Religious Education in the Family
by Henry F. Cope
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The father's opportunity comes especially with the boys. They are sure to bring to him their ethical questions on games and sport; he knows more about boys' fights and struggles than does the mother. When the boys begin to discuss their games the father cannot afford to lack interest. Trivial as the question may seem to be, it is the most important one of the day to the boy and, for the interests of his character, it may be the most important for many a day to the father. If he answers with sympathy and interest this question on a "foul ball" or on marbles or peg-tops, he has opened a door that will always stay open so long as he approaches it with sincerity; if he slights it, if he is too busy with those lesser things that seem great to him, he has closed a door into the boy's life; it may never be opened again. Children learn life through the life they are now living. Real preparation for the world of business and larger responsibilities comes by the child's experiences of his present world of play and schooling and family living. To help him to live this present life aright is the best training that can be given for the right living of all life.

Questions on organized religion: As children grow up, the church comes into their range of interests. Just as they often make the day school focal for conversation, as they recount their day's work there, so they retain impressions of the church school, of the services of the church, and will always ask many questions about this institution and its observances. Here is the opportunity, in free conversation, to tell the child the meaning of the church, the significance of membership therein, and to lead him to conscious relationship to the society of the followers of Jesus. (See chap. xvii, "The Family and the Church.")

I. References for Study

Alice E. Fitts, "Consciousness of God in Children," The Aims of Religious Education, pp. 330-38. Religious Education Association, $1.00.

W.G. Koons, Child's Religious Life, sec. II. Eaton & Mains, $1.00.

J. Sully, Children's Ways, chap. vi. Appleton, $1.25.

II. Further Reading

George Hodges, The Training of Children in Religion, chaps. i-vi. Appleton, $1.50.

George E. Dawson, The Child and His Religion, chap. ii. The University of Chicago Press, $0.75.

Edward Lyttleton, The Corner-Stone of Education, chap. viii. Putnam, $1.50.

T. Stephens (ed.), The Child and Religion. Putnam, $1.50.

C.W. Richell, The Child as God's Child. Eaton & Mains, $0.75.

W.G. Koons, The Child's Religious Nature. Eaton & Mains, $1.00.

III. Topics for Discussion

1. What are the special difficulties which you feel about introducing the topic of religion to children? Describe any methods or modes of approach which have seemed successful?

2. Would you regard it as a fault if a child seems unwilling to talk about religion? What do you think "religion" means to the child-mind?

3. In what ways do children's aptitudes differ and what factors probably determine the difference? What was your own childish conception of God? Did you love God or fear him? Why?

4. Is it ever right to teach the child those conceptions which we have outgrown? What about Santa Claus and fairies? How can you use childish figures of speech as an avenue to more exact truth?

5. Does the child learn more through ears or eyes? Through which agency do we seek to convey religious ideas?

6. Is it possible to make the child see the intimate relation between conduct and religion? How would you do this?

7. Give some of the characteristics of a religious child of seven years, of ten.



Probably all parents find themselves at some time thinking that the real, fundamental problem of training their children lies in dealing with their superabundant energy. "He is such an active child!" mothers complain. Were he otherwise a physician might properly be consulted. But the child's activity does seriously interfere with parental peace. It takes us all a long time to learn that we are not, after all, in our homes in order to enjoy peaceful rest, but in order to train children into fulness of life. That does not mean that the home should be without quiet and rest, but that we must not hope to repress the energy of childhood. One might as well hope to plug up a spring in the hillside. Our work is to direct that activity into glad, useful service.


The things we do not only indicate character, they determine it. Our thoughts have value and power as they get into action. To bend our energies toward an ideal is to make it more real, to make it a part of ourselves. Children learn by doing—learn not only that which they are doing but life itself.

It may be doubted whether a child ever grew who did not plead to have a share in the work he saw going on about him. That desire to help is part of that fundamental virtue of loyalty of which we have spoken above; it is his desire to be true to the tendency of the home, to give himself to the realization of its purposes. Of course he does not think this out at all. But this desire on the part of the child to have a hand in the day's work is the parent's fine opportunity for a most valuable and influential form of character direction.

One of the tests of a worthy character is whether the life is contributory or parasitic, whether one carries his load, does his work, makes his contribution, or simply waits on the world for what he can get. A religious interpretation of and attitude toward life is essentially that of self-giving in service. "My Father worketh hitherto and I work." "I must be about my Father's business." How noticeable is the child's interest in the vivid word-picture of One who "went about doing good"!


The home is the first place for life's habituation to service. The child is greatly to be pitied who has no duties, no share in the work. Where the hands are unsoiled the heart is the easier sullied. It is the height of mistaken kindness, one of the common errors of an unthinking, superficial affection, to protect our children from work. This is a world of the moral order and of the glory of work.

When the child is very small it must learn this by having committed to it very simple duties. As soon as it is able to handle things it may learn to do that which is most helpful with those things, to care for its toys, to put them away neatly. A child can learn while very young to take care of its spoon, of certain clothes, of chair, and pencil and paper. True, it is much easier to "pick up" after the child; but to do so is to yield to our own sloth. The more tedious way is the one we must follow if we would train the child.

Besides the care of his possessions the child will gladly take a share in the general work of the home. Let some daily duty be assigned to each one; such simple responsibilities as picking up all papers and magazines and seeing that they are properly stacked or disposed of may be given to one; another may sweep the stairs every day with a whisk broom (in one instance a boy of eight did this daily); another may be "librarian," caring for all books; each one, after eight years of age, should make her own bed; each one should be entirely responsible for his own table in his room. Many homes permit of many other "chores," such as keeping up the supply of small kindling, caring for a pet or even a larger animal, keeping a little personal garden or vegetable plot. Under those normal conditions of living, which some day we may reach, where each family, or all families, have trees and flowers and ample space, the opportunities are increased for joyous child activities which consciously contribute to social well-being as a whole.


Perhaps some will say, this is not religious education, it is everyday training. Yes, it is "everyday training," but it is the training of a religious person with the religious purpose of habituating the child to give his life in service to his world. That is precisely what we need—religion in everyday action. The atmosphere and habitual attitude and conversation of the family must be depended on to give a really religious meaning to these everyday acts, to make them as religious as going to church, perhaps more so, and so to make them a training for the life that is religious, not in word only, but in deed and in truth.

Whatever we may say to children on the subject of religion, whether directly or in teaching by indirection through songs and worship, must pass over somehow into action in order to have meaning and reality. It must be realized in order to be real. The difficulty that appears is that of connecting the daily act with its spiritual significance. Yet that is not as difficult as it seems. If the act has religious significance to us, if we form the habit of really worshiping God with our work, seeking in it to do his will, the child will know it. We cannot keep that hidden. The spiritual life will never be more real to the child than it is to us, and no amount of moralizing or spiritualizing about our acts or his will give them religious significance.

At least one person will testify that, after being brought up in a really religious home, the most strikingly religious memory of that home is an occasion when he delightedly carried a tray of food to a sick neighbor. It was doing the very thing that he longed to do, realizing the aspiration that had been unable to find words or form before. So the life of action can be steadily trained by acts of kindness. Habits are acts repeated until they pass from the volitional to the involuntary. The only process we can follow is steadily to train the children in the willing and doing of the right, the good, and the kindly deed, until it becomes habitual. Let the child prepare the tray of delicacies, pack the flowers we are sending, carry them over if possible, at least have a share in all our ministries.[12]

The modern Sunday school recognizes the importance of activity in forming religious character; therefore it plans and organizes social activities for students to carry out.[13] The parents ought to know what is designed for each child in his respective grade and to plan to co-operate with the school. Where the family unites in the forms of service suggested for the children, these activities lose all perfunctoriness and take on a new reality. Social usefulness becomes a normal part of life.

