and the lesson material prepared. It is in this hour that the teacher succeeds in kindling the interest, stirring the thought and feeling, and grounding the loyalty of his class.

Or, failing in this, it is in the recitation hour that the teacher leaves the spiritual life of the child untouched by his contact with the Sunday school and so defeats its whole intent and purpose. The teacher of religion should therefore ask himself: "What is my craftsmanship in instruction? Do I know how to present this material so that it will take hold upon my class? Do I know the technique of the recitation hour, and the principles of good teaching?

Have I read what the scholars have written and what the experience of others has to teach me. Have I definitely planned and sought for skill? Is my work in the classroom the best that I can make it? He must continually grow in knowledge and in teaching power. There is no possibility of becoming "prepared" through the reading of certain books and the pursuit of certain courses of study and then having this preparation serve without further growth. The famous Dr.

Arnold, an insatiable student until the day of his death, when asked why he found it necessary to prepare for each day's lessons, said he preferred that his pupils "should drink from a running stream rather than from a stagnant pool. The churches of each community should unite in providing a school for teacher training.

Where the community training school cannot be organized, individual churches should organize training classes for their teachers. Such schools and classes have been provided in hundreds of places, and the movement is rapidly spreading. Wherever such opportunities are available the best church school teachers are flocking to the classes and giving the time and effort necessary to prepare for better service. Even where no organized training classes are at present available, the earnest teacher can gain much help from following an organized course of reading in such lines as those just given.

Excellent texts are available in most of these fields. The reward. It is all worth while. Some make the mistake of charging against their task all the time, effort and devotion that go into preparing themselves as teachers of religion. But this is a false philosophy. For a great work greatly performed leaves the stamp of its greatness on the worker. All that we do toward making out of ourselves better teachers of childhood adds to our own spiritual equipment.

All the study, prayer, and consecration we give to our work for the children returns a hundredfold to us in a richer experience and a larger capacity for service. Recall several teachers whom you remember best from your own pupil days, and see whether you can estimate the qualities in their character or teaching which are responsible for the lasting impression. Are you able to determine from the character chart which are your strongest qualities?

Which are your weakest qualities? Just what methods are you planning to use to improve your personality? In thinking of your class, are you able to judge in connection with different ones on what qualities of character they most need help?


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  • Are you definitely seeking to help on these points in your teaching? Do you think that church-school teachers could pass as good an examination on what they undertake to teach as day-school teachers? Are the standards too high for day-school teachers? Are they high enough for church-school teachers? Have you seen Sunday-school teachers at work who evidently did not know their Bibles? Have you seen others who seemed to know their Bibles but who were ignorant of childhood? Have you seen others whose technique of teaching might have been improved by a little careful study and preparation?

    Are you willing to apply these three tests to yourself? Hyde, The Teacher's Philosophy. Slattery, Living Teachers. Horne, The Teacher as Artist. When we teach John grammar or the Bible we teach grammar or the Bible , of course; but we also teach John. And the greater of these two objectives is John. It is easy enough to attain the lesser of the objectives. Anyone of fair intelligence can master a given amount of subject matter and present it to a class; but it is a far more difficult thing to understand the child—to master the inner secrets of the mind, the heart, and the springs of action of the learner.

    Who can measure the potentialities that lie hidden in the soul of a child! Just as the acorn contains the whole of the great oak tree enfolded in its heart, so the child-life has hidden in it all the powers of heart and mind which later reach full fruition. Nothing is created through the process of growth and development.

    Education is but a process of unfolding and bringing into action the powers and capacities with which the life at the beginning was endowed by its Creator. Nature has through heredity endowed him with infinite possibilities. But these are but promises; they are still in embryonic form. The powers of mind and soul at first lie dormant, waiting for the awakening that comes through the touch of the world about and for the enlightenment that comes through instruction.

    Given just the right touch at the opportune moment, and these potential powers spring into dynamic abilities, a blessing to their possessor and to the world they serve. Left without the right training, or allowed to turn in wrong directions, and these infinite capacities for good may become instruments for evil, a curse to the one who owns them and a blight to those against whom they are directed. Children the bearers of spiritual culture. Before this all other enterprises and obligations must give way, no matter what their importance. It is at this point that civilization succeeds or fails.

    Suppose that for a single generation our children should, through some inconceivable stroke of fate, refuse to open their minds to instruction—suppose they should refuse to learn our science, our religion, our literature, and all the rest of the culture which the human race has bought at so high a price of sacrifice and suffering. Suppose they should turn deaf ears to the appeal of art, and reject the claims of morality, and refuse the lessons of Christianity and the Bible. Where then would all our boasted progress be? Where would our religion be? Where would modern civilization be?

