by Pastor Jack Hyles
(Chapter 16 from Dr. Hyle's excellent book, The Hyles Sunday School Manual)
There are many people in every city that could
not be happily situated in any of the usual departments or classes provided
by the Sunday school. The reaching of these people should certainly be given
serious consideration by every pastor and Sunday school superintendent.
There are many such classes provided by the First Baptist Church in Hammond,
1. The Deaf Department
One of the most blessed works of our church is
the work with the deaf. The director of this work is Miss Maxine Jeffries, a
full-time paid member of our staff. Concerning the deaf work Miss Jeffries
submits the following:
How to find a leader for the deaf:
To start a deaf work in your church find someone who has a burden and concern for the deaf. Since most people cannot communicate with the deaf, provisions will have to be made for their learning of the sign language. Find someone to come to your church and teach the sign language to prospective workers. If this is not possible, send your workers to the Bill Rice Ranch, Murfreesboro, Tennessee, to learn the sign language at their summer school.
How to generate enthusiasm in the church for a deaf work:
As with any ministry within the local church it is up to the pastor to bring the need before the people. Before the deaf class was started at the First Baptist Church, Hammond, Indiana, the pastor, Dr. Jack Hyles, sent out letters to all known deaf in our area telling them that on October 14, 1962, a very important new class was being established just for them. Saturday night, October 13, the deacons met and went two-by-two to each deaf home with a letter introducing themselves and inviting the deaf to come the next morning to their new class.
How to find the deaf:
There are many places to find the deaf. Listed here are a few suggestions:
(1) Ask the members of your church if they know of any deaf folks.
(2) Write the school for the deaf in your state and ask if they would give you the names of the deaf and hard-of-hearing in your area.
(3) Check in factories, printing shops, newspaper offices, shoe repair shops, I.B.M. installations, etc. The deaf students study primarily these vocations in their schools.
(4) Contact your Board of Education for names of deaf enrolled in “special” classes.
(5) Write to the Bill Rice Ranch, Murfreesboro, Tennessee, and ask them to send you a list of names of deaf people they know from your area and state. (They have a camp for the deaf and have a list of names from every state.)
If you find one deaf in your area, you have the key to finding other deaf because they are a society in themselves. Everywhere you go, ask people if they know any deaf folks. Get into the habit of asking, “Do you know any deaf folks?”
How to divide the classes:
As the new deaf work grows and workers are enlisted, more classes are formed. The Deaf Department of the First Baptist Church, Hammond, Indiana, now has seven classes for the deaf and hard-of-hearing. They are divided as follows:
Primary--------------------------Ages 5, 6, 7
Junior----------------------------Ages 8, 9, 10
Intermediate Class-------------Ages 11, 12, 13
Teen-age Class-----------------Ages 14 - 19
Adult Lip-reading Class
Ladies’ Bible Class
Men’s Bible Class
We are training deaf as well as hearing folk to teach in our Deaf Department. We have seven teachers--three of whom are deaf and four are hearing. All the officers--the president, vice-president, secretary, treasurer, and songleader--of our Deaf Sunday School Department are deaf.
Our Sunday school classes are separate from the
hearing but all preaching services are shared with the hearing. Every
service is interpreted for the deaf and hard-of-hearing.
2. The Spanish Class
We have found that in our area many people
cannot understand the English language because of their Mexican and Spanish
background. Consequently, we provide classes taught in the Spanish language
for these people. Concerning this work, the director, Mrs. Rose O’Brien has
submitted the following:
The Spanish Class was formed in 1965. It came into being quite simply. One Sunday in the Pastor’s Sunday school class, I offered my assistance to a lady by interpreting for her from Spanish to English. Later that day the pastor asked me where I had learned to speak fluent Spanish. I replied, “I learned it in my home. Since my parents came from Spain and spoke only Spanish in our home, this was how I learned to speak it.” The pastor then asked if I would like to teach a Sunday school class in Spanish. I replied in the affirmative, and my work began.
We found a desirable location and had only one prospect, but we started having our classes. With one in class and more prospects in mind we began a visitation program and began calling on Spanish-speaking people. This, of course, includes not only Spanish people, but Mexicans, Puerto Ricans, and Cubans. From this our class began to grow, and the Lord is blessing us constantly.
A few pointers or bits of advice which I would give are as follows:
(1) Accept the Spanish person as he is.
(2) Be punctual yourself thus teaching them by example.
(3) Study your Sunday school lesson well in order to translate it in such a manner that there is none of the meaning lost in the translation.
(4) Always use a Spanish person to teach the class as opposed to one who has learned the language in school. (I feel that a person who has been reared in this particular environment understands better the feelings of these people and is more inclined to think like they do.)
(5) Be sure to organize groups from your class to do visitation and help them get started in this. As in anything else, once they see the results of their labors, their enthusiasm will grow.
