Religious Education in the Family
by Henry F. Cope
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General Secretary of the Religious Education Association

The University of Chicago Press Chicago, Illinois Copyright 1915 by The University of Chicago All Rights Reserved Published April 1915 Second Impression September 1915 Third Impression March 1916 Fourth Impression June 1917 Fifth Impression August 1920 Sixth Impression July 1922 Seventh Impression September 1922 Composed and Printed By The University of Chicago Press Chicago, Illinois, U.S.A.

The University of Chicago Press Chicago, Illinois

The Baker and Taylor Company New York

The Cambridge University Press London

The Maruzen-Kabushiki-Kaisha Tokyo, Osaka, Kyoto, Fukuoka, Sendai

The Mission Book Company Shanghai


In the work of religious education, with which the present series of books is concerned, the life of the family rightly occupies a central place. The church has always realized its duty to exhort parents to bring up their children in the nurture and admonition of the Lord, but very little has ever been done to enable parents to study systematically and scientifically the problem of religious education in the family. Today parents' classes are being formed in many churches; Christian Associations, women's clubs, and institutes are studying the subject; individual parents are becoming more and more interested in the rational performance of their high duties. And there is a general desire for guidance. As the full bibliography at the end of this volume and the references in connection with each chapter indicate, there is available a very large literature dealing with the various elements of the problem. But a guidebook to organize all this material and to stimulate independent thought and endeavor is desirable.

To afford this guidance the present volume has been prepared. It is equally adapted for the thoughtful study of the father and mother who are seeking help in the moral and religious development of their own family, and for classes in churches, institutes, and neighborhoods, where the important problems of the family are to be studied and discussed. It would be well to begin the use of the book by reading the suggestions for class work at the end of the volume.

With a confident hope that religion in the family is not to be a wistful memory of the past but a most vital force in the making of the better day that is coming, this volume is offered as a contribution and a summons.

The Editors

New Year's Day, 1915


CHAPTER PAGE I. An Interpretation of the Family 1

II. The Present Status of Family Life 10

III. The Permanent Elements in Family Life 27

IV. The Religious Place of the Family 37

V. The Meaning Of Religious Education in the Family 46

VI. The Child's Religious Ideas 60

VII. Directed Activity 75

VIII. The Home as a School 87

IX. The Child's Ideal Life 101

X. Stories and Reading 110

XI. The Use of the Bible in the Home 119

XII. Family Worship 126

XIII. Sunday in the Home 145

XIV. The Ministry of the Table 164

XV. The Boy and Girl in the Family 173

XVI. The Needs of Youth 183

XVII. The Family and the Church 198

XVIII. Children and the School 212

XIX. Dealing with Moral Crises 218

XX. Dealing with Moral Crises (Continued) 231

XXI. Dealing with Moral Crises (Continued) 240

XXII. Dealing with Moral Crises (Concluded) 249

XXIII. The Personal Factors in Religious Education 259

XXIV. Looking to the Future 268

Suggestions for Class Work 281

A Book List 290

Index 297




The ills of the modern home are symptomatic. Divorce, childless families, irreverent children, and the decadence of the old type of separate home life are signs of forgotten ideals, lost motives, and insufficient purposes. Where the home is only an opportunity for self-indulgence, it easily becomes a cheap boarding-house, a sleeping-shelf, an implement for social advantage. While it is true that general economic developments have effected marked changes in domestic economy, the happiness and efficiency of the family do not depend wholly on the parlor, the kitchen, or the clothes closet. Rather, everything depends on whether the home and family are considered in worthy and adequate terms.

Homes are wrecked because families refuse to take home-living in religious terms, in social terms of sacrifice and service. In such homes, organized and conducted to satisfy personal desires rather than to meet social responsibilities, these desires become ends rather than agencies and opportunities.

They who marry for lust are divorced for further lust. Selfishness, even in its form of self-preservation, is an unstable foundation for a home. It costs too much to maintain a home if you measure it by the personal advantages of parents. What hope is there for useful and happy family life if the newly wedded youth have both been educated in selfishness, habituated to frivolous pleasures, and guided by ideals of success in terms of garish display? Yet what definite program for any other training does society provide? Do the schools and colleges, Sunday schools and churches teach youth a better way? How else shall they be trained to take the home and family in terms that will make for happiness and usefulness? It is high time to take seriously the task of educating people to religious efficiency in the home.


The family needs a religious motive. More potent for happiness than courses in domestic economy will be training in sufficient domestic motives. It will take much more than modern conveniences, bigger apartments, or even better kitchens to make the new home. Essentially the problem is not one of mechanics but of persons. What we call the home problem is more truly a family problem. It centers in persons; the solution awaits a race with new ideals, educated to live as more than dust, for more than dirt, for personality rather than for possessions. We need young people who establish homes, not simply because they feel miserable when separated, nor because one needs a place in which to board and the other needs a boarder, but because the largest duty and joy of life is to enrich the world with other lives and to give themselves in high love to making those other lives of the greatest possible worth to the world.

