Every pastor who faces frankly the problems of his church which to a greater or lesser extent have their origin in the home, must come to the conclusion that definite, well-planned action must be taken to improve the abilities of parents, that they may do more effective work in homemaking and child culture. The only alternative to such a conclusion is a despairing philosophy of predestined damnation.
That church is rare indeed which does not contain some families in which discord, negligence, and low ideals are playing their part in making the membership feeble in spiritual power, and sometimes disgraceful to the community. What pastor has not faced the problems of obstreperousness in childhood and delinquency in adolescence, ending sometimes in the juvenile court? Who has not had to deal with the problems of divided homes, of divorce, of working mothers, of street-educated children, of difficult school discipline, of gangster tendencies among the youth? And who does not long for some solution to what one pastor called "this almost insoluble problem"?
We are not to despair. As God lives, and as He loves His church, there is victory for us in every situation. But that we may have victory, we must follow our Leader, we must accept His plans and adopt His methods. He has laid out for us the course to follow, the means to employ. We can expect success only as we do His bidding. Then He promises that we shall succeed.
"Solomon says, 'Train lip a child in the way he should go : and when he is old, he will not depart from it.' Prov. 22:6. This language is positive. The training that Solomon enjoins is to direct, educate, develop. But in order for parents to do this work, they must themselves understand the 'way' the child should go."—"Counsels to Teachers," p. 108.
"The child's first teacher is the mother. During the period of greatest susceptibility and most rapid development his education is to a great degree in her hands. To her first is given opportunity to mold the character for good or for evil. She should understand the value of her opportunity, and, above every other teacher, should be qualified to use it to the best account. Yet there is no other to whose training so little thought is given. The one whose influence in education is most potent and far reaching is the one for whose assistance there is the least systematic effort....
"Upon fathers as well as mothers rests a responsibility for the child's earlier as we:I as its later training, and for both parents the demand for careful and thorough preparation is most urgent. . . .
"Never will education accomplish all that it might and should accomplish until the importance of the parents' work is fully recognized, and they receive a training for its sacred responsibilities."—"Education," pp. 275, 276.
Parents must be trained. Parents must have an education for their sacred responsibilities. They must definitely be seeking improvement in their ability to understand the child's nature and needs, and how to teach and train the child. This requirement laid upon parents by their heavenly Father, their Master Teacher, must be pressed home to them by the pastor, and then he must offer the means for the education demanded.
This he can seldom do by himself, for his duties are many and varied. He may direct, encourage, assist, but he must have the help of fit persons in his church who may be trained, or whom he may train, for these specific teaching duties. And he must have means which the church organization, through the General Conference, offers for this very purpose. In this he is not left alone. Help is at hand.
Home the Foundation School
First let us note the basic concepts in this matter of home education.
"In His wisdom the Lord has decreed that the family shall be the greatest of all educational agencies. It is in the home that the education of the child is to begin. Here is his first school. Here, with his parents as instructors, he is to learn the lessons that are to guide him throughout life,—lessons of respect, obedience, reverence, self-control. The educational influendes of the home are a decided power for good or for evil. They are in many respects silent and gradual, but if exerted on the right side, they become a far-reaching power for truth and righteousness. If the child is not instructed aright here, Satan will educate him through agencies of his choosing. How important, then, is the school in the home!
"In the home school—the first grade—the very best talent should be utilized. Upon all parents there rests the obligation of giving physical, mental, and spiritual instruction. It should be the object of every parent to secure to his child a well-balanced, symmetrical character. This is a work of no small magnitude and importance,—a work requiring earnest thought and prayer no less than patient, persevering effort. A right foundation must be laid, a framework, strong and firm, erected, and then day by day the work of building, polishing, perfecting, must go forward."—"Counsels to Teachers," pg. 107, 108.
To grasp this concept of the home as the first, the foundation, school, most of us will have to revise our ideas of education. And we need to. "Our ideas of education take too narrow and too low a range. There is need of a broader' scope, a higher aim."—"Education," p. 13. The place to begin broadening our concept of education is right here at the start of education. The education of the child does not begin when he enters the schoolroom door. The elementary church school is not his first school. The home is his first school, not in any figurative sense, but actually.
Christian education is not merely the acquirement of knowledge of the common branches, the sciences, and the humanities. Christian education is the work of character building. ("Counsels to Teachers," p. 61.) That work begins in the home. Education begins with the beginning of life. And according as the home school, "the greatest of all educational agencies," does its work well or ill, the aftereducation of the individual is staple and valuable, or otherwise.
Mark well, then, that in the scheme of Christian education there are four divisions: first, the home school ; second, the elementary church school ; third, the secondary school, or academy; fourth, the finishing school, or college.
