From time to time, I am asked if I know a particularly good book about teaching which Sunday school teachers might find useful. And while I've been able to suggest a few with ideas which are adaptable to Sunday school teaching, I've not known of any which both spoke to the art of teaching and Christian ethics in the same breath.
No longer. "Teaching Today: The Church's First Ministtry," by Locke E. Bowman Jr. (Philadelphia: Westminster Press. $8.95) passes every test I could give a book designed to aid lay Sunday school teachers.
Mr. Bowman does an amazingly penetrating job of defining and explaining some of the newest fads in teaching as well as some of the older ones like indoctrination and memorization.
He starts from the premise that our Christian churches are not now doing the job of educating they could and should. And he charges that the last 20 years of Sunday school teaching have concentrated on materials and curriculum to the neglect of sound teaching techniques.
"I really believe," Mr. Bowman states in his forthright manner, "that education, especially that accomplished by the church, will not be significantly improved or made lively on a wide scale, until more practitioners occupy themselves with the kinds of questions raised in this book -- questions about how people learn, about the explicit functions of a teacher, and about the educative effect of Christian community."
For Mr. Bowman, teaching and learning are creative activities, hence the implication is that both learner and teacher must be active mentally, as well as physically. "Teaching Today" is not just a recipe book for sound teaching ideas; it's a rousing call to arms for the whole Christian community. As MR. Bowman puts it:
"The Christian view of learning is victorious. There is a sense of triumph in putting something together for one's self, and for the sake of one's relationship to God and to others."
He quotes Alfred North Whitehead, "All practical teachers know that education is a patient process of the mastery of details, minute by minute, hour by hour, day by day. There is no royal road to learning through an airy path of brilliant generalizations." Yet Mr. Bowman follows this sober note with, "We need also to be impatient!"
Impatient with the use of inert ideas, with fuzzy materials, and with too little support for the Sunday school from the church's administrative structure.
Teachers will get a great deal from this volume, but so will Sunday school superintendents, pastors, and members of church governing boards.
Since Mr. Bowman is quite outspoken, there will be those who disagree with some of his teaching strategies, and some of his biblical interpretations, but all who care deeply about improved Sunday school teaching will be stimulated.