The family must come to a recognition of social obligations. We all hope for the coming ideal day. Everywhere men and women are answering to higher ideals of life. But the new day waits for a new race. Modern emphasis on the child is a part of present reaction from materialism. New social ideals are personal. We seek a better world for the sake of a higher race. The emphasis on child-welfare has a social rather than a sentimental basis. The family is our great chance to determine childhood and so to make the future. The child of today is basic to the social welfare of tomorrow. He is our chance to pay to tomorrow all that we owe to yesterday. The family as the child's life-school is thus central to every social program and problem.


This age knows that man does not live by bread alone. Interest in child-welfare is for the sake of the child himself, not for the sake of his clothes or his physical condition. Concern about soap and sanitation, hygiene and the conveniences of life grows because these all go to make up the soil in which the person grows. There is danger that our emphasis on child-welfare may be that of the tools instead of the man; that we may become enmeshed in the mechanism of well-being and lose sight of the being who should be well. To fail at the point of character is to fail all along the line. And we fail altogether, no matter how many bathtubs we give a child, how many playgrounds, medical inspections, and inoculations, unless that child be in himself strong and high-minded, loving truth, hating a lie, and habituated to live in good-will with his fellows and with high ideals for the universe. Modern interest in the material factors of life is on account of their potency in making real selfhood; we acknowledge the importance of the physical as the very soil in which life grows. But the fruits are more than the soil, and a home exists for higher purposes than physical conveniences; these are but its tools to its great end. Somehow for purposes of social well-being we must raise our thinking of the family to the aim of the development of efficient, rightly minded character. The family must be seen as making spiritual persons.


Taking the home in religious terms will mean, then, conceiving it as an institution with a religious purpose, namely, that of giving to the world children who are adequately trained and sufficiently motived to live the social life of good-will. The family exists to give society developed, efficient children. It fails if it does not have a religious, a spiritual product. It cannot succeed except by the willing self-devotion of adult lives to this spiritual, personal purpose.

A family is the primary social organization for the elementary purpose of breeding the species, nurturing and training the young. This is its physiological basis. But its duties cannot be discharged on the physiological plane alone. This elementary physiological function is lifted to a spiritual level by the aim of character and the motive of love. Families cannot be measured by their size; they must be measured by the character of their products. If quality counts anywhere it counts here, though it is well to remember that it takes some reasonable quantity to make right quality in each.

The family needs a religious motive. It demands sacrifice. To follow lower impulses is to invite disaster. The home breeds bitterness and sorrow wherever men and women court for lust, marry for social standing, and maintain an establishment only as a part of the game of social competition. To sow the winds of passion, ease, idle luxury, pride, and greed is to reap the whirlwind. Moreover, it is to miss the great chance of life, the chance to find that short cut to happiness which men call pain and suffering.

A family is humanity's great opportunity to walk the way of the cross. Mothers know that; some fathers know it; some children grow up to learn it. In homes where this is true, where all other aims are subordinated to this one of making the home count for high character, to training lives into right social adjustment and service, the primary emphasis is not on times and seasons for religion; religion is the life of that home, and in all its common living every child learns the way of the great Life of all. In vain do we torture children with adult religious penances, long prayers, and homilies, thinking thereby to give them religious training. The good man comes out of the good home, the home that is good in character, aim, and organization, not sporadically but permanently, the home where the religious spirit, the spirit of idealism, and the sense of the infinite and divine are diffused rather than injected. The inhuman, antisocial vampires, who suck their brothers' blood, whether they be called magnates or mob-leaders, grafters or gutter thieves, often learned to take life in terms of graft by the attitude and atmosphere of their homes.[1]


The modern family is worthy of our careful study. It demands painstaking attention, both because of its immediate importance to human happiness and because of its potentiality for the future of society. The kind of home and the character of family life which will best serve the world and fulfil the will of God cannot be determined by sentiment or supposition. We are under the highest and sternest obligation to discover the laws of the family, those social laws which are determined by its nature and purpose, to find right standards for family life, to discriminate between the things that are permanent and those that are passing, between those we must conserve and those we must discard, to be prepared to fit children for the finer and higher type of family life that must come in the future.

Methods of securing family efficiency will not be discovered by accident. If it is worth while to study the minor details, such as baking cakes and sweeping floors, surely it is even more important to study the larger problems of organization and discipline. There is a science of home-direction and an art of family living; both must be learned with patient study.

It is a costly thing to keep a home where honor, the joy of love, and high ideals dwell ever. It costs time, pleasures, and so-called social advantages, as well as money and labor. It must cost thought, study, and investigation. It demands and deserves sacrifice; it is too sacred to be cheap. The building of a home is a work that endures to eternity, and that kind of work never was done with ease or without pain and loss and the investment of much time. Patient study of the problems of the family is a part of the price which all may pay.