(6) Form your own Women’s Missionary Society Circle for the Spanish-speaking ladies.
(7) Do everything you can to make them feel a part of the entire church program, not just a separate section.
(8) Be patient with them as they are perhaps slower to learn and grasp things.
(9) Have your own officers just as any other class does.
(10) Always be the leader of your class, in all things doing exactly what the pastor says and the way he says it. Do it as gently as possible and as firmly as necessary.
3. The Retarded Children
One of the most blessed and inspiring works in
all of our Sunday school is the work with the retarded children. This class
is called the Sunbeam Class. Not only has it enabled us to reach many
retarded children, but it has provided a way for their parents to come to
Sunday school. The director of this work is Mrs. Zola Stevens. Mrs. Stevens
writes concerning the work:
The mentally retarded and their families represent a vast mission field, and it should be a challenge to any church as it has been to us here at First Baptist.
The mentally retarded are human beings, flesh and blood with real feelings and should be accepted for what they are and not for what they ought to be. Because of their short memory span and their short attention span, they cannot function with normal children effectively. You either meet the needs of the retarded child and neglect the others or visa-versa.
We started our class with four children already enrolled in our Beginner Department. I had to teach in that department only a few Sundays to see the need for a special class. At that time I didn’t know it had ever been considered by the pastor, but later I was told that he had wanted a class started and had been praying for the Lord to send the right teacher. The Lord had already given me a burden for the mentally handicapped so I quickly volunteered.
The first thing we needed to look for was a suitable classroom--one located away from distractions as much as possible, well lighted, well ventilated, and with a rest room close by. After this was taken care of we felt we should visit in the homes of the children already enrolled and get the parents’ permission to enroll them in a special class.
Workers were needed to help the teacher and the first requirement for selecting them is the spiritual one. Are they BORN-AGAIN Christians? Do they have a burden for the mentally handicapped? A teacher or a worker should have a special love for children, a stable personality, patience and courage. Personal mannerisms and voice are very important when dealing with retarded children. (The Lord can supply the needs if we are willing.) Two workers were found and approved by our pastor. One worker for every three or four children is the ratio that is recommended, and we find it to be necessary in order to have an organized class.
The teaching material for children with the chronological age of 5 through 12 had to be decided upon. Because the ability level for each child is not the same, we decided to use beginner and primary material and adapt it to the needs of the class. It is always necessary to repeat a lesson at least once and sometimes many times.
The schedule that we have followed from the beginning with slight variations from time to time is as follows:
When a new child is enrolled it is important to find out the physical defects, seizures, medication, hearing ability, etc., of the child. We need to know what they are able to do for themselves and what transportation they used to get to church.
We have not found discipline to be a great problem. After a child has attended a few Sundays and knows what is expected of him, he usually tries to please. If a child is completely undisciplined in the home it takes much longer for them to adjust. From the beginning we established limits and rules. We try very hard to be consistent. When it is necessary to punish, we do it immediately and firmly with love. They need to know they are loved, in many cases they have known nothing but rejection. We reward good behavior. Many times a pat on the back or a smile can do wonders.
Because of our growth we have recently divided into two classes, separating the trainable and the educable children. God has been good because many of the educable children have been saved.
We have been given prospects by members of our church and their neighbors. The Lake County Association for Retarded Children has been helpful. Some private and public school have allowed us to observe their teaching and hand out brochures for the students to take home.
Promotion for a special class is harder because of their short memory span. We have found that a small take-home gift each Sunday is the best. We have used a Treasure Chest, Wishing Well, and a Surprise Box from which they may choose their take-home gifts.
One special big day was Mother’s Day. In preparation for that day we took individual pictures of each child for two Sundays and then on the big day they made picture frames for handcraft and took the pictures home to Mom for Mother’s Day.
In a recent Sunday school promotion where an
Indian theme was used, we made a canoe, Indian, and a paddle for each child.
They were thrilled to see their canoes move across the river each Sunday
they attended. All that finished won a prize.
4. The Class for Retarded Teen-agers and Adults
Here is a sad and neglected group of people.
God sent to our church a lovely couple with a burden for this group. They
are Mr. and Mrs. Bob Houston, who say the following about their work:
1. The most important need is a pastor who has a burden for the retarded and know they need a Saviour as all of us do. Retarded people can be helped and can be brought to a saving knowledge of Jesus. A pastor who backs up the program is essential.
2. The church must be sincerely willing to provide space, equipment, and transportation to bring them in.
3. The teachers of this special class should be those who look upon these people with tender love, not pity, and see their need even when sometimes they are unlovely. The teachers must have firm discipline and order. These dear ones sense your innermost feelings and know whether you are truly sincere. We would recommend husband and wife teams if possible. Certainly you would need a man and woman, because there would be bathroom problems. Also, some of these people are large, besides being physically handicapped.