Do we remember the best times of our childhood? Were they not when we were doing things? And were not the best of these best times when we were doing the best things, those that seemed ideal, that gave us a sense of helping someone or of putting into action the best of our thoughts? That is the chance and the joy our children are longing for, and that joy will be their strength.


The family has excellent opportunities for developing through its own activities and duties the habits of the religious life. Children may acquire through daily acts the habit of thinking of life as just the chance to love and serve. Service may become perfectly normal to life. Our modern paupers, whether they tramp the highways or ride in private cars, came usually out of homes where the moral standard interpreted life as just the chance of graft, to gain without giving, to have without earning. Parental indulgence educates in pauperism. Let a boy remain the passive beneficiary of all the advantages of a home until he is sixteen or eighteen, and it will be exceedingly difficult to convert him from the pauper habit.

The hard task before parents is to save their children from the snare of passive luxury. Perhaps, remembering our toilsome youth, we seek to shield them. It is a serious unkindness. It is a wrong to our world. The religious mind is the one that takes life in terms of service, sees the days as doors to ways of usefulness, girds itself with the towel, and finds honor in bending to do the little things for the least of men. Vain is all family worship, all prayer and praise and catechism, unless we train the feet to walk this way so that they may visit the imprisoned, clothe the naked, comfort the sad, and cheer the broken in heart. The family may make this the normal way to live.

If the family would train boys and girls who shall be true followers of the great Servant, it must stand among men as a servant, it must see itself as set in the community to serve, and by habits of service and helpfulness, by its whole social tone, it must quicken in its own people the sense of social obligation and a realization of the delight in self-giving. A home that is selfish in relation to other homes, in relation to its community, can have no other than selfish, antisocial, and therefore irreligious children. The first step in the welfare of a child is to see that the home which constitutes his personal atmosphere is steeped in the spirit of good-will toward men.

The whole attitude of life is determined by the thought-atmosphere of the family. The greedy family makes the grafting citizen. The grasping home makes the pugnacious disturber of the public peace. Greater than the question whether you are a good citizen in your relation to the ballot box is the one whether you are a cultivator of good citizenship in your home. No amount of Sunday-school teaching on the Beatitudes or week-day teaching on civics is going to overcome the down-drag of envious, antisocial thought and feeling and conversation in the home. Home action and attitude count for more than all besides.

It is equally true that no other influence can offset the salutary power of a truly social home, that the easiest, most natural, and effective method of teaching social duty and unselfishness is to do our whole social duty unselfishly.


The supreme test of the religious life here is ability to live among men as brothers and to cause the conditions of the divine family to be realized on earth. If we can realize that the purpose of Jesus was to bring men into the family of God, that the aim of all religious endeavor is the family character in men and women and the conditions of that family in all society, we must surely appreciate the possibility of the human family as a training school for this larger family of humanity.

The infant approaches social living by the pathway of the society of the family. We all go out into life through widening circles, first the mother's arms, then the family, the neighborhood, the city, the state, the nation, the world-life. Each circle prepares for the next. The family is the child's social order; its life is his training for the larger life of nation and human brotherhood.

Just how men and women will live in society is determined principally by the bent of their characters in the social order of the family. Their attitude to the world follows the attitude of the family, especially of the parents. They interpret the larger world by the lesser. The home is the great school of citizenship and social living.

All the moral and religious problems of the family find a focus in the purpose of preparing persons for social living. The family justifies its cost to society in the contribution which it makes in trained and motived lives. As a religious family its first duty is to prepare the coming generation to live in a religious society, in one which will steadily move toward the divine ideal of perfect family relations through brotherhood and fatherhood. Its business is not to get children ready for heaven, but to train them to make all life heavenly. Its aim is not alone children who will not tear down the parents' reputation, but men and women who will build up the actual worth and beauty of all lives.

The realization, in the family, of the purpose of training youth to social living and service in the religious spirit depends on two things: a spirit and passion in the family for social justice and order, and the direction of the activities of the family toward training in social usefulness.

Only the social spirit can give birth to the social spirit. True lovers of men, who set the values of life and of the spirit first, who give their lives that all men may have freedom and means to find more abundant life, come out of the families where the passion of human love burns high. The selfish family, self-centered, caring not at all in any deep sense for the well-being of others, existing to extract the juice of life and let who will be nourished on the rind, becomes effective to make the social highwayman, the oppressor. From such a family comes he who breaks laws for his pocketbook and impedes the enactment of laws lest human rights should prevent his acquisition of wealth; he who hates his brother man—unless that brother has more than he has; the foe of the kingdom of goodness and peace and brotherhood.

And goodness is as contagious as badness. Children catch the spirit of social love and idealism in the family. Where men and women are deeply concerned with all that makes the world better for lives, better for babies and mothers, for workers, and, above all, for the values of the spirit gained through leisure, opportunities, and higher incentives; where the family is more concerned with folks than with furniture; where habitually it thinks of people as Jesus did, as the objects most of all worth seeking, worth investing in, there children receive direction, habituation, and motivation for the life of religion, the life that binds them in glad love to the service of their fellows, and makes them think of all their life as the one great chance to serve, to make a better world, and to bring God's great family closer together here.

I. References for Study

G.A. Coe, Education in Religion and Morals, pp. 142-50. Revell, $1.35.

W.S. Athearn, The Church School, pp. 85-102. Pilgrim Press, $1.00.

G. Johnson, Education by Plays and Games, Part I. Ginn & Co., $0.90.

II. Further Reading

E.D. Angell, Play. Little, Brown & Co., $1.50.

Fisher, Gulick, et al., "Ethical Significance of Play," Materials for Religious Education, pp. 197-215. Religious Education Association, $0.50.

Publications of the Play Ground Association.

III. Methods and Materials


Forbush, Manual of Play. Jacobs, $1.00.

A. Newton, Graded Games. Barnes, $1.25.

Von Palm, Rainy Day Pastimes. Dana Estes, $1.00.

Johnson, When Mother Lets Us Help. Moffat, Yard & Co., $0.75.


Canfield, What Shall We Do Now? Stokes, $1.50.

Beard, Jack of All Trades. Scribner, $2.00.

Beard, Things Worth Doing. Scribner, $2.00.

Bailey, Garden Making. Macmillan, $1.50.

Bailey (ed.), Something to Do (magazine). School Arts Publishing Co.

IV. Topics for Discussion

1. Is the quiet child an ideal child? How far should we go in restraining activity?

2. The relative advantages of work and leisure for children. What of the value of chores to you; did you do them? Describe any forms of children's service in the home which have come under your observation.

3. What forms of community service can be done by children and by young people?

4. Recall any lessons learned by activity in your early home life.

5. Give in their order, according to your judgment, the potencies for religious character in the home.


[12] A short list of books on child activity in the home is appended at the end of this chapter; a fairly complete list, long enough for any family, will be found on p. 117 of The Church School, by W.S. Athearn.

[13] See W.N. Hutchins, Graded Social Service for the Sunday School.



The home is so mighty as a school because, requiring little time for formal instruction, it enlists its scholars so largely in informal activities. It trains for life by living; it trains as an institution, by a group of activities, a series of duties, a set of habits. If the home is to prepare for social living it will be most of all and best of all by its organization and conduct as a social institution.