    All would revert to primitive barbarism, through the failure of this one generation, and the race would be obliged to start anew the long climb toward the mountain top of spiritual freedom. Each generation must therefore create anew in its own life and experience the spiritual culture of the race.

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    Each child that comes to us for instruction, weak, ignorant, and helpless though he be, is charged with his part in the great program God has marked out for man to achieve. Each of these little ones is the bearer of an immortal soul, whose destiny it is to take its quality and form from the life it lives among its fellows. And ours is the dread and fascinating responsibility for a time to be the mentor and guide of this celestial being. Ours it is to deal with the infinite possibilities of child-life, and to have a hand in forming the character that this immortal soul will take.

    Ours it is to have the thrilling experience of experimenting in the making of a destiny! Childhood's capacity for growth. For the child's earliest impressions are the most lasting, and the earliest influences that act upon his life are the most powerful in determining its outcome. Remember that the babe, starting at birth with nothing, has in a few years learned speech, become acquainted with much of his immediate world, formed many habits which will follow him through life, and established the beginnings of permanent character and disposition.

    Remember the indelible impression of the bedside prayers of your mother, of the earliest words of counsel of your father, of the influence of a loved teacher, and then know that other children are to-day receiving their impressions from us, their parents and teachers. Consider for a moment the child as he comes to us for instruction. We no longer insist with the older theologies that he is completely under the curse of "original sin," nor do we believe with certain sentimentalists that he comes "trailing clouds of glory. We know that at the beginning the child is sinless, pure of heart, his life undefiled.

    To know this is enough to show us our part. This is to lead the child aright until he is old enough to follow the right path of his own accord, to ground him in the motives and habits that tend to right living, and so to turn his mind, heart, and will to God that his whole being seeks accord with the Infinite. Religious conservation. This does not mean that the child will never do wrong, nor commit sin. It does not mean that the youth will not, when the age of choice has come, make a personal decision for Christ and consecrate his life anew to Christ's service.

    It means, rather, that the whole attitude of mind, and the complete trend of life of the child will be religious. It means that the original purity of innocence will grow into a conscious and joyful acceptance of the Christ-standard. It means that the child need never know a time when he is not within the Kingdom, and growing to fuller stature therein. It means that we should set our aim at conservation instead of reclamation as the end of our religious training.

    Yet what a proportion of the energy of the church is to-day required for the reclaiming of those who should never have been allowed to go astray! Evangelistic campaigns, much of the preaching, "personal work," Salvation Army programs, and many other agencies are of necessity organized for the reclaiming of men and women who but yesterday were children in our homes and church schools, and plastic to our training.

    What a tragic waste of energy! Should we not be able more successfully to carry out the Master's injunction, " Feed my lambs "? The child-Christian. Indeed, the child ought to be the objective of the work of the whole church. The saving of its children from wandering outside the fold is the supreme duty and the strategic opportunity of the church, standing out above all other claims whatever.

    We are in some danger of forgetting that when Jesus wanted to show his disciples the standard of an ideal Christian he "took a child and set him in the midst of them. The recent report of a series of special religious meetings states that there were a certain number of conversions " exclusive of children ," the implication being that the really important results were in the decisions of the adults.

    The same point of view was revealed when a church official remarked after the reception of a large group of new members, "It was an inspiring sight, except that there were so few adults! He must not allow his attention and enthusiasms to become centered on the matter he teaches. He must not be satisfied when he has succeeded in getting a certain fact lodged in the minds of his pupils. He must first, last, and all the time look upon subject matter, no matter how beautiful and true it may be, as a means to an end.

    The end sought is certain desired changes in the life, thought, and experience of the child. There are hosts of teachers who can teach grammar or the Bible , but comparatively few who can teach John. This does not mean that the material we teach is unimportant, nor that we can fulfill our duty as teachers without the use of interesting, fruitful, and inspiring subject matter. It does not mean that we are not to love the subject we teach, and feel our heart thrill in response to its beauty and truth. Making subject matter a means instead of an end. But the true teacher never loves a body of subject matter for its own sake; he loves it for what through it he can accomplish in the lives of those he teaches.

    As a student , searching for the hidden meanings and thrilling at the unfolding beauties of some field of truth which we are investigating, we may love the thing we study for its own sake; and who of us does not feel in that way toward sections of our Bible, a poem, the record of noble lives, or the perfection of some bit of scientific truth? But when we face about and become the teacher , when our purpose is not our own learning but the teaching of another, then our attitude must change.

    We will then love our cherished body of material not less, but differently. We will now care for the thing we teach as an artisan cares for his familiar instruments or the artist cares for his brush—we will prize it as the means through which we shall attain a desired end. Subject matter always subordinate to life. Our scientific discoveries have come out of the pressure of necessities that nature has put upon us, and what we now put into our textbooks first was lived by men and women in the midst of the day's activities.