A teacher should be creative and willing to work hard. It’s good for them to make Bible stories come alive. Teachers must call in each home and explain what is taught and how it is taught. It’s a real pleasure to do calling and so important to do this regularly. Not all home welcome you, however.
The teachers and helpers should have a proper
understanding of and about persons who are mentally retarded before
beginning the work of starting a class.
Characteristics of the Retarded
1. They are real persons (souls) with needs.
(1) A need for “Christ” as personal Saviour.
(2) A need for Christian growth.
(3) A need for love and understanding.
(4) A need for guidance spiritually and in everyday living.
2. They are different from normal persons only in the speed--
(1) Of their ability mentally to grasp, understand and retain.
(2) In the amount of extra patience and extra love they require.
(3) In the short attention span before getting bored.
(4) In the extra physical handicaps many have to cope with.
(5) In the inability of ever being able to read
or write well or at all sometimes.
Solutions to Obvious Problems
1. Never go too fast or give too much at anytime. Teaching should be done in five or six different ways never taking over ten to fifteen minutes with each method.
2. Patience and extra love is acquired from God through extra prayer all week long.
3. Use flannelgraph, filmstrips, gospel magic, object lessons, Bible games, crafts, and visual songs.
4. Regarding their physical handicaps, observe and listen, but never dwell on them. Handle the handicap normally, never building it up in any way.
5. Ask workers to help each person find the
place in the Bible and hold finger on place where teacher reads. Never ask
anyone to read.
1. It’s very good if possible to meet in a building apart from the church building. This enables you to bring in more Catholics and Jews.
2. You need good bathroom facilities.
3. Enough room if possible where they can change from assembly room to Bible story room to refreshment and craft room.
(1) This not only breaks up the monotony of sitting so long, for it must be remembered they are there from the beginning of Sunday school until someone comes for them after church is over.
(2) This also later enables class members to be
placed into smaller groups for Bible story time, so they may learn or be
taught at their level of understanding.
A List of “Do’s”
1. Always greet each person with genuine love and enthusiasm. Listen quickly to what each one has to say as you guide him to the coat rack and secretary to be registered and receive name tags. The name tags can be made from construction paper in the shape of something pertaining to that Sunday’s Bible verse. The verse is usually printed on the tag and taken home by the pupil to be learned.
2. Make up copies of a schedule of what takes place from 9:20 to 9:30, etc., so teachers, helpers, and class members soon learn what to expect. If a change becomes necessary, make changes slowly.
3. In the beginning all things are done together such as singing, Bible verse time, Bible story time, etc. Later when the class has grown to more than twenty in attendance, separate into advanced and slow for Bible story time only.
4. Be sure the room, equipment, and material are set up before class members arrive.
5. Be sure helpers are obtained and instructed what to do during the week.
6. Give invitation at close of every Bible story.
7. Make arrangements for class to come into regular church services once a month thus giving the class members an opportunity to hear preaching and music and learn how to conduct themselves in church.
8. Make regular times for bathroom privileges.
A List of “Don’ts”
How to Obtain Prospects
1. Bob and I, being parents of a retarded child, were active in the Gary Council for Retarded Children. I was treasurer for two years, also room mother, and we were on many committees. I had a list of names of the Lake County Association Retarded Children and Adults. We were friends with many other parents of retarded people. This is how we got prospects first.
2. Another way is to visit such programs in your area and ask for names.
3. Parents in your own church should be of help.
4. Some hospitals now have a therapy program.
One might visit and get prospects there.
5. Unmarried Adults’ Class
Many adults never marry; others lose their
mates during the early or middle years of life. Life’s circumstances have
led them to have different interests and ways of life than those of married
people. Hence, we provide for these people a special class. I have asked
their teacher, Mr. Walter Mitziga, to give his ideas and impressions about
this work. He writes as follows:
Every church has a group of people to whom life has been perplexing and bewildering; people who have not found themselves in the normal social associations. These are unmarried adults from 35 years and up. Some have never married, a few are still seeking, some are widows and widowers, several have been abandoned by their mates, and a few are divorced.
In the average church these people are scattered in adult Sunday school classes--the class taught by the pastor, a Men’s Brotherhood Class, a Women’s Class. However, many do not attend Sunday school. Most cannot identify themselves with any particular group in the church because of their situation. These are lonely people without opportunity to fellowship with other Christians. Here is where an Unmarried Adult Sunday School Class can help in the Sunday school.
Prospects for this class are found within the membership. Some are active, a few are active in a limited way, and several are actually backsliders. Members of the class invite friends who find themselves in the same situation in life. Our visitation people who call on prospects and visitors recommend people to this class. Friends and relatives in the church give names of prospects they think would benefit by being in such a class.