For the purposes of society homes must be social-training centers; they must be conducted as communities if their members are to be fitted for communal living. No boy is likely to be ready for the responsibilities of free citizenship who has spent his years in a home under an absolute monarchy; or, as is today perhaps more frequently the case, in a condition of unmitigated anarchy. A free society cannot consist of units not free. The problems of parental discipline arise and appear as persistently irritating and perplexing stumbling-blocks in many a home simply because that home is organized altogether out of harmony and relation with the normal life in which it is set. Society environing the home gives its members the habits of twentieth-century autonomy, individual initiative and responsibility, together with collective living and working, while the home often seeks to perpetuate thirteenth-century absolutism, serfdom, and subjection. In social living outside the home we learn to do the will of all; in the home we attempt to compel children to do the will of one.


The home organized as a social community will give to every member, according to his ability, a share in its guidance and will expect from every member the free contribution of his powers. Its rules will be made by the will of all, and its affairs governed, not by an executive board composed of the parents, but by the free participation and choice of all. The young will learn to choose by choosing; will learn both how to rule and to be ruled by a share in ruling.

To be explicit, suppose a piece of furniture is desired for the home. Two plans at least are possible: first, the "head of the home" may go forth and purchase it without consulting anyone, or after advising with the other "head"; or, second, before a purchase is made, the wisdom of such an addition to the furniture may be suggested in the open council of the whole family and the purchase discussed and determined by all. Such councils, usually coming at or after the principal meal, freely participated in by all, give even to the youngest a sense of the cost of a home, of the care that goes into it, with, what is more important, a sense of a share in these cares and costs; they cultivate habits of prudence, of consideration of a matter, of steady judgments, of deference to the wishes and wisdom of others. Of still greater importance is another practical issue of such a plan—that every member of the household has a new sense of proprietorship with deepened responsibility. Instead of thinking of any household possession as father's or mother's, or even mine, it becomes ours. The parents no longer need to say, "Children, do not mar the furniture; it costs money to replace it." The children know that already, and they have the same pride in the home possessions and the same desire to preserve them as they have in that which is peculiarly their own. A habit of mind results from such a course so that, by thinking in terms of common possession of the best things of life, there is cultivated that respect for the rights of others which is simply right social thinking.

The same plan could be pursued in relation to almost every interest of the family—as the planning of the annual vacation and outing, the holidays, picnics, and birthday celebrations, the church and religious exercises. Above all, in the last mentioned, this social spirit may be cultivated. The father may cease to be the "high priest" for his family and become a worshiper along with the other members. The effect will be that his children are more likely to stay as worshipers with him than if they gazed on him as on some lonely elevation, unrelated to them in his religious exercises. The reading, the song, the prayers, the comment and discussion, the story-telling, and all that may make up the regular specific religious activities of the family should be such that all may have a share in them. Nothing could be finer, diviner, and bring larger helpfulness for social living than the attempt of the least little lisping child to throw herself into the unified family act of prayer, as when one little tot, unable to say the Lord's Prayer, united in worship at the time of that act by saying, as reverently as possible, "One, two, three, four, five," etc., up to ten. The ability to count was her latest accomplishment; counting to ten was bringing the very best thing she then had and, in the act of family worship, offering her part to the Most High. A fine sense of worship and a desire to be one with the others in this united, communal service prompted the participation.


Community service may be cultivated in the home. Here is the ideal social community, where there are neither parasites nor paupers, where all give of their best for the best of all. No one doubts that the baby gives its full share of happiness and cheer, and the aged their offering of consolation and experience; but the difficulty is supposed to be with the lad and the girl who would rather play than work. Usually this is because the habits of co-operation in the life of this community have been too long neglected. The small boy or girl had no share in its work. Parents are too busy to think through the matter of finding suitable duties for all. It is so much easier to do things one's self, even though the child misses the benefits of participation. More frequently the blame lies in the fact that parents desire to shield children from labor. Some would have them grow up without knowing what they count as the degradation of toil. But a boy who knows nothing of the "chores" has missed half the joys of boyhood, and has a terribly hard lesson ahead of him when he goes out to relate himself to life. No matter what one's station may be, there is a part to be played, and one's piece of work to be done. The greatest unkindness we can do our children is to train them to lives that do not play their part. The home is our chance to train a man to harmonious usefulness in his world. Not only should the family train to social co-operation and service, but it should train to efficiency therein. Do not let your child's duties become a farce; let them exact as much of him as the world will exact also; that is, efficiency, accuracy, thoroughness, and fidelity.


The family trains lives for social ministry. The unsocial lives come out of unsocial homes. The home that exists for itself alone trains lives that exist only for themselves; these are the homes that throw the sand of selfishness into the wheels of society; they ultimately effect social suicide through selfishness. The attitude and atmosphere of the home are of first importance here. As we think, so will our children act. If the home is to us a place without responsibilities for the neighborhood, without duties to neighbors, without social roots, then it is a school for industrial, commercial, and social greed and warfare. As we think in our hearts and talk at our table, so are we educating those who sit thereat.

If we would have our homes really efficient and worthy agencies for education in social living, the first thing to do is to seek the social atmosphere, to cultivate all those influences which young lives unconsciously absorb. We all know that character comes through environment in large measure, and that the mental and spiritual environment is by far the most potent. Here is something that affects us more than the finest or poorest furniture and that gives the real zest and flavor to any meal. The choice of our own reading enters here, not only the matter of reading in sociology, but of all reading, as to whether it blinds with class prejudices, intensifies caste feeling, or atrophies social sympathy by pandering to selfishness and sensuousness. The control of our own feelings and judgment enters here. Do we sedulously cultivate charity for others? Do we stifle impatience, bitterness, class feeling? Do we guide the conversation of visitors and the family group so that antisocial passions are subdued and a spirit of brotherly love and compassion for all is cultivated? Here men and women have opportunity to give evidence of a change of heart; here they need that awakening to social consciousness which is a new birth, a regeneration into the life of the Son of Man who came to give his life.

By its active ministry the family is training for social living. When a child carries a bowl of soup to some sick or needy one, he learns a lesson never to be forgotten. The memories of hours of planning and preparation for some neighborly service—the making of bread, the packing of a box, the preserves for the sick—shine out like sunshine spots along childhood's ways; they direct manhood's steps.

We are gradually learning that social duties are not learned save through social deeds; that even the most carefully prepared and perfectly pedagogical systems of instruction fail, standing alone. The college student uses the laboratory method in his sociology—though we know that sociology may be as far from social living as the poles are apart. The Social Service Association of the Young Men's Christian Association has given up attempts to teach social duty in favor of the plan of undertaking specific pieces of social activity. The home must adopt the laboratory method. The important thing is, not what the father or mother may systematically teach about the social duties of the children, but what kinds of service, of ministry and normal activity they may lead the children to; that is, in what ways they may all together discharge their functions in society.


Each family must clearly see its normal relations to its community, to the social whole; first, as an association of social beings having social duties, obligations, and privileges; then, to see that the ordering of the daily life is the largest single factor in determining the value of the family to the development of the community, fitting harmoniously into the larger community, and rendering its share of service.

The disorderly home spreads its immoral contagion beyond its walls, out into the front yard, out and up and down the street, and all through the village and city. The City Beautiful cannot come until we have the Home Beautiful. Training each one to play his part in keeping the house in order, picking up and setting in place his own tools and playthings, preventing and removing litter, scraps, and elements of disorder and discomfort, acquiring habits of neatness based on social motives—these things make more for the city of beauty and health than all our lectures on clean cities.