    The deep thoughts, the beautiful sentiments, and the high aspirations expressed in our literature first existed and found expression in the lives of people. The cherished truths of our Bible and its laws for our spiritual development appeal to our hearts just because they have arisen from the lives of countless thousands, and so have the reality of living experience.

    There is, therefore, no abstract truth for truth's sake. Just as all our culture material—our science, our literature, our body of religious truth—had its rise out of the experience of men engaged in the great business of living, so all this material must go back to life for its meaning and significance.

    The science we teach in our schools attains its end, not when it is learned as a group of facts, but when it has been set at work by those who learn it to the end that they live better, happier, and more fruitful lives. The literature we offer our children has fulfilled its purpose, not when they have studied the mechanism of its structure, read its pages, or committed to memory its lines, but when its glowing ideals and high aspirations have been realized in the lives of those who learn it. And so this also holds for the Bible and its religious truth. Its rich lessons full of beautiful meaning may be recited and its choicest verses stored in the memory and still be barren of results, except as they are put to the test and find expression in living experience.

    The only true test of learning a thing is whether the learner lives it. The only true test of the value of what one learns is the extent to which it affects his daily life. The value of our teaching is therefore always to be measured by the degree to which it finds expression in the lives of our pupils. John , not grammar nor even the Bible , is the true objective of our teaching.

    This truth is brought out in a conversation that occurred between an old schoolmaster and his friend, a business man. The true objective saves from the rut of routine. The schoolmaster answered that such was the case. The schoolmaster admitted that it was so. How do you live through the sameness and grind?

    The matter I teach may become familiar. It may have lost the first thrill of novelty. But the boys and girls are always new ; their hearts and minds are always fresh and inviting; their lives are always open to new impressions, and their feet ready to be turned in new directions. The old subject matter is but the means by which I work upon this living material that comes to my classroom from day to day.

    I should no more think of growing tired of it than the musician would think of growing tired of his violin. Unsafe measures of success. It is possible to teach many facts which play no part in shaping the ideals, quickening the enthusiasms, or directing the conduct. And all mental material which lies dead and unused is but so much rubbish and lumber of the mind.

    It plays no part in the child's true education, and it dulls the edge of the learner's interest and his enjoyment of the school and its instruction. It is possible to have the younger children in our Sunday schools from week to week and still fail to secure sufficient hold on them so that they continue to come after they have reached the age of deciding for themselves. The proof of this is all too evident in the relatively small proportion of youth in our church-school classes between the ages of fifteen and twenty-five.

    It is possible to offer the child lessons from the Bible throughout all the years of childhood, and yet fail to ground sufficient interest in the Bible or religion so that in later years the man or woman naturally turns to the Bible for guidance or comfort, and fails to make religion the determining principle of the life.

    The child the only true measure of success. Let us never be proud nor satisfied that we have taught our class so much subject matter —so many facts, maxims, or lessons of whatever kind. We shall need to teach them all these things, and teach them well. But we must inquire further. We must ask, What have these things done for the boys and girls of my class? What has been the outcome of my teaching? How much effect has it had in life, character, conduct? In how far are my pupils different for having been in my class, and for the lessons I have taught them?

    In how far have I accomplished the true objective of my teaching? Let us never feel secure merely because the children are found in the Sunday school, and because the statistical reports show increase in numbers and in average attendance. These things are all well; without them we cannot do the work which the church should do for its children.

    But these are but the externals, the outward signs. We must still inquire what real influence the school is having on the growing spiritual life of its children. We must ask what part our instruction is having in the making of Christians. We must measure all our success in terms of the child's response to our efforts.

    We must realize that we have failed except as we have caused the child's spiritual nature to unfold and his character to grow toward the Christ ideal. As you think of your own teaching, are you able to decide whether you have been sufficiently clear in your objective? Have you rather assumed that if you presented the lessons as they came the results must of necessity follow, or have you been alive to the real effects on your pupils? Are you able to discover definite changes that are working out in the lives of your pupils from month to month as you have them under your instruction?

    Are they more reverent, more truthful, more sure against temptation, increasingly conscious of God in their lives? What other effects might you look for? Do you think that the church is in some degree overlooking its most strategic opportunity in not providing more efficiently for the religious education of its children? If more attention were given to religious nurture of children, would the problems of evangelism be less pressing, and a larger proportion of adults found in the church?

    What can the church school do to help? What can your class do? Do you love the matter that you seek to teach the children? Do you love it for what it means to you, or for what through it you can do for them? Do you look upon the material you teach truly as a means and not as an end? Are you teaching subject matter or children?

    Do you feel the real worth and dignity of childhood? Do you sometimes stop to remember that the ignorant child before you to-day may become the Phillips Brooks, the Henry Ward Beecher, the Livingstone, the Frances Willard, the Luther of to-morrow?