Such a class is organized with a president, vice-president and a secretary, who collects funds for birthday cards and flowers for the sick and bereaved of the class. The teacher and his wife care for the spiritual and social activities of the class. Strong direction in social activities is necessary as outside influences sometimes are exerted in the planning of social events.
Social activities are held once a month for fellowship. Once a year a dinner in a restaurant, with a banquet room for ourselves is planned, and we bring in an outside speaker. We visit museums and planetariums, take a Christmas Walk (visiting shops that sell Christmas cards and remembrances at less than a dollar), enjoy a summer picnic, take a bus trip to outlying towns, and visit each others’ homes and back yards.
To stimulate interest in other folks who are not as well off as members of the class, we assist in services at the County Home once a month. Once or twice a year we also go with the young people of our church to the Pacific Garden Mission.
The class participates in the Spring and Fall contests that the entire Sunday school promotes by arranging competitive contests with other classes. We have divided the class into two groups alphabetically for contest purposes. One year everyone in the class was a contestant and was graded by points for being faithful in attendance, bringing a visitor to class, bring a visitor to another class or department, and by making calls made on prospects given to the entire class. Every visitor to the class, every name given by friends and relatives, and every prospect on the church roll not attending Sunday school is contacted and contacted again throughout the year by different persons at different times.
6. The Class for College Age and Unmarried Young Adults
Many churches find that when their young people
graduate from high school, they also graduate from Sunday school. Because of
this, one of the most active works in First Baptist Church is the class for
college-age and unmarried young adults. This often provides a bridge between
high school and marriage. It is a very vital part of our church life and
certainly helps us to reach many who would be unreached otherwise. This work
is under the direction of Mr. John Olsen, who says the following about it:
Mention the prospect of teaching a college-age class to the average Sunday school workers, and the chances are they will respond with much fear and trembling. I know! It happened tome. I had formed a mental picture of the college-age class member as one who is constantly analyzing everything a teacher says as to accuracy, logic, delivery, and grammatical errors. Actually, nothing could be farther from the truth. Teaching the college-age class has been a rewarding, vitalizing experience, and I have enjoyed every minute of it.
Why? For this reason: They are not the least bit stuffy; they act natural. To earn their confidence and respect I try to be just as natural plus genuinely friendly in return. I constantly recognize that I can learn something from each one of them. They are a storehouse of mature learning and adult knowledge. I am also aware that regardless of stature or degree of education, each one knows something and may even have a unique talent that no one else possess. For example, at one time or another our class has included high school teachers, a student nearing his doctorate degree, an electronics engineer, automobile mechanics, construction laborers, secretaries, interior designers, theology students, a chemical engineer, sales clerks, restaurant managers, steel mill workers, and several who could barely read. I recall one fellow who was saved out of a rough, tough street gang because of a concerned Christian employer. This fellow had a talent no one else had. He was a shoemaker. He could repair shoes with a craftsman’s skill. I owned several pairs of shoes of varying value. He would amuse himself and discomfit me by looking at them a short moment and telling me within a dollar or two what I paid for them.
One Sunday morning I stood up to teach.
Suddenly I became keenly aware that looking at me and expecting words of
wisdom regarding the lesson were at least a half dozen ministerial students
from nearby Moody Bible Institute, an English teacher, and one schooled in
mathematics and science. My first thought was, “DON’T PANIC.” Next, I
applied a simple psychological help that never fails. It is based on the
simple rule that EVERYBODY KNOWS SOMETHING THAT THE OTHER PERSON DOES NOT
KNOW. I had studied the lesson. I had asked God for wisdom. I knew something
that they didn’t know--today’s Sunday school lesson. Properly prepared, I
had the advantage. From the vast store of knowledge within that class I
would draw information. Using leading questions I would use someone’s Bible
knowledge or technical knowledge to verify a point, to validate an example,
or to prove an illustration. It is thus that I invite class participation.
Seldom do I permit lengthy presentation or discussion of an opinion
regarding a point in the lesson. When I do, it must be concise, and it is
used only to stimulate thinking, not to raise an issue. For example, I might
ask for ideas regarding the functional purpose of each of the four coverings
of the Tabernacle. Logical answers might be: A phrase I use often is, “Prove
your statement from the Bible.”
1. Maturity. Though they are young adults they are definitely adults, and I regard them as such. They may refer to each other as “kids” in their conversation. I NEVER DO! At least, I do not intentionally. I impose a fine of $1.00 upon myself every time I refer to them as “kids.” I usually address them as “ladies and gentlemen,” “folks,” or “young people” depending upon the situation. In deference to those who work as opposed to those attending school we call ourselves “College and Professional Age Young Adults.”
2. Less Sophistication. We have played games and have had amusements at some of our class socials that would shake the aplomb of the average high school student right down to his shoes. High schoolers don’t want to be treated like children and thus often adopt an air of reserve. Certain activities are taboo because they might cause a loss of dignity. The college age, on the other hand, could care less as long as it’s within the bounds of good taste. Can you imagine a group of college-age young people playing “hopscotch” or “jump-rope” at a summer outing? We’ve done it and it was fun.