No nobler social work, no deeper religious work, no higher educational work is done anywhere than that of the men and women, high or humble, who set themselves to the fitting of their children for life's business, equipping them with principles and habits upon which they may fall back in trying hours, and making of home the sweetest, strongest, holiest, happiest place on earth.

Heaven only knows the price that must be paid for that; heaven only knows the worth of that work. But if we are wise we shall each take up our work for our world where it lies nearest to us, in co-operation with parents, in service and sacrifice as parents or kin, our work in the shop where manhood is in the making, where it is being made fit to dwell long in the land, in the family at home.

I. References for Study

Edward Lyttleton, The Corner-Stone of Education, chaps. i, vii. Putnam, $1.50.

A. Gandier, "Religious Education in the Home," Religious Education, June, 1914, pp. 233-42.

II. Further Reading

The Family a Religious Agency

C.F. and C.B. Thwing, The Family. Lothrop, Lee & Shepard, $1.60.

J.D. Folsom, Religious Education in the Home. Eaton & Mains, $0.75.

G.A. Coe, Education in Religion and Morals. Revell, $1.35.

The Place of the Family

A.J. Todd, The Family as an Educational Agency. Putnam, $2.00.

W.F. Lofthouse, Ethics and the Family. Hodder & Stoughton, $2.50.

J.B. Robins, The Family a Necessity. Revell, $1.25.

III. Topics for Discussion

1. Describe the changes within recent times in the conditions of the home, its work, housing, and supplies. How far have these changes affected the community of the family, the continuity of its personal relationships, and its religious service?

2. What are the fundamental causes of family disasters? Admitting that there are sufficient grounds for divorce in numerous instances, what other causes enter into the high number of divorces?

3. State in your own terms the ultimate reasons for the maintenance of a family.

4. What are the motives which would make people willing to bear the high cost of founding and conducting a home?

5. What points of emphasis does this study suggest in the matter of the education of public opinion?

6. State your distinction between the family and the home; which is the more important and why?


[1] The Corner-Stone of Education, by Edward Lyttleton, headmaster of Eton, is a striking argument on the determinative influence of parental habits and attitudes of mind.




In a beautiful village, in one of the farther western states, two men were discussing the possible future of the home and of family life. Sitting in the brilliant moonlight, looking through the leafy shades, watching the lights of a score of homes, each surrounded by lawn and shade trees, each with its group on the front porch, where vines trailed and flowers bloomed, listening to the hum of conversation and the strains of music in one home and another, it seemed, to at least one of these men, that this type of living could hardly pass away. The separate home, each family a complete social integer, each with its own circle of activities and interests, its own group, and its own table and fireside, seemed too fine and beautiful, too fair and helpful, to perish under economic pressure. Indeed, one felt that the village home furnished a setting for life and a soil for character development far higher and more efficient than could be afforded by any other domestic arrangement—that it approached the ideal.

But two weeks later two men sat in an upper room, in the second largest city in America, discussing again the future of the family. Instead of the quiet music of the village, the clang of street cars filled the ears, trains rushed by, children shouted from the paved highway, families were seated by open windows in crowded apartments, seeking cool air; the total impression was that of being placed in a pigeonhole in a huge, heated, filing-case, where each separate space was occupied by a family. One felt the pressure of heated, crowded kitchens, suffocating little dining-rooms; one knew that the babies lay crying in their beds at night, gasping their very lives away, and that the young folks were wandering off to amusement parks and moving-picture shows. Here was an entirely different picture. How long could family life persist under these conditions where privacy was almost gone and comfort almost unknown?

In the village separate home integers appear ideal; in the city they are possible only to the few. The many, at present, find them a crushing burden. Desirable as privacy is, it can be purchased at too high a price. It costs too much to maintain separate kitchens and dining-rooms under city conditions.


Present conditions spell waste, inefficiency, discomfort. The woman lives all day in stifling rooms, poorly lighted, with the nerve-racking life of neighbors pouring itself through walls and windows. The men come from crowded shops and the children from crowded schoolrooms to crowd themselves into these rooms, to snatch a meal, or to sleep. How can there be real family life? What joy can there be or what ideals created in daily discomfort and distress? Little wonder that such homes are sleeping-places only, that there is no sense of family intercourse and unity. Little wonder that restaurant life has succeeded family life.

Many hold that we are ready for a movement into community living, that just as the social life of the separate house porches in the villages has become communized into the amusement parks in the cities, so all the activities of the family will move in the same direction. How long could the family as a unit continue under these conditions?

The village life will persist for a long time; it may be that, when we apply scientific methods to the transportation of human beings in the same measure as we have to the moving of pig iron, we can develop large belts of real village life all around our industrial centers. But more and more the village tends to become like the city; in other words, highly organized communal life is the dominant trend today. Just as business tends to do on a large scale all that can be more economically done in larger units, so does the home. We must look for the increasing prevalence of the city type of life for men and women and for families.