No family lives to itself. Young people need to see clearly how their homes and their habits in the home impinge on other homes and lives. This is impressed upon us in an accentuated and acute degree in city living. One can hardly imagine a finer discipline of grace than apartment living, though one may well question whether it is not morally and hygienically flying in the face of the natural order. We may not have for a long time municipal ordinances forbidding boiled dinners, limburger, and phonographs in city apartments; but if, unfortunately, we are compelled to live in these modern abominations, we ought to cultivate a conscience that will not inflict our idiosyncrasies, either in culinary aromas or in musical taste, on our neighbors. But there are matters greater than these by which the home trains for social thoughtfulness. No man has a right to grow weeds at home, because the seeds never stay there. A howling dog, a disease-breeding sty, a fly-harboring stable, must be viewed, not from the point of the family's convenience, but from that of others' welfare.


The family has a duty to train children for Christian citizenship. No other institution can take its place even here. Courses of lectures in churches and settlements effect excellent results, and the study of civics from the moral and ideal viewpoint should be encouraged in the schools; but the home is the place where, after all, citizens are trained and the value or menace of their citizenship determined. If we stop long enough to get a clear understanding of what we mean by citizenship this will be the more evident.

Citizenship is the condition of full communal, social living in a democracy. It is not a special department or activity of a man's life which he exercises once in a while, as at the primary or at the polls or through the political campaign; it is a permanent condition, the condition of his social living in a democracy. It seems to be worth while to think of this enough to be quite sure of it, for we have thought too long of citizenship as a special aspect of one's life or as an occasional duty; we have called for good citizenship at times of election and have been content with dormant citizenship at other times; we have said that one was exercising his citizenship when he voted, and have forgotten that he was exercising it or abusing or neglecting it as he walked the streets, talked with his neighbors, or in any way lived the life that has relations to other lives.

Matters of citizenship are simply matters of social living, as social living expresses itself through what we call government; that is, through communal, civic, national administration and regulation. Citizenship is social control in action, not through political activity alone, but through all that concerns civic and communal life. In view of this it may be worth while to look a little more closely into the relations of family life to this matter of the determination of the character of our citizenship.

The family is an agency for religious training in citizenship. The family is the first, smallest, and still the most common and potent social group. It is the community in which we nearly all learn communal living. At first it is a child's world, then comes his city, and then his nation, but ere long again the family is his own kingdom. Its ideals, constantly interpreted in action, determine our ideals. Where the father is greedy, self-centered, regarding the home as solely for his convenience as his private boarding-house, where he is a despotic boss, why should not the son at least tolerate bossism in his city if he does not himself pattern after his father on a wider scale and regard the city or the state as his private boarding-house and the treasury as his private manger? Where the mother is a petty parasite, what wonder the children regard with indifference, if not even with admiration, the whole system of civic and social barnacles, leeches, and other parasites?

The very organization of the home must prepare for civic duty by laying upon all appropriate duties and activities. It ought to be an ideal type of community. But that can never be until we take the training of parents seriously in hand; until we cease to delegate the pedagogy of courtship, marriage, and home-founding to the comic supplements of the Sunday papers and to the joke columns. Parents must themselves be trained for the business of the organization of homes as educational agencies.

The life and work of the home ought to train religiously for citizenship, by causing each to bear his due share of the burdens of all. Where the child has been forced to do the indolent parent's share, to support the slothful father, he can only look forward to the time when he will be free to support only himself, and have no other than purely egoistic obligations; this is an utterly immoral conception, and one squarely opposed to good citizenship. Where the boy or the girl has been trained to regard all toil as dishonorable, where each has been taught scrupulously to avoid every burden, they come into social living with habits set against bearing their share and toward making others carry them. The indolent parent makes the tax-dodging citizen, as the indulgent parent often makes the place-hunting citizen who becomes a tax on the public.

The ideals of the family determine the needs of citizens. Its conversation, its reading, its customs, set the standard of social needs. Where the father laughs at the smartness of the artful dodge in politics, where the mother sighs after the tinsel and toys that she knows others have bought with corrupt cash, where the conversation at the meal-table steadily, though often unconsciously, lifts up and lauds those who are out after the "real thing," the eager ears about that board drink it in and childish hearts resolve what they will do when they have a chance. Where no voice speaks for high things, where no tide of indignation against wrong sweeps into language, where the children never feel that the parents have great moral convictions—where no vision is, the people perish.

Yet to realize this civic responsibility of the home would be, in the greater number of instances, to remedy it. In those other instances where there are no civic ideals, where the domestic conscience is dead, there rests upon the state, upon society, for its own sake, the responsibility to train those children so that, at any rate, they will not perpetuate homes of this type. We may do very much by the stimulation and direction of parents. Men need but to be reminded of their duty to make it a part of their business to train their children in social duty.

I. References for Study

Taylor, Religion in Social Action, chaps. vii, viii. Dodd, Mead & Co., $1.25.

E.J. Ward, The Social Center, chap. v. Appleton, $1.50.

II. Further Reading

Lofthouse, Ethics in the Family. Hodder & Stoughton, $1.50.

III. Topics for Discussion

1. What is the special social importance of the family?

2. How do children acquire their social ideals from the home?

3. What are the advantages which the home has as a school?

4. How do homes train for the responsibilities of citizenship?

5. Can you describe any plans of community councils in the home?

6. How would you promote community service in the family?

7. What are the dangers of unsocial and selfish lives growing in the home?


[14] This chapter is, with the publisher's kind permission, taken, with sundry minor changes, from the author's pamphlet, The Home as a School for Social Living, published by the American Baptist Publication Society in the "Social Service Series."



The modern child is likely to miss one of the great character enrichings which his parents had, in that he is in danger of growing up entirely ignorant of the poetic setting of religious thought in historic and dignified hymns. The great hymns have done more for religious thought and character than all the sermons that have ever been preached. Even in the adult of the purely intellectual cast the hymn, aided by rhythm, music, repetition, and emotion, is likely to become a more permanent part of the mental substratum than any formal logical presentation of ideas. How much more will this be the case with the child who feels more than he reasons, who delights in cadence and rhythm, and who loves a world of imagery!


Very early life's ideals are presented in poetic form; plays, school-life, love of country, friendships, all take or are given metric expression. So, for children, hymns have a perfectly natural place. The child sings as he plays, sings as he works, sings in school, and, as long as life and memory hold, these words of song will be his possession; in declining years, when eyes are failing and other interests may wane, fragments of childhood's songs and youth's poems will sing themselves over in his memory; while in the years between how often will some stanza or line spring into the focus of thought just at the moment when it can give brave and helpful direction!

Those years of facile memorization should be like the ant's summer, a period of steady storing in mind of the world's treasures of thought. No man ever had too many good and beautiful thoughts in his memory. Few have failed to recall with gratitude some apparently long-forgotten word of cheer, light, and inspiration stored in childhood. The special virtue of the hymn, among all poetic forms of great thoughts, is that memory is strengthened by the music and the thought further idealized by it, while frequent repetition fixes it the more firmly and repetition in congregational song adds the high value of emotional association.

But what kinds of memory treasures are being given to the modern child in the realm of religion? In by far the greater number of instances in the United States neither church nor Sunday school nor home brings to him any knowledge of the great hymns of religion.[15] In the churches that use these hymns the child is frequently not in the Sunday services; he is in the children's service or the school, while in the majority of churches a weak-minded endeavor for amusement has substituted meaningless rag-time trivialities for rich and dignified hymns. Perhaps the custom of encouraging congregations to jig, dance, cavort, or drone through the frivolities of "popular" gospel songs is only a passing craze, but it is a most unfortunate one; it tends to divorce worship and thought, to make worship a matter of purely superficial emotions, and to form the habit of expressing religion, the highest experience of life, in language, often irreverent and almost always trivial, slangy, or ridiculous. It is an insult to the intelligence of children to ask them to sing

We're pilgrims o'er the sands of time, We have not long to stay, The lifeboat soon is coming, To carry the pilgrims away.