This one difference between high schoolers and college age is the biggest reason why there should never be a combined high school and college-age group in a church. The program eventually winds up geared to the needs of the high school age, and the college age usually ends up left out and soon becomes the forgotten age group as it is in many churches today.
3. Self-Generating. Give them an assignment, or better, let them get an inspiration and the college-age students will generally carry it through to the end without further stimulation. Most of the banquets and programs are planned, worked up, and presented without a great deal of push from the group sponsor. As teacher/sponsor I reserve the right to be a “road-block” if need be. A planning committee will always come to me for approval. Sometimes I may modify an item or offer some suggestions. These are always accepted graciously and the work proceeds. Never once have any of the committees abandoned their projects because of a disagreement with the teacher/sponsor. Never once have I had to wield any discipline because of improper conduct at a group-sponsored activity.
4. Rapport. College-age folks accept each other
more easily than do high schoolers. Because of this, reticent ones are less
often shunned and active cliques are less of a problem than they are with
older or younger groups. I am constantly on the lookout for anything
remotely resembling a clique and the loner who will not initiate an
acquaintance with others. To the loner I will often give little seemingly
unobtrusive jobs such as passing out songbooks or anything that will place
that one in direct contact with the others. If a stranger or visitor sits by
himself for more than just a minute or so before the class session starts, I
will always call one of the class “regulars” outside into the hall, give
them the stranger’s name and some information about him and suggest that he
go back in and sit near the stranger, introduce himself or herself, and
strike up a conversation. If I notice a clique in the making, I will often
select a clique-member to introduce himself to a stranger.
As previously mentioned, we do not have a combined high school and college-age program because of the divergent characteristics and interests of the two groups. Furthermore, our entire college-age program is unified. The teacher of the Sunday school class is also sponsor of the evening Training Union. This unification precludes any conflicting activity; the left hand always knows what the right hand is doing. Also, no college-ager need feel left out because he happens to teach a younger class or works as a departmental secretary. Any planned activity automatically includes every unmarried young adult in the church.
Once a year, in December we nominate and elect a class President and Vice-President. Those elected take office effective January first each year. Before nominations are opened I instruct the class to choose prayerfully candidates who have some ability to lead and who will have an active part in the Sunday school opening exercises. Choose candidates, I advise, who are regular in attendance an faithful to group activities.
I reserve the privilege of selecting a class
secretary/treasurer. I look for one who, again, is regular in attendance and
who is apt to keeping records and properly handling the offerings. Our class
has its own treasury. A checking account is kept at a local bank. All
disbursements require two signatures: the secretary/treasurer’s and the
The Sunday school lesson starts promptly at 10:00 a.m. I make a point of ALWAYS being the first one in the classroom each Sunday morning. That way I can check on chair arrangement, draw any illustrations needed on the chalkboard and, most important, I can greet each one personally as he enters the room. I try to chat a brief moment with each person, complimenting a new dress, hairdo or suit, or commenting on recent happenings of interest to that person. These are PEOPLE we are dealing with, not just a class. Everyone thrives on recognition; individual recognition. That’s the reason a warm INDIVIDUAL greeting is most imperative. The fifteen- to twenty-minute period before the lesson is flexible. We usually sing one and sometimes two hymns or choruses. The balance of the time is used reading letters from college students and servicemen, making announcements, and introducing visitors. It is a good idea to occasionally present a vocal or instrument group during the opening twenty-minute period.