It is worth while to note, in some brief detail, just what changes are involved in the tendency toward communal living. At the beginning of the industrial revolution which ushered in the factory period, each family was a fairly complete unit in itself. The village was little more than a nucleus of farmhouses, with a few differing types of units, such as workers in wood, in wearing apparel, and in tools. The home furnished nearly all its own food, spun and made its clothes, trained its own children, and knew scarcely any community endeavor or any syndication of effort except in the church.

The industrial revolution took labor largely out of the home into the factory. Except for farm life, the husband became an outside worker and the older boys followed him to the distant shop or factory. Earning a living ceased to be a family act and became a social act in a larger sphere. But in this change it ceased to be a part of the family educational process. Boys who, from childhood up, had gradually learned their father's trade in the shop or workroom, which was part of the house, where they played as children in the shavings, or watched the glowing sparks in the smithy, now missed the process of a father's discipline and guidance as their hands acquired facility for their tasks. The home lost the male adults for from nine to twelve hours of each day, more than two-thirds of the waking period, and thus it lost a large share of disciplinary guidance. In the rise of the factory system, to a large extent the family lost the father.

When the workshop left the home its most efficient school was taken from it. The lessons may have been limited, crude, and deadly practical, but the method approximated to the ideals which modern pedagogy seeks to realize. Among the shavings children learned by doing; schooling was perfectly natural; it involved all the powers; it had the incalculable value of informality and reality. The father gone and the mother still fully occupied with her tasks, the children lost that practical training for life which home industry had afforded. On the one hand, the young became the victims of idleness and, on the other, the prey of the voracious factory system.

This condition gave rise to the public-school system. It appealed to Robert Raikes and others. The school appeared and took over the child. Of course schools had existed, here and there, long before this, but now they had an enlarged responsibility; they must act almost in the place of the parents for the formal training of children. Having lost the father and older males for the greater portion of the day, the home now loses the children of from seven to the "'teen" years for five or six hours of the day. The mother is left at home with the babies. The family, once living under one roof, now is found scattered; it has reached out into factory and school. Its hours of unified life have been markedly reduced.

But the factory system soon had a reflex influence on the home. That which was made in the factory came back into the home, not only in the form of the articles formerly made by the men, but in those made by the women. Clothes, candles, butter, cheese, preserves, and meat—all formerly home products for the use of the family producing them—now were prepared in larger quantities, by mechanical processes, and were brought back into the home. Woman's labor was lightened; the older girls were liberated from the loom and they began to seek occupation, education, and diversion according to their opportunities in life.

That last step made it possible for people to think of the communization of home industry, to think of eating food cooked in other ovens than their own, to think of one oven large enough for a whole village. Many interesting experiments in co-operative living immediately sprang up. But the next step came slowly and, even now, is only firmly established in the cities, in the actual abandonment of the family kitchen for the community kitchen in the form of the restaurant. In such families we have unity only in the hours of sleep and recreation.

Along with abandonment of the separate kitchen there has proceeded the abandonment of the parlor in the homes of the middle classes. To lose the old, mournful front room may be no subject for tears, but the loss of the evening family group, about the fireside or the reading-lamp, is a real and sad loss. The commercialized amusements have offered greater attractions to vigorous youth. The theater and its lesser satellites, amusements, entertainments, lectures, the lyceum, and recreation-by-proxy in ball games and matches have taken the place of united family recreation. Of course this has been a natural development of the older village play-life and has been by no means an unmixed ill.

Now, behold, what has become of the old-time home life! The family that spent nearly twenty-four hours together now spends a scarce seven or eight, and these are occupied in sleeping! Little wonder that the next step is taken—the abandonment of this remainder, the sleep period, under a domestic roof, as the family moves into a hotel!

Along with the tendency toward communal working and eating we see the tendency to communal living by the development of the apartment building. Since roof-trees are so expensive, and since in a practical age, few of us can afford to pay for sentiment, why not put a dozen families under one roof-tree? True we sacrifice lawns, gardens, natural places for children to play; we lose birds and flowers and the charm of evening hours on porches, or galleries, but think of what we gain in bricks and mortar, in labor saved from splitting wood and shoveling coal, in janitor service! The transition is now complete; the home is simply that item in the economic machinery which will best furnish us storage for our sleeping bodies and our clothes!

We are undoubtedly in a period of great changes in family life, and no family can count on escaping the influence of the change. The one single outstanding and most potent change, so far as the character of family life is concerned, is, in the United States, the rapid polarization of population in the cities. The United States Census Bureau counts all residents in cities of over 8,000 population as "urban." In 1800 the "urban" population was 4 per cent of the total population; in 1850 it was 12.5 per cent; in 1870, 20.9 per cent; in 1890, 29.2 per cent; in 1900, 33.1 per cent; in 1910 it was estimated at 40 per cent.[2] Here is a trend so clearly marked that we cannot deny its reality, while its significance is familiar to everyone today.