The home must be visualized as an educational agency, a school. But that does not mean that it must be organized upon the plan of the formal school. Quite otherwise. The school is not the model of the home ; the home is the model of the school. So God planned it, and so are we to make it. (See "Education," pp. 20, 30.) In many respects the professional school is defective in its forms and methods, and its reform should come through study of God's model, the home. In any case, let us not try to put the home upon the status of the school, with its confining regimentation, its formal lessons, and its mass-education methods.
The home school is to be organized ; and it may gain some very valuable lessons from the experience of the day school. But essentially it is to be a home, conducting its educational work according to the conditions and needs of the home. Education does not consist merely of set lessons. Education goes on all the time. The attitudes and the acts of the parents, as well as their specific lessons (which are many), constitute their teaching.
New Courses in Parent Training Offered
But since parents, "above every other teacher, should be qualified" to teach, they must "receive a training for its sacred responsibilities." Such training is offered by our church. The work of parent education which the Home Commission initiated in 1922, and has carried and developed for twenty years, has now been recognized as an integral part of our educational system, and as such is incorporated in the Department of Education, co-ordinate with the elementary, the secondary, and the college divisions, and staffed accordingly. New courses in homemaking and child culture have been prepared, and will hereafter be provided by the Home Study Institute, at slight charge.* This work of parent education and home education will be under the fostering care of the Department of Education, and the secretaries and superintendents of education in the General Conference and in all the various division, union, and local conferences will be in charge of its promotion and upbuilding.
The courses of study may be taken through the Home Study Institute by any individual —parent, youth, or other. But there is far greater inspiration and mutual help to be gained and given in group study ; and every church should provide for this. The local organization at our hand for this group study is the Home and School Association. This is the Adventist equivalent of the Parent-Teacher Association. But it is much more. It is, as its name is meant to indicate, an agency for uniting the educational work of the home and the later schools. It belongs not only to parents and teachers, but to all the youth and all the children and all the church members and all the church officers and the pastor.
The Home and School Association should be organized and conducted in every church in which there are any children. Certainly it must function where there is a church school. But also it should come into existence and function strongly where there is no church school. Where there is any home with children, there is a school. And the teachers of that school must receive training. The Home and School Association is to be made the school for parents. It may have other worthy objectives, some of them financial, some of them recreational, but the prime purpose of the Home and School Association is to give parents essential training.
This organization should be conducted much as the Sabbath school is organized and conducted. The Sabbath school has financial goals, and it puts much of its energy into reaching them. It has entertainment features to make it attractive to young and old, but those entertainment features are to be educational, pointing to its prime object. The main purpose of the Sabbath school is to be a school to train in Bible knowledge and missionary enterprise. To this end it gives the greater part of its time to its classes.
So also should the Home and School Association be organized. It may have its financial projects, in building, improving, and maintaining the church school ; and it may continue to give them due attention. It may have entertainment features, but that entertainment must not be idle and purposeless; it must be constructive, educational. Its prime objective, however, is to be a school for parents, and to this end it should organize a class or classes, according to the needs and desires of its members.
This classwork, with related activities outside and inside the organization, is to be the chief interest and work of the Home and School Association. It should meet as regularly, though not necessarily as frequently, as the Sabbath school. Those who take its courses will be given recognition by the Home Study Institute, but the great benefit to be gained will be shown by the improvement in the homes—in their order, purposefulness, discipline, reverence, and general efficiency for Christian work. So will the Home and School Association prove a mighty power in the hands of the pastor to build the church. "The success of the church depends upon home inftuences."
It should be the vision and the studied purpose of the pastor to initiate and maintain this vitally important work in his church. It is not assumed that this work of training parents, however efficiently it may be carried on, will solve all the social problems of the pastor and of the church. It is one of the factors, and a most important factor, in that solution, but it is not everything. There will still remain the necessity of much personal labor, many individual decisions and adjustments, judicious counsel, and much prayer. "And there is no discharge in this war."
The training of parents is basic to a solution of social needs and difficulties. And more, to social opportunities and victories. Without it, all efforts will be no more than palliative. In the attainment of the great objectives, they will fail. With it, there is a constructive work started, upon which the pastor and all Christian workers may build in confidence, by their prayers, their services and testimonies, their leadership in home and church society.
Certainly the prime need in the problems of the church is sound conversion of every member—parent, youth, and child. But with this influence of the Holy Spirit upon the mind and the heart there must go education in Christian ideals, methods, and life. And that is what this educational means provides.
(One further chapter on the personal relations of the pastor in the social field follows in the December issue.—Editors.)
* In preparation, shortly to be released.