It is the duty of parents to know what their children are learning in the Sunday school. Not only are they often missing the opportunity to lay up the treasure of elevating, inspiring thoughts; they are acquiring crude, mistaken, misleading theological concepts in the hideous, revolting figures of "evangelistic songs"; they are storing their minds with atrocities in English and in figures of speech; they are acquiring the habits of sentimentality in religion and inhibiting the finer, higher feelings. They are blunting their higher feelings by repeating incongruous and nauseating figures of being "washed in blood," or they are carelessly singing sentiments they do not understand.

What can the family do about this? It ought to assert its rights in the church. It ought to protest and rebel against the debauching of mind and the degrading of religion (all for the sake of selling trashy books at $25 per hundred). A parent would do better to keep his child from church and Sunday school than to permit his mind to be filled with the sanguinary pictures of God, the mediaeval theology of the modern songbook, and its offenses against truth in thought and form. But the family can work positively and more effectively by providing good hymns for children in the home.


Almost without exception all children will sing if encouraged early in life. In the family group one has only to start a familiar song and soon all will be singing. It is just as natural to sing "Abide with Me" when the family sits together in the evening as it is to start "My Alabama Choo-choo." Children like the swing of "Onward, Christian Soldiers" just as much as in the northern states they like "Marching through Georgia." If they do not know the hymns the home is the best of all places in which to learn them.

A large section of real family life is missing in families that do not sing together. A home without song lacks one of the strongest bonds of family unity, and the after-years will be deprived of a memory dear indeed to many others. Days often come when the wheels of family life seem to develop friction, when little rifts seem to throw the members far apart, but the evening song brings them together. The unity of action, of feeling, the development of emotions above the day's irritation and strife, all help to new joys in family living.

We may well think of the fine songs and the great hymns together. There is no fixed wall between "Mine Eyes Have Seen the Glory," and "The Son of God Goes Forth," nor between "My Old Kentucky Home" and "Jerusalem the Golden." The modern home has the musical instruments to lead in song—though they are not always essential—and lacks only the planning and forethought to develop the joys of song. It must provide the thought that applies the simpler forms of musical expression to the sweetening and enriching of life.

Let no one say, "My family is not musical." That simply means that your family does not take time for music and song. Build on the training in patriotic and folk-songs given in the schools; sing these same songs over in the home and then associate with the best of them the best of the hymns. Cultivate the habit of binding the whole realm of feeling in music together, the hymns and the songs, to make religion mean beauty and devotion and to make the finer sentiments of life truly religious.

This costs time and thought. Someone must plan that the books of songs and hymns are provided, that the opportunity is given, and that wise, unobtrusive leadership is there. Have ready several copies of the book containing the best hymns. Think out your plan of procedure in advance, selecting the songs, or at least the first one. Then at the right time simply begin to play that song and you will scarcely need to invite the children to sing with you.

Should anyone doubt whether children will enjoy singing good hymns, he may purchase a few records for the phonograph, for example, "O Come All Ye Faithful," "Hark the Herald Angels Sing," "O Zion Haste," "Holy, Holy, Holy," "Abide with Me." These will suit those of from ten upward; younger children will enjoy "Can a Little Child Like Me," "Brightly Gleams Our Banner," "Jesus Loves Me." "I Think When I Read That Sweet Story," and "For the Beauty of the Earth," though they will join gladly in the other hymns. Or, instead of using the phonograph, sit down quietly at the piano and play these hymns, with just enough emphasis for the children to catch the rhythm, and they will soon be standing at the piano singing with you.[16]


The child is a playing animal. Play is not an invention of the devil, designed to plague parents and to lead children to waste their time. It is nature's best method of education, for when a child plays he is simply reaching forward in his activities to the realization of his ideals. Play is idealized experiences. There is always a significance of wider and maturer experience in children's play. Therefore the family must find space and time and adaptation of organization to the child's need of spontaneous, free activity in play.

The special religious value of play lies in the fact that the child in his games is experimenting with life, learning its lessons; especially is he learning the art of living with other lives. It is our religious duty to see to it that our children become used to living in society by playing in social groups. Scarcely anyone is more to be pitied than the lonely child standing in the corner of the playground, able only to watch the games, because parental prohibition has already made him a solitary and unsocial creature.

The educational potencies of play are so great that we dare not leave its activities to chance. Parents must study the power of play, its psychological and educational values, in order to direct its activity to the highest good.

The adequate care of a child's play-life will involve, in addition to the trained intelligence of the parents, provision for space in the house and also outdoors, willingness to subordinate our peace and our pleasure to the child's play at times, a reasonable though not necessarily expensive provision of play materials, attention to the character of the plays and playmates. The home will not lose its harmony and beauty if it is filled with playing children. Its function has to do with their development rather than with the preservation of chairs.

I. References for Study

H.F. Cope, Hymns You Ought to Know, Introduction. Revell, $1.50.

W.F. Pratt, Musical Ministries. Revell, $1.00.

H.W. Hulbert, The Church and Her Children, chap. x. Revell, $1.00.

II. Further Reading

For a list of great hymns see Hymns You Ought to Know, edited by Henry F. Cope, and mentioned above. It contains one hundred standard hymns with a brief account of each hymn and of each author.

E.D. Eaton, "Hymns for Youth," Religious Education, December, 1912, VII, 509.

See report of the Commission on Worship in the Sunday School, in Religious Education, October, 1914.

Read especially the chapter on this subject in H.H. Hartshorne, Worship in the Sunday School. Columbia University, $1.25.

III. Topics for Discussion

1. What special advantages do songs and hymns have in their pedagogical power?

2. What hymns do you remember from childhood? In what way are these hymns valuable to you?

3. What changes would you like to see in the hymns the children learn today?

4. What difficulties do you find in training children to sing in the home?

5. Is it worth while to teach children to play? What games have special educational value? What games have religious significance or value? Give reasons for your opinions.


[15] One of the best collections of suitable religious songs is Worship and Song. Pilgrim Press, $0.40.

[16] An excellent plan is worked out in The Children's Hour of Story and Song by Moffat and Hidden, Unitarian Sunday School Society, in which children's stories are given and following them suitable songs and hymns with the music for each.



If we would teach religion to our children we must adopt the method of Jesus; that of telling stories. The story has the advantage, first, of its natural interest, and, then, of the indirect manner of its presentation of the truth, together with the fact that that truth is embodied in a statement of life and experience. Besides, story-telling to any person of active interests is one of the easiest and most stimulating methods of teaching.


So much has already been written on the art of telling stories that only a few suggestions are needed here. First, understand why you tell the story. Normally a double motive enters in, namely, the conveyance of truth in life, at the same time affording real pleasure to the listeners. Either motive alone will be inadequate. You cannot convey the truth without the desire to give pleasure; you cannot make the pleasure worth while without the truth. But this is the place to insist that the truth which you desire to convey must find its way to the conviction of the child through the story and not through any moral or preface or particular statement which you may make. The moral or lesson must be clear to you but carefully held in reserve to direct the matter and manner of the story.

Secondly, be prepared to pay the price of this most effective method of instruction. It will cost the reservation of a certain amount of time both for acquiring the story and for relating it. It will require careful thought and planning, especially to be sure that the story is told in sympathy with the child's world. People who are too busy to tell their children stories are, perhaps fortunately, coming to realize that they are too busy to have children. If it looks like a waste of time to turn off the lights and sit by the firelight for from twenty to thirty minutes, we shall need to revise our estimates of the value of child-character. Nor must we shrink from the investment of time in preparation for the narration of the story; if it is worth telling, it is worth telling well.