However, the village type remains; there are still many homes where a measure of family unity persists, where at least in one meal daily and, for purposes of sleeping and, occasionally, for the evening hours of recreation, there is a consciousness of home life. Yet the most remote village feels the pressure of change. The few homes conforming to the older ideals are recognized as exceptional. The city draws the village and rural family to itself, and the contagion of its customs and ideals spreads through the villages and affects the forms of living there. Youths become city dwellers and do not cease to scoff at the village unless later years give them wisdom to appreciate its higher values. The standard of domestic organization is established by the city; that type of living is the ideal toward which nearly all are striving.

The important question for all persons is whether the changes now taking place in family life are good or ill. It is impossible to say whether the whole trend is for the better; the many elements are too diverse and often apparently conflicting. Faith in the orderly development of society gives ground for belief that these changes ultimately work for a higher type of family life. The city may be regarded as only a transition stage in social evolution—the compacting of masses of persons together that out of the new fusing and welding may arise new methods of social living. The larger numbers point to more highly developed forms of social organization. When these larger units discover their greater purposes, above factory and mill and store, and realize them in personal values, the city life will be a more highly developed mechanism for the higher life of man. The home life will develop along with that city life.


At present the home is suffering, just as the city is suffering, from a lack of that purposeful organization which will order the parts aright and subject the processes to the most important and ultimate purposes. The city is simply an aggregation of persons, scarcely having any conscious organization, thrown together for purposes of industry. It will before very long organize itself for purposes of personal welfare and education. The family is usually a group bound in ties of struggle for shelter, food, and pleasure. Such consciousness as it possesses is that of being helplessly at the mercy of conflicting economic forces. The adjustment of those forces, their subjection to man's higher interests, must come in the future and will help the family to freedom to discover its true purpose.

It is easy to insist on the responsibility of parents for the character-training of their children, but it is difficult to see how that responsibility can be properly discharged under industrial conditions that take both father and mother out of the home the whole day and leave them too weary to stay awake in the evening, too poor to furnish decent conditions of living, and too apathetic under the dull monotony of labor to care for life's finer interests. The welfare of the family is tied up with the welfare of the race; if progress can be secured in one part progress in the whole ensues.

There are those who raise the question whether family life is a permanent form of social organization for which we may wisely contend, or is but a phase from which the race is now emerging. Some see signs that the ties of marriage will be but temporary, that children will be born, not into families but into the life of the state, bearing only their mothers' names and knowing no brothers and sisters save in the brotherhood of the state. Whether the permanent elements in family life furnish a sufficiently worthy basis for its preservation is a subject for careful consideration.


The family is more important than the home, just as the man is more than his clothing. The form of the home changes; the life of the family continues unchanged in its essential characteristics. The family causes the home to be. Professor Arthur J. Todd insists that the family is the basis of marriage, rather than marriage the cause of the family.[3] Small groups for protection and social living would precede formal arrangements of monogamy. Westermarck concludes that it was "for the benefit of the young that male and female continued to live together."[4] The importance of this consideration for us lies in the thought of the overshadowing importance of this social group which we now call the family. The family is the primary cell of society, the first unit in social organization. Our thought must balance itself between the importance of this social group, to be preserved in its integrity, and the value of the home, with its varied forms of activity and ministry, as a means of preserving and developing this group, the family.

One hears today many pessimistic utterances regarding the modern home. Some even tell us that it is doomed to become extinct. Without doubt great economic changes in society are producing profound changes in the organization and character of the home. But the home has always been subject to such changes; the factor which we need to watch with greater care is the family; the former is but the shell of the latter.

The character of each home will depend largely on the economic condition of those who dwell in it. The homes of every age will reflect the social conditions of that age. The picture in historical romances of the home of the mediaeval period, where the factory, or shop, joined the dining-room, where the apprentices ate and roomed in the home, where one might be compelled to furnish and provision his home literally as his castle for defense, presents a marked difference to the home of this century tending to syndicate all its labors with all the other homes of the community. Since the home is simply the organization and mechanism of the family life, it is most susceptible to material and social changes. It varies as do the fashions of men.

Much that we assume to be detrimental to the life of the home is simply due to the fact that in the evolution of society the family, as it were, puts on a new suit of clothes, adopts new forms of organization to meet the changing external conditions.


The home is of importance only as a tool, a means to the final ends of the family life; the test of its efficiency is not whether it maintains traditional forms but whether it best serves the highest aims of family life. We may abandon all the older customs; our regret for them, as we look back on the days of home cooking, cannot be any greater than the regrets of our parents or grandparents looking back on the spinning-wheel and the hand loom that cumbered the kitchen of their childhood. Surely no one contends that family life has deteriorated, that human character is one whit the poorer, because we have discarded the family spinning-wheel. Through the changes of a developing civilization, as man has moved from the time when each one built his own house, worked with his own tools to make all his supplies, to these days of specialized service in community living, the home has changed with each step of industrial progress, but the family has remained practically unchanged.

