Week 64: "There is a lot of supportive video and audio material on the Sunday School section of the The Mother Church website. Is it appropriate to use this during Sunday School? Does it violate Manual By-Laws? How do others use these resources?"

Response 1: Anne Cooling

The questions I would pose in putting together Sunday School lessons in reference to supportive materials are: Do they offer support in teaching youth the Scriptures or the Bible Lesson Sermon without deviating from absolute Christian Science? In other words, how do they coincide with the Manual By-Law that supports Sunday School education. What is lovely about your question is that everyone—the teachers, TMC Youth and The Christian Science Publishing Society—is working from the same Manual By-Laws to support this important activity of Sunday School. And the Father is supporting and guiding our work with infinite channels to communicate His angel messages and blessing each venue of teaching.

Sometimes you may find what is on the websites will just support you as the teacher putting together your lessons, and sometimes it may be appropriate to add them in as an addition to your lessons within the class. The Father will guide you each time. In education, repeating the message of an idea you are trying to teach through explanation and then stories and examples, helps to communicate that idea better. When I taught Sunday School, for an example, we would first cover the teachings of Jesus, then read a healing example illustrating that point, and use maps and timelines to give us context. Then, we would bring the lesson forward by giving an example in our own lives or someone we knew. I would talk about how this relates to today and how we can apply it to our experience practically. The students of today are used to learning by video and audio as a supplement to their education, so this format speaks to them in terms of effective communication. Jesus in his teachings used parables, and Mary Baker Eddy often starts with the absolute truth in her writings and then gives examples or reasoning to help us understand it better. These were the common methods of teaching during their day.

The key, I think, is to have a balance with our use of other aides in the Sunday School classroom. It should not be overused or in the place of, and it needs to make sense and contribute to the lesson. Don't let it take the place of your own work or voice as a teacher. The kids will see through that. In other words, keep your teaching authentic and have what you bring to the classroom be from the right motive of healing and meeting the needs of your students. This will guide you rightly and yield results. These are just some ideas. Good question; thanks for asking!

Response 2: Mark Unger

We certainly can’t go wrong following our God-inspired Church Manual. So maybe it is best to start there and reason out from that. Since the Church Manual By-Laws are truly God inspired and not just something Mary Baker Eddy came up with on her own, it would make sense that we can constantly go back to those By-Laws and continue to get inspiration, even new inspiration. She saw it as a document for now and eternity as she once wrote in her book, The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany: “Notwithstanding the sacrilegious moth of time, eternity awaits our Church Manual, which will maintain its rank as in the past, amid ministries aggressive and active, and will stand when those have passed to rest” (p. 230).

Looking into the Manual the overriding idea that stands out to me in regard to Sunday School teaching is that the Scriptures are to be taught. The By-Laws also tell us which parts of the Scriptures to begin with and so on.

If that is what God is telling us to do, then it would seem that we could use whatever resources become available to do that. Resources will no doubt change between now and eternity. If there is something that can be used to help young people relate to and understand the Scriptures better we should consider making use of it.

We need to keep in mind that nothing can substitute a teacher’s own living of what they themselves are learning in their study and application of Scriptural truth. This is what gives conviction to our teaching. And yet many times we can be learning right along with the students.

I have used some of the resources on the The Mother Church web site now and then when teaching high school students. One time, I remember showing a short video as a way to help start a discussion on a particular topic. I haven’t done this, but I also could imagine using something on the Ten Commandments or Beatitudes or Lord’s Prayer or other Scripture that is from the The Mother Church web site, or any other web site for that matter, as one of a variety of things when teaching the little children, too.

  1. After reading the Question for this Week, and the two very good responses, I am not quite sure that I can really add much to what has already been very well expressed.

    However, one point in the Question did get me to thinking. I was somewhat put off by the thought that one would even have a question as to whether it was appropriate to use the supportive material put out by the Mother Church in teaching their Sunday School class. How could one imagine that it might violate some portion of the Manual By-Laws regarding what is to be taught in the Sunday School?

    It is just this kind of Manual "hair-splitting" thought which impedes the forward movement of the CS church today. I feel certain that it was not Mrs. Eddy's intention to throttle any kind of creative and original thinking used to meet the challenges of contemporary society.

    I have watched several videos of the "Manual sessions" given by Mike Davis and others at various Church Alive summits over the past year or so. They all seem to make the point that today we must look at the Manual, not as a restrictive document which would choke off any kind of progressive action, but rather as a basis and starting point for progressive action.

    This is true, not only for the Sunday School work, but for every phase of the CS movement. The CS branches which are moving forward are letting go of cobweb-like "traditions" found, not in the Manual, but which have grown up in the field during the century since Mrs. Eddy's passing in 1910.