Thirdly, keep a record of sources of stories. This may be preserved in a notebook. One parent used a card-index for this purpose. There are a few books published containing good collections.[17] You will find most valuable your own little book in which you have noted down the fugitive stories and short selections which are to be found in general literature.[18]

Fourthly, do not tell a story so as to close the child's interest in the narrative. Stories ought to lead to inquiry and further reading in the book or other source from which they have been drawn; indeed, story-telling is one excellent method of quickening an interest in reading.

Fifthly, allow the children to retell the stories to one another. Often the whole family will be entertained and helped by the explanation which a small child will give of the story he has learned by hearing it repeated a few times from his mother's lips.

Sixthly, telling Bible stories to children in the quiet hour is the best of all methods to stimulate their interest in the Bible itself. It is much better to tell the story in your own language than to read it either in the Bible or in a paraphrase. For one reason, you will never tell it twice the same way, and children will watch with interest changes in the narration. As soon as they can read, secure some of the simple Bible narratives and put these in their hands.[19]


A home without books is like a house with only one window; it can look out in only one direction, in that of the present. It knows only a limited world; its children have a short measure of the joy of life, they can know here only those whom they see today, their friends must be few, their world narrow and confined.

If the books are not in your home the children will find them elsewhere. Unless the school kills the taste for reading, as it sometimes does, the young folks will open ways somehow into the ideal realm of books. As they grow up, the book takes the place of the story. The printed page is the child's key to all routes of travel, routes that lead to other times and lands, routes that lead to other people and into their hearts and minds. The child sees conduct and feels it as it is in action in lives before him, but he begins to discriminate and to analyze it only through reading; souls are revealed where the purpose of the writer is that the reader may see the springs of action in the character portrayed. Fiction, biography, travel, and adventure soon pass from the merely exterior happenings to the discovery of meanings in character.


Since the book needs only one for its enjoyment, while the story requires two, there is less control over reading. There is only one way to be sure that children are not devouring vicious books and that is to make sure that they have an ample supply of healthful, helpful ones. This is especially necessary in a day that caters to sloth in reading. The tendency is for reading to take the facile decline from book to cheap magazine, from magazine to newspaper, and from the newspaper to skimming the headlines and the "funnies." The cheaper papers appeal to the lowest intelligence and strike at the line of least moral and mental resistance. Reading enriches the life but little and may impoverish it greatly unless there is developed the habit of drawing on the world's great treasures of thought and feeling. Open windows in your children's souls by giving them books; keep them open by encouraging the reading habit. Great souls wait for them, willing to converse and become their friends and teachers if they will but take down these books from the shelves and open them with an eager mind.


What can be done to quicken a love of good reading in children? Recognize that not all children develop this appetite at the same age, that girls read more than boys, that boys usually have a period of decline in reading interest from seventeen to twenty-one or even later. But everything really depends on whether we ourselves love good books and keep them on hand. One of the life-centers of a family should be the bookshelf, while the picture of the evening lamp and the reading group will constitute one of its best memories. Where books are at hand and where they are used daily, the children need little urging to read. Now this does not mean that yards of choice editions make a book-loving family. There is a difference between bindings and books. It means books known and loved, familiar friends for daily converse, books on handy shelves and fit to be used as common food.

Do you know what your children read? Do you watch as carefully the food of mind and spirit as you do that of the body? Do you show an interest in the books they plan to draw from the public library? Can you guide them intelligently when they ask for suggestions of interesting books? Do you know the healthful, suitable ones?


The Sunday school might aid greatly in promoting the habit of selecting and reading good books. Children often come home from day school clamoring for some book which the teacher has recommended as interesting and valuable. The Sunday-school teacher's recommendation would also carry weight. In every church, whether there exists a Sunday-school library or not, there ought to be a library or book committee which would watch for the right reading for the different grades and would cause the titles of good books to be placed on a bulletin board. Further, such a committee might very well place a copy of the book selected in the teacher's hand in order that the teacher might call the attention of the class directly to it. Of course the range of selection should be as wide as the world of books and should include fiction, romance, song, and story.[20] Parents could do the same sort of thing. Why not talk up the best books we remember? As to those old-time books, we need to realize that tastes change. Perhaps they owed much of their interest to their vivid descriptions of contemporary life. Therefore we must commend the new books, those that belong to the children's own days, too. This can be done, provided we really know the books, not by saying, "We should like you to read Sandford and Merton," but rather, "There is a capital story in Captains Courageous; have any of you read it?" Leave the matter there, or, at most, go only far enough to stimulate interest.

I. References for Study

St. John, Stories and Story Telling, chaps. i-v. Eaton & Mains, $0.50.

Forbush, The Coming Generation, chap. viii. Appleton, $1.50

Winchester, "Good and Bad Books in the Home," in The Bible in Practical Life, p. 38. Religious Education Association, $2.50.

II. Further Reading

Partridge, Story Telling in School and Home. Sturgis & Walton, $1.25.

H.W. Mabie, Books and Culture. Dodd, Mead & Co., $1.25.

III. Methods and Materials


E.P. St. John, Stories and Story Telling. Eaton & Mains, $0.50.

Wyche, Some Great Stories and How to Tell Them. Newson & Co., $1.00.

L.S. Houghton, Telling Bible Stories. Scribner, $1.25.

Bryant, How to Tell Stories for Children. Houghton Mifflin Co., $1.00.

E.M. and G.E. Partridge, Story Telling in School and Home. Sturgis & Walton, $1.25.


Macy, A Children's Guide to Reading. Baker & Taylor Co., $1.25.

Field, Finger Posts to Children's Reading. McClurg, $1.00.

Arnold, A Mother's List of Books for Children. McClurg, $1.00.

For a short practical list see the different lists classified under Sunday-School Departments in W.S. Athearn, The Church School, particularly pp. 54, 83, 118, 169. Pilgrim Press, $1.00.

IV. Topics for Discussion

1. Do you remember any stories which especially impressed you as a child? What were their qualities? What were the qualities of their narration?

2. What are your difficulties in story-telling to children?

3. Is the habit of reading books passing among children? If so, what are the reasons?

4. What responsibility has the public library toward the child's selection of books? toward promoting book reading?

5. How many families co-operate with the library?

6. How might the church co-operate?

7. Does the reading of newspapers by children affect their general habits of reading? In what ways?

8. What personal difference is there, if any, between the effect of a borrowed book and of one the child owns?


[17] Laura E. Cragin, Kindergarten Bible Stories. Fifty-six of the Old Testament stories. There is also a companion volume of New Testament stories.

James Baldwin, Old Stories of the East. Fresh and interesting versions of the familiar Old Testament stories.

Kate Douglas Wiggin, The Story Hour. Good stories and a suggestive introduction on story-telling.

Half a Hundred Stories for the Little People, by various authors.

[18] A List of Good Stories to Tell to Children under Twelve Years of Age, Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, $0.05. There are references to books in which the stories may be found, including 25 Bible stories, 16 fables, 14 myths, 14 Christmas stories, 7 Thanksgiving stories, etc.

[19] Such as O'Shea, Old World Wonder Stories; George Hodges, The Garden of Eden; Cragin, Old Testament Stories; Mary Stewart, Tell Me a True Story.

[20] The H.W. Wilson Co., White Plains, New York, publishes a list of Children's Books for Sunday-School Libraries.



If we keep clearly in mind the aim of religious education in the family as that of the development of the lives of religious persons, the place and value of the Bible will be evident. It will be used as a means of developing and directing lives. This will be quite different from a perfunctory use because our fathers used it or a use under the compulsion of the fear lest some strange evil should befall us, some visitation of an offended deity.