The family stands a practically unchanging factor of personal qualities at the center of our civilization; the family rather than the home determines the character of the coming days. In its social relationships are rooted the things that are best in all our lives. In its social training lie the solutions of more problems in social adjustment and development than we are willing to admit. The family is the soil of society, central to all its problems and possibilities.

Before church or school the family stands potent for character. We are what we are, not by the ideals held before us for thirty minutes a week or once a month in a church, nor by the instructions given in the classroom; we are what parents, kin, and all the circumstances that have touched us daily and hourly for years have determined we should be.

The sweetest memories of our lives cluster about the scenes of family life. The rose-embowered cottage of the poet is not the only spot that claims affectionate gratitude; many look back to a city house wedged into its monotonous row. But, wherever it might be, if it sheltered love and held a shrine where the altar fires of family sacrifice burned, earth has no fairer or more sacred spot. The people rather than the place made it potent.

Stronger even than the memories that remain are the marks of habits, tendencies, tastes, and dispositions there acquired. Many a man who has left no fortune worth recording to his sons has left them something better, the aptitude for things good and honorable, the memory of a good name, and the heritage of a life that was worthy of honor. The personal life has been always the enduring thing. Our concern for the future should be not whether we can pass on intact the forms of home organization, but whether we can give to the next day the force of ideal family life. Perhaps like Mary we would do well to turn our eyes from the much serving, the mechanisms of the home, to set our minds on the better part, the personal values in the association of lives in the family.

I. References for Study

W.F. Lofthouse, Ethics and the Family, chaps. ii, xi, xii. Hodder & Stoughton, $2.50.

Charles R. Henderson, Social Duties from the Christian Point of View, chaps. ii, iii. The University of Chicago Press, $1.25.

C.W. Votaw, Progress of Moral and Religious Education in the American Home. Religious Education Association, $0.25.

II. Further Reading

Jacob A. Riis, Peril and Preservation of the Home. Jacobs, Philadelphia, Pa., $1.00.

Charles R. Henderson, Social Elements. Scribner, $1.50.

Charles F. Thwing, The Recovery of the Home. American Baptist Publication Society, $0.15.

III. Topics for Discussion

1. The tendency toward community life illustrated in the schools, amusement parks, and hotel life. Remembering the ultimate purpose of the family, how far is communal life desirable?

2. Does the apartment or tenement building furnish a suitable condition for the higher purposes of the family?

3. Is it possible to restore to the home some of the benefits lost by present factory consolidation of industry?

4. What can take the place of the old household arts and of those which are now passing?

5. What steps should be taken to secure to the family a larger measure of the time in terms of occupation of the parents?

6. What are the important things to contend for in this institution? Why should we expect change in the form of the home and what are the features which should not be changed?


[2] Figures taken from C.W. Votaw, Progress of Moral and Religious Education in the American Home, 1911.

[3] A.J. Todd, Primitive Family and Education, p. 21. A most valuable and suggestive book.

[4] Cited by Todd, p. 21.




The chief end of society is to improve the race, to develop the higher and steadily improving type of human beings. We can test the life of the family and determine the values of its elements by asking whether and in what degree they minister to this end, the growth of better persons. This is more than a theoretical aim or one conceived in a search for ideals. It is written plain in our passions and strongest inclinations. That which parents supremely desire for their children is that they may become strong in body, capable and alert in mind, and animated by worthy principles and ideals. The parent desires a good man, fit to take his place, do his work, make his contribution to the social well-being, able to live to the fulness of his powers, to take life in all its reaches of meaning and heights of vision and beauty. In true parenthood all hopes of success, of riches, fame, and ease, are seen but as avenues to this end, as means of making the finer character, of growing the ideal person. If we were compelled to choose for our children we should elect poverty, pain, disgrace, toil, and suffering if we knew this was the only highway to full manhood and womanhood, to completeness of character. Indeed, we do constantly so choose, knowing that they must endure hardness, bear the yoke in their youth, and learn that

Love and joy are torches lit At altar fires of sacrifice.

With this dominating purpose clearly in mind we are prepared to ask, What are the elements of family life which among the changes of today we need most carefully to preserve in order to maintain efficiency in character development? In days when the outer shell of domestic arrangements changes, when readjustments are being made in the organization of the family, what is there too precious to lose, so worthy and essential that we waste no time when seeking to maintain it?


The first great element to be preserved in all family life is that of the power of the small group for purposes of character development. The infant's earliest world is the mother's arms. In order to grow into a man fitted for the wider world of social living, he must learn to live in a world within his comprehension. A child's life moves through the widening circles of mother-care, family group, neighborhood, school, city, state, and nation into world-living. He must take the first steps before he is able to take the next ones. He must learn to live with the few as preparation for living with the many. In earliest infancy he takes his first unconscious lessons in the fine art of living with other folks as he relates himself to parents and to brothers and sisters.