  2. I just wanted to add something to what I have already posted.

    Many years ago, in fact, it was probably back in the early 1960's, my aunt was a Sunday School teacher in Second Church Philadelphia (Germantown). To enhance the learning experience of her students, she brought several maps of the Holy Land into the Sunday School. You couln't imagine what a furor this "revolutionary" step caused. The situation was brought to the attention of the Sunday School Superintendant, who, in turn, brought it to the sttention of the Board.

    It has been so many years that, honestly, I can't remember what the outcome was, but that isn't even the point here. Rather, that a step which today seems almost innocuous should have caused such a stir indicates the degree to which CS churches had fallen into a state of topor and "stale" thinking.

    Thankfully, today almost all CS Sunday Schools use such visual aids as a matter of course. I have enjoyed seeing all of the very progressive steps which the branches have taken through the excellent videos featured on this Church Alive website.

    Keep up the good work!!!

  3. I do not think this should have been a question in the first place. All materials of Christian Science should be used in teaching students in order for them to better understand the lesson the teacher is trying to get across, no matter what medium it comes from.Mary Baker Eddy always enjoyed new technology in her day; we should do the same, technology gives us the tools we need for better and more efficient communication.I personally enjoy the lastest innovations of our day when it comes to technology. Let us have a better question next time. Also I want to note: Dito to the other comments.

  4. I think Brad is correct. The Manual should be used as the basis for progress. In fact, our older Sunday School students expect to see progress, and they sometimes define progress as "keeping abreast of the times," which also means using new CS resources which are available to us. Ms. Eddy would certainly not have discouraged us from doing this.

  5. In teaching Sunday School many years ago, I never used fancy aids. Our SS had maps of the eastern Mediterranean incl. Rome, with Paul's travels drawn in, if I remember correctly, and that made Bible stories a bit more real.
    I used something as simple as a one-dollar bill, for instance, to make a point about man as God's true image. I asked the pupils how they could tell if this dollar bill was a fake or the genuine article. They had to study the latter to unmask the fake, of course.
    I tried to take experiences from daily life, the pupils' experiences, as a point of departure for teaching.

  6. This is an excellent question that needs to be asked because Branch churches seem (as Brad states) to "split hairs" over just this kind of thing. (witness what happened to his Aunt's action). The Manuel is not meant to be restrictive. Freedom of thought and creativity should be welcome.
    Thanks for this.

  7. I think the questions come from the community so even if the question doesn't seem like one that's worthwhile to think about to you, it obviously is to someone. ;)

    I work directly with the Sunday School section on christianscience.com so I'm in favor of using the resources there, as class preparation help and even in class when teachers feel it's appropriate. But I also know from contact with Sunday School teachers and superintendents, that we've had a long history of debate on what can be taken into the Sunday School to use as teaching aids -- long before the Internet appeared on the scene. So it's not a new question.

    My answer to the question is to read the Manual for yourself and see what it means for you. I don't think it breaks any By-law to share content from the Global Sunday School area or even time4thinkers.com when it supports the ideas discussed or jump starts a conversation. I don't think you should make a class listen to a whole podcast though in place of dynamic in person teaching, though. It's all about appropriate balance for me.

  8. I loved the question and the very thoughtful answers. With prayer as our basis, isn't this part of Ms. Eddy's request in keeping "abreast of the times"? (Church Manual, page 44) Frankly, I hadn't even thought of the question, but it keeps us thinking. Grateful!

  9. The issue arose, in many cases, about other materials because teachers were using them more than referring to the Bible and Science and Health. Our teaching comes from the Pastor. If other materials become the focus of a lesson for the children then we are departing from our Leader in the importance she placed on these two books.

  10. Hi,
    Great question, because now I know there are teaching aids on Christianscience.com. Guess what I'm going to explore now! thank you all.

  11. I agree with you Kathy. If the any resource takes you away from teaching Christian Science (and that's most often going to come from our Pastor), it's not a good thing. Also, if you're using videos, etc. to support lazy teaching, that's not a good thing. But I think most Sunday School teachers are dedicated volunteers and they listen before class and in class to the needs of their particular students.

  12. I thoroughly agree with, Anne, Mark, and Brad that using the resources on The Mother Church and other Christian Science websites to help explain the 10 Commandments, Beatitudes and Lord's Prayer, and other Bible passages have been invaluable in our Sunday School. This Manual-based activity brings fresh insights to both our teachers and students in understanding the biblical context and current relevancy of these fundamental building blocks of our religion. We have done this for several years in our Sunday School. It is not done every week but only when something seems appropriate for the current Bible Lesson. We have found it highly effective in jump starting discussions. It usually lasts only 3 or 4 minutes at the beginning of the class and works well at almost every grade level. It might be suggested by the superintendent or an individual teacher, but each teacher makes his own decision as to whether it is best for his class to participate. We are so grateful to have all of these resources available for our use.