Children need the Bible as a part of their social heritage. Just as they get a larger life, inspired and stimulated by the realization of their connection with the past of their family and their country, so the Bible brings them into connection with the religious history of the race. General history brings heroic forefathers into the stream of consciousness; we feel the push of their lives. So the Bible reveals the stream farther back and makes us part of the process of life in unity with great characters and great movements.

The child has a right to the Bible as his literary heritage. Here in the Bible is the precipitation of the ideals of a people unique in the place which religion held in their lives. Here is a literature which is the source of much of the best in the language and reading of the child's life. Its phrases are beautiful and convenient embodiments of religious ideals; they will have a steadily developing richness of meaning as life opens out to the child.[21]


The difficulties in the way of the use of the Bible in the home are: the crowded programs, or a lack of time due to the absence of any program for the days; a feeling of unnaturalness in the special reading of this book; the decay of the custom of reading aloud; parental ignorance of the Bible and especially of its beauties for the young; and the excessive amount of task-reading frequently required by the schools. The Sunday school also sometimes offends in this respect by overemphasis on academic tasks for home work.


First, let parents use the Bible themselves. Use the books as you wish children to use them. This will be the longest step you can take toward the solution of the problem.

Secondly, use the Bible naturally. When children have an aversion to the Bible it is due usually to two causes: the peculiar place and use of the book which makes it a thing apart from life, and often an object of dread; and the practice of using it as a task-book, to be opened only in order to prepare Sunday-school lessons. Just as it takes years to overcome the aversion set up against English literature by its analytical study in the schools, so that the child becomes a man before he voluntarily reads Dickens, Thackeray, the poets, and essayists, in the same manner we have succeeded in making the Bible undesirable to youth. If you read passages aloud, use the tone of voice which would be appropriate if this was a new book not bound in leather. Read it for pleasure as one would read a literary masterpiece—not because opinion might frown on you if you had not read the classic. Does someone object that that would be to degrade the Bible to the level of secular writings? You cannot degrade a literature; it makes its own level and our labels do not affect it. Certain it is that a pious tone of voice will not protect the Bible from the secular level. But to use it unnaturally will degrade it in the opinion of those who hear us.

Thirdly, make its use a pleasure. All children enjoy story-telling and listening to reading. Many parents practice the children's hour, some period in the day when they will, alone with the children, read and talk with them. Let the Bible story be the reward of a good day, something promised as an incentive to good behavior. Children delight, not alone in the story itself, but in rhythmic passages, in the poetic flights of Isaiah and the beautiful imagery of the Psalms. To them it is natural and pleasant to think of the hills that skipped and the stars that sang and the trees that gave forth praise. They know the song of nature and are happy to find it put into words.

Fourthly, use the Bible as a book of life. How many times a day do questions of conduct arise in the family! How often do children ask what is right, and freely discuss the question! Here is a book rich in precept and example on at least many of the questions. There are pictures of actual lives meeting real temptations; there are the epigrammatic precepts of Proverbs and of the teachings of Jesus. Call attention to them, not as settling the question out of hand, but as testimony to the point. Accustom children to getting the light of the Bible on their lives, remembering that this book is a light and not a fence nor a code of laws.

Fifthly, use the Bible in worship. This does not conflict with the plea for its use naturally, for worship should be as natural as any of the social pleasures of the family. Here select those passages for reading which count most for the spirit of worship. It is a good plan to read a short passage, suitable for memorizing, so frequently that children learn it and are able to repeat it in concert. Be sure that all the passages read or recited are short. It will often be wise to preface the reading with a brief account of its original circumstances, so that all may hear the words as the actual utterances of a real man living in real life.

Sixthly, provide material which helps to make the Bible interesting, and which helps children to see its pictures through the eyes of geography and history.[22]

Seventhly, make the use of the Bible possible at all times for all. See that as soon as the child can read he has his own Bible, that it is in large, readable type, as much like any other book as possible. It is no evidence of grace to ruin the eyes over diamond-text Bibles. If possible, also provide separate books of the Bible, in modern literary form and some in the idiom of our day.[23]


It is doubtful whether good comes from the use of the Bible as a riddle-book, nor do the "Bible games" tend to develop a natural appreciation of the book. There is no new light but rather a confusing shadow thrown on the character of Joseph by the foolish conundrum concerning Pharaoh making a ruler out of him. Sending a child to the Bible to discover the shortest verse, the longest, the middle one, etc., trains him to regard it as an odd kind of book, to think of it as a dictionary, and to use it less.

We assume too readily that a knowledge of the separate details of biblical information, such as the date of the Flood, the age of Methuselah, the names of the twelve tribes, the twelve apostles, the books of the two Testaments, is the desired end. But one might know all these things and many more and be not one whit the better. For the child surely the desirable end is that he may feel deeply the attractiveness of the character of Joseph or of Jesus, may say within himself, "What a fine man; I want to be like him." Be sure the persons are real, that you see them living their lives in their times, just as you live your life now.

I. References for Study

T.G. Soares, "Making the Bible Real to Boys," in Boy Training, pp. 117-40. Association Press, $0.75.

W.T. Lhamon, "Bible in the Home," Religious Education, December, 1912, p. 486.

G. Hodges, Training of Children in Religion, chap. x. Appleton, $1.50.

II. Further Reading

The Bible in Practical Life. Religious Education Association. Numerous references to the use of the Bible in the home in this volume.

Patterson Dubois, The Natural Way, sec. iv. Revell, $1.25.

III. Methods and Materials

"Passages of Bible for Memorization," Religious Education, August, 1906.

Louise S. Houghton, Telling Bible Stories. Scribner, $1.25.

Johnson, The Narrative Bible. Baker & Taylor Co., $1.50.

Hall and Wood, The Bible Story, 5 vols. King, $2.00 by subscription.

Courtney, The Literary Man's Bible. Crowell, $1.25.

The above are but a few of the many collections of biblical material.

IV. Topics for Discussion

1. What are the conditions which seem to make the reading of the Bible different from other reading? Is there a sense of unreality about it as a book? What are the causes?

2. Try the experiment of reading the story of Joseph at one sitting. Try to retell this to children.

3. What biblical material stands out in your memory of childhood? In what degree is this due to the art of the story-teller or the reader? to the character of the material?


[21] See M.J.C. Foster, The Mother the Child's First Bible Teacher.

[22] Mackie, Bible Manners and Customs.

Chamberlin, Introduction to the Bible for Teachers of Children.

Worcester, On Holy Ground, 2 vols.

[23] For example, Moulton, Modern Reader's Bible. The new Jewish renderings of Old Testament books are good, especially the Psalms.



Family worship has declined until, at least in the United States, the percentage of families practicing daily worship in the home is so small as to be negligible. If this meant that a general institution of religion had passed out of existence the fact would be highly significant. But it is well to remember that family worship has never been a general institution. We have generalized the picture of the "Cotter's Saturday Night" so eloquently drawn by Burns; it has been applied to every night and to every fireside. Daily family worship was observed in practically all the Puritan homes of New England; but there is no evidence for it as a uniform custom, either in other parts of this country or in other parts of the world, save perhaps in sections of Scotland. True, there were many families which observed the custom; but there were also many families of church members and doubtless of truly religious people in which family worship as a regular institution was unknown. This has been especially true in the type of family life which has developed under modern social conditions. Further, even so simple an exercise as grace at meals has not always been a general custom.