Secondly, the family life affords the best agency for social training. The family is the ideal democracy into which the child-life is born. Here habits are formed, ideals are pictured, and life itself is interpreted. It is an ideal democracy, first, because it is a social organization existing for the sake of persons. The family comes nearer to fulfilling the true ideal of a democratic social order than does any other institution. It is founded to bring lives into this world; it is maintained for the sake of those lives; all its life, its methods, and standards are determined, ideally, by the needs of persons. It is an ideal democracy, secondly, because its guiding principle is that the greater lives must be devoted to the good of the lesser, the parent for the little child, the older members for the younger, in an attempt to extend to the very least the greatest good enjoyed by all. Thirdly, ideally it is a true democracy in that it gives to each member a share in its own affairs and develops the power to bear responsibilities and to carry each his own load in life. Thus the family group is the best possible training for the life and work of the larger group, the state, and for world-living.[5] The maintenance of the ideals of the state, as a democracy, depends on the continuance of this institution with its peculiar power to train life in infancy and childhood for the life of manhood in the state. Such training can be given only in the smaller group that is governed by the motives peculiar to home and family life. The power to impress these principles depends on the size of the group. The small social organization, the family circle of from three members to even a dozen, bound by ties of affection, is the one great, efficient school, training youth to live in social terms.

Thirdly, the family sets spiritual values first. Our age especially needs men and women who think in terms of spiritual values, who rise above the measures of pounds and dollars and weigh life by personal qualities and worth. That is precisely what the home does. It prizes most highly the helpless, economically worthless infant; it measures every member by his personal character, his affectional worth. Its riches do not depend on that which money can buy, but on the personal qualities of love, goodness, kindness; on memories, associations, affection. The true home gives to every child-life the power to choose the things of the world on the basis of their worth in personality. Only the mistaken judgments of later years, the short-minded wisdom of the world, make youth gradually lose the habit of preferring the home's spiritual benefits to the material rewards of the world of business. No life can be furnished for the strain of our modern materialism that lacks the basis of idealism furnished in the true family.


Fourthly, the power of family living to develop love as loyalty is to be noted. In this small group is laid the foundation of the moral life. "The family is the primer in the moral education of the race."[6] Here the new-born life begins to relate itself to other lives. Here it begins life in an atmosphere saturated by love, the central principle of all virtue, eventually loyalty to ideals in persons and devotion to them, "the greatest of these," because it is the parent of all virtue. The moral life, that life which is adjusted, capable, and adequately motived for helpful, efficient, enriching living with all other lives, is not a matter of rules, regulations, and restrictions. Neither is it a matter of separate habits as to this or the other kind of behavior, though this comes nearer to it than do rules and prescriptions. The character-life which parents desire for their children is not that which will do the right thing when it has discovered that right thing in some book of rules, nor that life which will do the right thing because society points that way, nor even that life which automatically does the right thing, but it is the life which, constantly moved by some high inner compulsion, some imperative of vision and ideal, moves to the highest possible plane of action in every situation. This is the life of loyalty. It begins with loyalty to persons, with that devotion which begins with affection. In no other place is this so well developed as in the relations of the family. This is the child's first and most potential school. Here the lessons are wholly unconscious; here they are strengthened by the pleasurable emotions. It is a joy to be loyal to those we love. Indeed, who can tell which comes first, the joy, the loyalty, or the love?

The power of this small social group of the family to develop the fundamental principle of loyalty, the root of all virtues, gives a position of great importance to the affections in the family. We do well to contend for the maintenance of conditions of family living which will strengthen the ties of affection. If children could be thrust into the care of the state, in large groups, separated from parental care and oversight, it is difficult to see what emotional stimulus toward affection would remain. The personal devotion to intimate adults would in only the smallest degree compensate for the loss of father and mother. We know nothing of such devotion arising to any large degree in orphan asylums, still less in institutions under the cold and impersonal care of the state. It has been urged that the affections of parents stand in the way of a scientific regimen and education for small children. The cold, passionless, automatic parent, then, would be the ideal—a Mr. Dombey or a Mr. Feverel. Parents make many mistakes, but these mistakes are not due to too much affection, but to untrained minds and uneducated affections. It were better to save the values of their affections and on them to build a wise discipline for childhood by providing adequate training of parents for their duties.