I make much of the introduction of visitors. As they come into the classroom they will out visitor’s cards, giving their name, home address, their local address if their home is not in the local area, where they work or attend school, their phone number, and birth date. Very often I can determine something interesting about the visitor from the information on the card. For example: On September 24, 1967, we had an unusually large number of visiting students from Moody Bible Institute. I guess the bus driver steered two busloads into the college-age class. There were 51 visitors from Moody Bible Institute alone. To the utter amazement of myself and all concerned there were eight Moody students about whom I knew something. One girl was from Groton, Connecticut. Well, that’s a large submarine base where the first atomic submarine was researched, developed, and constructed. Another’s home was on the south side of Chicago. She was a member of a Baptist church pastored by a friend of mine of long standing. I mentioned his name and some of the things we did together years before. One student from Pekin, Illinois, was a member of Pekin Bible Church. I mentioned that his church was organized by Rev. Charles Svoboda, of the Illinois Bible Church Association, a friend from the time we attended the same college-age Sunday school class. A student from Souderton, Pennsylvania, was a member of the Grace Bible Church in Souderton. I said, “That’s the church pastored by Rev. Gerald Stover, right?” I had met Pastor Stover when he had stayed in the home of my wife’s parents while holding a week of meetings in their church. One girl from Crown Point, Indiana, had the same name as an auctioneer and candidate for public office that I had once met in a restaurant in Lowell, Indiana. I asked if she was related to him, and she said that he was her cousin. A Miss Elaine Taylor gave her home as Norway, Michigan. I immediately spotted a relationship. I said, “Are you related to Pastor William Taylor of Norway, Michigan, a former member of Cicero Bible Church?” A little startled, she said, “Yes, he is my father and we still hold a membership in Cicero Bible Church.” Twenty years ago, when Pastor Taylor was a student at Moody Bible Institute, he and I taught classes in the same Sunday school department. When I came to the last visitor card I was absolutely astounded. I recognized a very unpronounceable name as that of a business associate of mine. The address on the card indicated a correlation. I announced the name, “Larry Mykytiuk.” The fellow stood, surprised that a stranger pronounced his name correctly, perhaps for the first time in his life. I said, “Are you related to Tome Mykytiuk, formerly a salesman for A. H. Robins Company, pharmaceutical manufacturers, who recently resigned to become a minister?” Larry, still visibly surprised, said, “Yes, he is my brother.” What a day that was! The important thing was that those folks, especially, felt less like strangers because somebody knew them. As much as possible, try to say something personal to each visitor as he is introduced. I may not always reap the harvest I did on that particular Sunday morning but often there is something of interest with every visitor. It may be some interesting history or geography surrounding their home town. Mention it. Make them feel at home in your class.
The evening Training Union is 45 minutes in length. Since about half of those who attend are also members of the adult choir, we dismiss in time for the Sunday choir practice. We devote a few minutes at the start of each Training Union session for fellowship. The programs are varied. We have had prayer meetings for the entire time; guest speakers; testimony sessions; interesting films; quizzes; and Bible studies, for either one evening or a series over several weeks. A recent series was on “How Fulfilled Bible Prophecies Validate the Veracity and Accuracy of the Bible.”
The Training Union is important because it
gives those who teach in various Sunday school departments in the morning a
chance to co-mingle with other college-age folks in the evening.
The greatest single number of class members come in on Promotion Day. These are the high school seniors who are graduating. Most churches traditionally observe Promotion Sunday in October each year. We did until tradition gave way to expediency. The problem which faced the college-age class was a serious one. When about half of the graduating high school seniors left in September for colleges and universities across the country, we wouldn’t get to even meet them until they returned home for Christmas vacation. By that time they usually felt completely alien to the college-age class and many would fail to join in with the others. They would have to be met, be introduced, and then try to get acquainted, only to leave again in a week or ten days, never feeling as though they were definitely a part of the college-age group. Wisely, the Sunday school teachers unanimously elected to change Promotion Day to coincide with the end of the secular school year. Now the graduating seniors enter into the college-age activities three months before they leave for college and are completely assimilated before they leave.
Other prospects are brought in by class members
who invite their co-workers from their places of employment. Other prospects
are visitors to our church services. From their visitors’ cards contact is
made and they are told of a class composed of people their age with their
interests at heart.
We have had several contests within the class. Points were awarded for certain accomplishments such as bringing visitors, being present in class, and arriving on time. While we didn’t become filled to overflowing, several people worked very hard and were awarded fine Thompson Chain References Bibles, and Amplified Bibles.
The most successful promotional stunt we ever had was an attendance contest held against the Couples’ Class. It was successful from the standpoint that a lot of people came out to Sunday school. Yet, ironically, our Pioneer Class, who was the challenger, did not win. It all started one evening during the height of one of our seasonal Sunday school attendance campaigns when one of the Pioneer Class members overheard a Couples’ Class member state that we would not make our quota on our “Big Day.” Of course, we took this as a friendly insult. We immediately drew up a set of resolutions and presented a challenge to the Couples Class. The winning class, according to the challenge, was to be treated to a $12.50 “Tornado” sundae at the Melody Lane Restaurant by the losers, and the losers’ class president and teacher were to receive a whipped cream pie tossed into their faces by the winning team. In our haste to challenge the Couples Class we failed to establish ground rules and take several things into consideration. (1) We failed to realize that the Couples’ Class gets their prospects by two’s--a man and his wife--whereas the Pioneer Class gets their prospects one at a time because they are single. (2) We filed to establish whether the winner would be determined by a numerical superiority or by the highest percentage over their quota figure. The result was that on the deciding day the Pioneer Class had one hundred five in attendance (their all-time record) against the Couples’ Class attendance of an even one hundred. However, since the Couples’ Class had a smaller quota, they were easily the winners on a percentage over quota basis. The promotion was far from being a failure as far as people were concerned for many people came out to Sunday school who would not otherwise have come. On the day of the pay-off, or more literally, PIE-off, the Pioneer Class drove the Couples’ Class by bus to the Melody Lane Restaurant for the Tornado sundae--two and one half gallons of ice cream resplendent with whipped cream and appropriately delivered with sparklers sparkling, sirens blowing, cymbals clanging and all the hoopla that went with it. Later that evening back at the church, the teacher and president of the Pioneer Class donned plastic bags that covered all but their heads and stood with the solemnity of Stephen the martyr while C. W. Fisk, teacher of the Couples’ Class plopped two juicy whipped cream pies right in their faces.