  13. I'm so grateful for this question, as I'm all for any resource that helps our Sunday School teachers to become better teachers. Thank you for bringing it up!

  14. Agree that this was a GREAT question. Also agree that Mrs. Eddy would have approved of creative, relevant teaching...just as Jesus taught with parables and examples, our teaching should be relevant to our kids, here and now. Which surely could include visuals and audio material in measured use. Didn't Mrs. Eddy say: The time for thinkers has come?

  15. This is a thought-provoking question. And interesting responses. It's easy, especially with the younger classes, to feel the need for materials that keep their interest. Just for another take on the issue, it's been my experience that it's pretty easy for the materials other than the books to actually come between the teacher and pupil and break the continuity of what can be very deep and meaningful reasoning together. One other thing that has given me pause is that when we were teaching from only the books in Sunday School classes, our Sunday Schools were bursting at the seams. It doesn't seem that the outside materials have actually done anything to boost attendance. To me, the issue isn't one of "tradition" but of purity.

  16. Interesting point Nancy (#15) about Sunday Schools bursting at the seams. I wonder where all those students went? Why aren't our churches now bursting with all those who once attended bursting Sunday Schools? It's my humble opinion that somehow the students didn't get the message in a way that made them want to hang on to it. But, on the other hand, I do know that some students have come back to CS later on when they recalled
    the reflected love of Love they felt in Sunday School. So I guess my opinion would be that if Love is at the heart of the lesson, it doesn't matter so much by which medium the lesson is delivered by.

  17. Hi everyone,

    Great discussion!! As one who is of the generation when Sunday Schools were "bursting at the seams" (See Nancy, #15), I have a few thoughts on that topic.

    First, let me say that the CS Sunday Schools are not the only ones which have seen a great decline over the past few decades. Our local Episcopal church, in Palmyra, New Jersey, has today no regular students in its Sunday School. I have heard many times from the long-time members that, back in the 1950's and 60's, there were somewhere around 90 students in the Sunday School. But then, at that time, they had two Sunday services, with the second service filled almost to capacity. Today, they have one service and are lucky if they get 25 (the church is very small and only seats 100).

    From my own experience, I remember, when I was a teenager, back in the 1950's, we had about 45 students in regular attendance at our church (Rutherford, NJ). My brother-in-law, who goes back into the late 1930's and 40's, remembers when the attendance was even larger, and the Sunday School overflowed into the church meeting rooms upstairs (Sunday School was held at a different time than church). This church closed in the late 1990's and today the building is used as a Muslim mosque.

    I recall, when I was a student at Principia College, visiting friends in Kirkwood, Mo. (suburb of St. Louis) on holiday weekends like Thanksgiving and Easter (when we could not go back home to NJ). At that time, Kirkwood had two Sunday morning services, and two sessions of Sunday School. I am sure that this is no longer the case today.

    To answer the point Nancy raises, I do not think that this decline has anything to do with departing from the "purity" of only using the "books" as the basis for teaching. Today, there is a general falling away from organized religion of all denominations (except perhaps for the fundamentalist faiths and the Mormons). For example, it has become an almost regular thing for schools to organize Sunday morning sports practices at a time, when I was a kid, you would have been expected to be sitting in your Sunday School class.

    So, today, Sunday Schools need all the help they can get in holding the interest of our young people. Let them use any and all of the materials put out by the Mother Church through its Sunday Schoold division!

  18. I agree with most of the comments above. There are so many ways available today to help reach young people with a CS message. I once used a short segment from an old Star Trek episode while we were discussing reality. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZRKz6QS5UYI

    Spock says that we judge reality my the response of our senses, once we are convinced of the reality of a situation, we abide by its rules. The best part comes after that. Check out the link above.

    While I would not advocate this sort of thing all the time, I would feel remiss if I didn't take advantage of an opportunity dropped right in my lap. As far as using TMC materials, by all means, but as was stated above, not to be a substitute for lazy teaching.

  19. I see nothing wrong in the use of today's technology to teach our children Christian Science as long as it follows the Church Manuel guidelines. Mrs Eddy even brought out that teaching C/S should not be limited to her days technology.

  20. Loved this discussion, as I teach Sunday School.
    We do have one laptop computer in the SS.
    Re the technical aspect -- I wonder if all of you other teachers bring in your own personal laptops?
    How do you organize the visual parts of class?
    Just individually within your own class? Or as an activity that involves various classes -- age appropriate?