    Our Objective

    Do you realize the responsibility that one takes upon himself when he undertakes to guide the development of a life? Can you now make a statement of the measures that you will wish to apply to determine your degree of success as a teacher? It will be worth your while to try to make a list of the immediate objectives you will seek for your class to attain in their personal lives. Keep this list and see whether it is modified by the chapters that lie ahead. Moxcey, Girlhood and Character. Dawson, The Child and His Religion.

    The Basic Principles of the Religion and the Religious Methodology

    Forbush, The Boy Problem. Richardson, Religious Education of Adolescents. All good teaching rests on a fourfold foundation of principles. These principles are the same from the kindergarten to the university, and they apply equally to the teaching of religion in the church school or subjects in the day school. Every teacher must answer four questions growing out of these principles, or, failing to answer them, classify himself with the unworthy and incompetent.

    These are the four supreme questions: 1. What definite aims have I set as the goal of my teaching? What outcomes do I seek? What material , or subject matter , will best accomplish these aims? What shall I stress and what shall I omit? How can this material best be organized , or arranged, to adapt it to the child in his learning?

    How shall I plan my material? What shall be my plan or method of presentation of this material to make it achieve its purpose? What of my technique of instruction?


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    We might primarily feel fond of the people themselves, try to appear congenial to them, or commit the mistake of preference when determining the priority of the seats we spare for people in the world of our heart. All such things actually contradict the principles of Islamic Theology.

    Hence, it is praiseworthy behavior to find a means of relation with everyone in consideration of where they stand, establishing a relationship with them and letting them reach you as well. The heroes of love and tolerance who dispersed from Anatolia to the four corners of the world encounter and interact with people raised in different cultural environments.

    They need to have good background knowledge of the people prior to interacting with them. Another point that calls for scrupulousness regarding this issue is to avoid acting contrary to Islamic Theology for the sake of gaining the heart of the person addressed and seeming more amicable. For example, once a Companion and a Jewish man were arguing about whether Prophet Moses was more superior or the noble Prophet and the Companion slapped the man. I will not know whether Moses also fell unconscious and got up before me, or whether God exempted him from that stroke.

    Another point of consideration here is to avoid provoking reactions from people. We must avoid like the plague every kind of attitude and behavior that would reflect Muslims as being petty and simple. It is necessary to organize seminars to learn these two main sources of the religion and the principles they established, and to educate people properly about this issue.

    Otherwise, for the sake of explaining the religion to others, some may be clumsy or make certain mistakes that contradict the principles of Islamic Theology. Satan might misguide such a person sometimes by means of extraordinary happenings, and sometimes by whispering certain things into his ear; he might thus cause that person to fall for some ten wrongs besides one truth, and tempt that person toward different kinds of deviation.

    However, a person who is well-equipped with knowledge of Islamic Theology will be aware that he is not reinforced by Divine revelation. If it conforms with the Word of God, the authenticated Tradition of the noble Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, or the essentials established by the righteous figures of the early generations, then he welcomes it with feelings of gratitude and thankfulness.

    Otherwise, he does not credit any of these. In this regard, it is dangerous for those who do not have knowledge of Islamic Theology to assume the position of a spiritual guide. According to Sheikh al-Naqshbandi, it is not possible for a person who has not mastered Islamic disciplines to be assigned as a spiritual guide. In earlier times, these qualifications were sought in those who were assigned as spiritual guides and teachers of truths. Those who were not equipped with the necessary scholarly knowledge were not assigned to this duty. In our time however, considerations such as continuing the existence of Sufi lodges and not letting those who gathered around these establishments disperse has led to the authorization of people who are not erudite in religious disciplines and who are not eligible for this responsibility.

    Actually, this is not much different from authorizing a veterinarian to perform open-heart surgery on a human patient. Therefore, it is very important for those who wish to take on the responsibility of spiritual guidance to be well-versed in the Islamic disciplines, and to have a sound knowledge of the methodologies of Islamic Theology and Jurisprudence. Otherwise, even if they set forth with the good intention of guiding people to the truth, they might unintentionally commit so many mistakes.

    Tags: altruism , commonsense , conscience , devotion , dialogue , faith , Fethullah , Fethullah Gulen , Gulen , Gulen Movement , happiness , heart , Hizmet , Islam , love , modesty , peace , philanthropy , religion and science , sincerity , spiritual guide , spiritual journeying , spirituality , Sufism , tolerance , virtue , wisdom. The Walls around Faith and Islam During the early period of Islam, these essentials were established by the noble Prophet himself and existed as unwritten rules, but they were not specified within the framework of an academic discipline.

    Neither the Principles nor Manners Should Be Sacrificed Complying with the essential teachings also holds true for the issue of conveying the values of our spiritual heritage to different parts of the world and taking from them what we will.