Perhaps we will never know until we reach Heaven the real outcome of that contest measured in the number of people that came out to Sunday school and the number of souls won to Jesus as a result.
It was fun. But, the next time we challenge a
class we will make certain that they are not married!
Something always seems to be going on with the college-age group. Basically, our activities fall into the five following categories: Sunday morning breakfasts, Sunday evening “Take-overs,” Saturday socials, outings, and banquets.
Two or three times a year we will have a Sunday morning breakfast. The purpose, as with all of our activities, is to provide fellowship, heeding the admonition of Romans 12:10, “Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honour preferring one another.”
We generally serve coffee, milk, orange juice, and a large variety of rolls and doughnuts. No chairs are set up in order to preserve an atmosphere of informality. We allow about a half hour for breakfast. During this time we may have a few choruses, and we make the announcements and introduce any new people. The lesson starts promptly at the usual time as the class takes seats in a random fashion.
A “Take-over” is a name that was coined when we separated from the high school department. Originally, a “Take-over” corresponded with a high school “Sing.” In effect, and, of course, in a very spiritual manner we “Take-over” the Church Fellowship Hall, a corner of a restaurant, or someone’s home for what we call fellowship, fun, and food. There is not set pattern. Very often we will have a “Take-over” very spontaneously with no more than several hours’ notice. We will order pizza or hamburgers and have them ready for pick-up or delivery by the time the Sunday evening church service ends. Most often we will sing, have some testimonies, a prayer time, and a devotional. A “Take-over” is always planned when someone leaves for the Armed Service or when someone comes home on leave. These, of course, are planned “Take-overs.” They will most often be in the Fellowship Hall or someone’s home. Sometimes we will invite a guest speaker for the devotional. Always, the person involved is the guest of honor. Recently , as one of the fellows left for the Army, we had a “Take-over” entitled, “This is Your Life, Johnny Mark,” outlining various high points in John Mark’s life and each was dramatized in an appropriately comical episode. Several weeks later another, Mark Graves, was being drafted. Mark was our gourmet. His talent is out-eating everybody else. Mark also comes from a large family. The theme of the “Take-over” was “food.” One game was a food-eating relay. The high point was an hilarious portrayal of the hazards involved in eating under crowded conditions dramatized by Mark and his brother Jeffrey.
The food cost at our “Take-overs” is covered through voluntary contributions from those present. We total the cost of the food, divide by the number present and announce the average cost. No set amount is ever required, just in case anyone may be suffering a temporary financial setback.
Another activity is our Saturday social. Sometimes we have Friday night socials. There are at least two good bowling lanes in our area where we can bowl in good taste in a comparatively refined atmosphere. An evening of bowling may be followed by refreshments and fellowship in someone’s home. One time we went to a very old farmhouse converted into a place that serves a large variety of unusual pancakes. One recent Saturday social was a Treasure Hunt. We met at the church at 7:30 p.m. and divided into six teams of three and four each. Each team was given a set of sealed directions to follow. There were about eight destinations in each set of directions. Each group had to first interpret the directions, then find the destinations, and then determine what to do once they got there. The final destination awarded amusing prizes to the winning team, and a lavish chicken buffet supper was served to all.
Outings are always on Saturday because of the longer time involved. Places we have gone include Brookfield Zoo, the Chicago Police Crime Laboratory, several museums, and the Adler Planetarium to view a presentation entitled, “The Star of Bethlehem.”
“A Day at Naomi Wedding’s Farm” is always unforgettable. Naomi, one of our group, lives on a farm about thirty miles south of Hammond. For the past two years we have had outings there. We arrive there between two and three in the afternoon. A typical sequence of activity is as follows: softball game, watermelon feed, tug-o’-war, treasure hunt, dodge-ball, egg toss, volley ball, some less active contests, supper, and more games. Gallons of ice cold punch are always available. After dark we gather around a large campfire to roast marshmallows, sing choruses, give some testimonies, and close with a devotional. We end the day bone weary and sometimes a little damaged. One fellow earned the name “Cowboy” Douglas after he was thrown by an uncooperative pony.