But the fact today is that family worship is so rare as to be counted phenomenal wherever found. The instances, though not general, were common a generation ago. Many are living to whom family worship afforded the largest part of their conscious and formal religious education. Following the morning meal, or, occasionally, the evening meal, the family waited while the father, or the mother in his absence, read a portion of the Scriptures and offered prayer. In other families the act of worship would be the closing one of the day, perhaps participated in by the older members only, the younger children having repeated their prayers at bedside on retiring. A thousand happy and sacred associations gather about the memories of these occasions: the sense of reverence, the feeling that the home was a sacred place, the impression of noble words and elevating thoughts, the reflex influence of the prayer that committed all to the keeping and guidance of God.[24]


Parents need to see the values in family worship. We have been insisting on the primary importance of the religious interpretation of the family as an institution, on the power of the religious motive, and the atmosphere of religion. But wherever there is a truly religious motive and a permanent religious atmosphere these will find definite expression in acts easily recognized as religious. Love is the motive and atmosphere of the true home, but love blossoms into words and bears fruit in a thousand deeds. The life of love dies without reality in act. Ideals are precipitated in expressive acts. So is it with religion in the home; it must not only be real in its sincerity, it must be realized, must pass over into conduct and action, as suggested above in chaps. vii and viii. And it must do this in ways so sharply defined and readily recognized as to leave no doubt as to their meaning. True, all acts may be religious and thus full of worship—this is most important of all—but worship expressly unites all such acts in a spirit of loyalty and aspiration.

Worship is a necessity for the sake of the ideal unity of the family life. Just as the individual must not only feel the religious emotion but must also do the thing called for, so must this united personality of the family give expression to its faith and aspiration, its motives and emotions, in such a manner that, acting as a social unit, all can together put the inner life into the outer form. The social value of family worship is the strongest reason for its maintenance. It is the united act of the family group, the one in which group consciousness is expressly directed to the highest possible aims. Every period of worship brings the family into unity at an ideal level.

The expression of religion in definite forms is necessary for children, too, as furnishing a means by which they can manifest their feeling of the higher meaning of family life. The reality of that feeling is stimulated in the daily, common life of the right family; the hour of worship is one out of many definite forms of its concrete expression. It is the form which gathers up the totality of feeling and aspiration into an act of worship and praise toward God, the Father of all families. It is evident there cannot be true worship in the family that is irreligious in its essential qualities, in its character, in its ideals and atmosphere.


The period of worship is a necessity in interpreting to all the spirit and meaning of a religious family. It objectifies the inner life. It makes definite, tangible, and easily remembered the general impressions of religion. It precipitates the atmosphere of religion into definiteness. In the chemical laboratory of a university there is usually a decided atmosphere of chemistry, but no one expects to become a chemical engineer by absorbing that atmosphere, nor even to attain a simple working knowledge by merely general impressions. Definiteness aids in gathering up our knowledge, our impressions.

The reading of the Bible in the home will give, when the passages are wisely chosen, forms of language into which the often chaotic but nevertheless valuable and potential emotions of youth fall as into a beautiful mold; they become remembered forms of beauty thereafter.

Family worship furnishes opportunity for direct religious instruction. When the home life has its regular institution, as regular as meals and play, the formality, the apparent abnormality of conversation about religion, is absent. Children expect and look forward to the period when the family will lay other things aside to think on the eternal values. Their questions in the breathing-space that always ought to follow worship become perfectly natural and sincere.

Family worship lifts the whole level of family life. Ideally conceived, it simply means the family unity consciously coming into its highest place. Children may not understand all the reading nor enter into the motives for all parts of the petition, but they do feel that this moment is the one in which the family enters a holy place. They feel that God is real and that their family life is a part of his whole care and of his life. One short period of natural reverence sends light and calm all through the day. Where the home is the place where true prayer is offered, the family is the group which meets in an act of worship; here and into this group there cannot easily enter strife, bickerings, or baseness. One short period, five minutes or even less, of quietness, of united turning toward the eternal, gives tone to the day and finer atmosphere to the home.

What our community life might be like without the churches, faulty or incompetent as we may know some of them to be, what that life would lose and miss without them is precisely, and perhaps in larger degree, what the family life misses without its own institution of regular devotion and worship.


We can always afford to do that which is most worth while doing; our essential difficulty is to shake off the delusion of the lesser values, the lower prizes, to realize that, of all the good of life, the characters of our children, the gain we can all make in the eternal values of the spirit, in love and joy and truth and goodness, is the gain most worth while. We tend to set the making of a living before the making of lives. We need to see the development of the powers of personality, the riches of character, as the ultimate, dominant purpose of all being. Once grasp that, and hold to it, and we shall not allow lesser considerations, such as the pressure of business, the desire for gain, for ease, for pleasure, for social life, to come before this first and highest good; we shall make time for definite conscious religion in the life of the family.[25]


There are three simple forms which worship takes in the family: first, grace offered at the meals; secondly, the prayers of children on retiring and, occasionally, on rising; thirdly, the daily gathering of the family for an act of the spirit. The statement of the three forms reads so as to give them a formal character, but the most important point to remember is that wherever they are true acts of worship they are formal only in that they occur at definite, determined times and places. The acts have no merit in themselves. Merely to institute their observance will not secure religious feeling and life in the home. These three observances have arisen because at these times there is the best and most natural opportunity for the expression of aspiration, desire, and feeling.


1. Grace at meals.—Shall we say grace at meals? To assent because it is the custom, or because it was so done in our childhood's home, may make an irreligious mockery of the act. Perhaps, too, there are some who even hesitate to omit the grace from an unspoken fear that the food might harm them without it. All have heard grace so muttered, or hurriedly and carelessly spoken, void of all feeling and thought, that the act was almost unconscious, a species of "vain repetition."

There are two outstanding aspects of the asking of a blessing—the desire to express gratitude for the common benefits of life, and the expression of a wish, with the recognition of its realization, that at each meal the family group might include the Unseen Guest, the Infinite Spirit of God. That wish lifts the meal above the dull level of satisfying appetites. Just as, in good society, we seek to make the meal much more than an eating of food, "a feast of reason and a flow of soul," so does this act make each meal a social occasion lifted toward the spiritual. The one thought at the beginning, the thought of the reality of the presence of God, and of the nearness of the divine to us in our daily pleasures, gives a new level to all our thinking.

How shall we say grace, or "ask a blessing"? First, with simplicity and sincerity. Avoid long, elaborate, ornate phrases. It is better to err in rhetoric than in feeling and reality. The sonorous grace may soon become stilted and offensive. It is better to say in your own words just what you mean, for that will help all, even to the youngest, to mean what they say with you.

Vary the form of petition. Sometimes let it be the silent grace of the Quakers; sometimes children will enjoy singing one of the old four-line stanzas, as

Be present at our table, Lord, Be here and everywhere adored; These mercies bless and grant that we May feast in Paradise with thee.

One might use the first three of the following lines for breakfast and the last three at another meal:

For the new morning with its light, For rest and shelter of the night, We thank the heavenly Father.

For rest and food, for love and friends, For everything his goodness sends, We thank the heavenly Father.[26]


When early in the morning the birds lift up their songs, We bring our praise to Jesus to whom all praise belongs.

One especially needs to guard against the purely dietetic grace, the one that only asks that the deity will aid digestion, as that form so often heard, "Bless these mercies to our use."[27]

Should we say grace on all occasions of meals? What shall we do at the social dinner in the home? The answer depends on the purpose of the grace. Is it not that in our own group we may have the consciousness of the presence of God? When the meal is that of our own group with a friend or two, we bring the friends into the group and the act of family worship is maintained. Usually this is the case. So it will be when the group is entirely at one in this desire: the asking of grace will be perfectly natural. But when the group is a large one, when the sense of family unity is lost, or when the observance would seem unnatural, it is better to omit it. Grace in large gatherings often seems an uncovering of the sacred aspects of the home life.

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