Twice a year we have a banquet. Usually these are held in August, just before school begins, and in December, right after Christmas. The ingenuity of a college-ager is totally revealed at a banquet. One summer they had a South Sea Island motif. Dan Johnson and several others constructed a lagoon about 25 feet long and six feet wide, complete with live fish! The supports in the banquet room became palm trees, and there were flowers everywhere. Where did the flowers come from? You would never guess! Barbara Mark discovered that funeral homes discard most of the flowers after a funeral. The banquet committee called all the local funeral homes and just plain asked for the flowers. They got them. I will confess to feeling a little vulturous as I drove down streets looking for funeral processions to determine at what funeral homes the flowers might be obtained.
The food for our banquets is either catered or prepared by certain women of the church. At one of the most successful banquets, however, the fellows prepared everything and the food was actually delicious. Tom Beilby prepared the roast and a very tasty salad dressing. Canned foods were disallowed, and Arnold Johnson concocted a soup that was the best I had ever tasted. It was the first time in his life he had cooked anything. The mashed potatoes were excellent though a little gray and slightly lumpy. We accused John Flasman of mashing them with his bare feet. Jeff Graves supervised the Parker House rolls. Terry Cunningham and Dave Quigg collaborated on the pie and homemade ice cream. All the fellows had a hand in the tossed salad. It was a most wonderful dinner.
Christmas week of 1967 we held our first banquet in the Fellowship Hall of our new Sunday school building. The committee discussed at long length various possible table arrangements. The arrangement agreed upon permitted every table to be near the focal point of skits and presentations. The committee asked me to preside as Master of Ceremonies. I make a habit of preparing more than is needed in case of anything unforeseen. After several skits and musical selections went off very well, I announced that we would present “Table Talent.” In five minutes I would begin picking tables to present a skit, a song, or anything they could prepare in five minutes. The results were “sidesplitting.” One was a fractured, off-key quartet where one member seemed to be fighting off waves of nausea and finally fainted. Another skit depicted a scene in a doctor’s reception room where one poor patient was absorbing all the symptoms of the other patients. The rest were equally funny. Miss Pat Webb and those who work with her to develop interesting programs and “Take-overs” have done much to make a sponsor’s job easier.
A college-age characteristic I didn’t mention in the beginning deserves special attention. That is appreciation. Our folks have expressed gratitude in may ways. Greatest of all was February 20, 1968. It was our 25th wedding anniversary.
We expected to spend a quiet evening at home with a few visiting relatives. About 7:30 p.m. an avalanche of college-age folks overwhelmed us bearing food, gifts, and all the entertainment. Naturally we were touched and overjoyed beyond words.
I guess I am partial to the college-age department. The college-ager is a pleasure to work with and to be with. You may wonder, “Is it hard work?” Sometimes. “Is it time-consuming?” Yes, and there is lots of study involved. “Is it discouraging?” Never, except where it pertains to my own failings, but every once in a while a young man or young lady will come up to me at the close of the Sunday school hour and say, “That was a good lesson, Mr. Olsen.” I know they are sincere and not perfunctory and I am warmed. I thank them verbally, and deep down inside I say, “Thank you, Lord, for college-agers.”
7. The Class for Poor Children
The First Baptist Church has a work among the underprivileged children of the neighboring area. This is an extension of our Sunday school work.
The class meets on Sunday afternoon and utilizes the facilities of the church. Because the class meets on Sunday afternoon, it is possible to reach children who because or shabby clothing would not come or be allowed to come to regular Sunday school. Also it is possible to reach those who may attend church elsewhere.
The class is promoted by advertising. A poster in a place where many children pass by during the week is effective. A mailing list is helpful also, and ditto reminders about coming events can be sent to them. Every child likes to receive mail. Personal contact with children in the area is the best method for getting the children to come. Initially, I went into the residential area with bubble gum and a mimeographed flyer on the day before I first had the class. There were 53 present the first Sunday, and it grew in attendance to over 90. Sometimes a little gift or treat is given. We have also had a ventriloquist, magician, and a strong man for an extra treat for the children.
The class begins at 1:30 p.m. The first fifteen minutes of the class is conducted on a Sunday school assembly basis. The Sunday school lesson is then taught and many times an invitation is given in order to reach the unsaved.
At about 2:15 p.m. a hot lunch is served. We alternate basically between two different meals: Hot dogs, baked beans, potato chips, cookies, and juice or milk are served one Sunday. The following Sunday we serve “Sloopy Joes,” potato chils (or cheeze-flavored corn puffs), whole kernel corn, cookies, and juice or milk. For some of the children, it is the only decent meal they get all week.
These children, of course, come from some poor backgrounds. They should be handled in a disciplined way. It may be their only opportunity for learning proper behavior. They should also be loved. Again, it may be their only opportunity for real love.
Hence, all ages in all walks of life may find those of like interest in the Sunday school of First Baptist Church. Let us forget no one in our attempt to reach people for Christ.
More Life Changing Sermons by Dr. Jack Hyles:
Do you know for sure that if you died today, you would go to Heaven? You can know!
Click Here to find out how!