Fifthly, there are some elements of the cost of family life, even its apparently unnecessary sacrifice and pain, that we do well to seek to keep. Character grows in paying the high price of maintaining a family. It is the most expensive form of living for adults. Marriages are now delayed because of the fear of the actual monetary cost; but far more serious is the cost in care, in nerves, in patience, in all the great elements of self-denial. No child ever knows what he has cost until he has children of his own. But this discipline of self-denial is that which saves us from selfishness. It is necessary to have some personal objects for which to give our lives if they are to be saved from centrifugation, from death through ingrowing affection. True, many bachelors and spinsters have learned the way of self-denying, fellow-serving love. But how can a true parent escape that lesson? Nor does it stop with parents; as children grow up together they, too, must learn mutual forbearance, conciliation, and, soon, the joy of service. One sees selfishness in the little child gradually fading in the practice of family service, helpfulness, consideration for others. The single child in a family misses something more important than playmates; he misses all the education of play and service. But who cannot remember many families that have grown to beauty of character under the discipline of home life, and especially when this has involved real sacrifices? The stories in the Pepper books illustrate the spirit that blossoms under the trials and hardships of the struggle of a family for a livelihood and for the maintenance of a home.

A clear function becomes evident for this social group called the family. It is that of dealing with young lives, in groups bound by ties of blood and similarity, for purposes of the development of personal character. The family has an essentially educational function. Bearing in mind that "educational" means the orderly development of the powers of the life, we can think of our families as existing for this purpose and to be tested by their ability to do this work, especially by their ability to develop persons, young lives, that have the power, the vision, the acquired habits and experience to live as more than animals. The family is an educational institution dealing with child-life for its full growth and its self-realization, especially on character levels. The educational function suggests the features of family life which we do well to seek to preserve. Many incidental forms may pass, but the essential human relations and experiences that go to develop life and character must be maintained at any cost.

I. References for Study

C.F. and C.B. Thwing, The Family, chap. vii. Lothrop, Lee & Shepard, $1.60.

W.F. Lofthouse, Ethics and the Family, chaps. iv, v. Hodder & Stoughton, $2.50.

II. Further Reading

"The Improvement of Religious Education," Proceedings of the Religious Education Association, I, 119-23. $0.50.

Religious Education, April, 1911, VI, 1-48.

S.P. Breckinridge and E. Abbott, The Delinquent Child and the Home. Russell Sage Foundation, $2.00.

III. Topics for Discussion

1. What is the chief end of all forms of social organization?

2. What is in the last analysis the aim of every parent?

3. What advantage has the family over the school and larger groups for educational purposes?

4. In what sense is the family an ideal democracy?

5. Show how the family sets spiritual values first.

6. What in your judgment are the first evidences of character development? In what way do these come to the surface in the family? What is the factor of love in the development of character?

7. Is that an ideal family in which none of the members bear pain or are called upon for self-denial? Can you see any especial advantage to character in the very difficulties and apparent disadvantages in the life of the family?


[5] See "Democracy in the Home," American Journal of Sociology, January, 1912.

[6] Francis G. Peabody, The Approach to the Social Question, p. 94.




The family is the most important religious institution in the life of today. It ranks in influence before the church. It has always held this place. Even among primitive peoples, where family life was an uncertain quantity, the relations of parents, or of one of the parents, to the children afforded the opportunity most frequently used for their instruction in tribal religious ideals and customs. We cannot generalize as to the practices of savage man in regard to family life, for those practices range from common promiscuous relationships, without apparent care for offspring, to a family unity and purity approaching the best we know; but this much is certain, that there was a common sense of responsibility for the training of young children in moral and religious ideas and customs, and that, in the degree that the family approached to separateness and unity, it accepted the primary responsibility for this task. The higher the type of family life the more fully does it discharge its function in the education of the child.[7]

It might be safe to say that among primitive peoples there were three stages, or types, of relationship based on the breeding of children, or three stages of development toward family life. The first is a loose and indefinite relationship existing principally between the adults, or the males and females, under which children born when not desired are neglected or strangled and, when acceptable, may be in the care of either parent, or of neither. Since the group, associated through infancy with at least one parent, is as yet undeveloped, any instruction will be individual and usually incidental.

The second form is that of a kind of family unity, either about the mother or the father, or both, or about a group of parents, in which the children live together and are sheltered and nurtured for their earlier years. Here, however, the real relationship of the child is to the tribe, the family is but his temporary guardian, and, at least by the age of puberty, he will be initiated into the tribal secrets. If he is a boy, he will cease to be a member of the family group and will go to live in the "men's house," becoming a part of the larger life of the tribe.[8] Such moral and religious instruction as he may acquire will come from the songs, traditions, and conversation which he hears as a child.

The third type approaches the modern ideal, with a greater or less degree of permanent unity between the two parents and with permanence in the group of the offspring. The parental responsibility continues for a greater length of time and, since the tribe makes smaller claims, and the parents live in the common domestic group, much more instruction is possible and is given. The tribal ideals, the traditions, observances, and religious rites are imparted to children gradually in their homes.

The last type brings us to the Hebrew conception of family life. It developed toward the Christian ideal. At first, polygamy was permitted; woman was the chattel of man and excluded from any part in the religious rites. But it included the ideal of monogamy in its tradition of the origin of the world, it denounced and punished adultery (Deut. 22: 22), and it gave especial attention to the training of the offspring. "And these words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart; and thou shalt teach them diligently unto thy children, and shalt talk of them when thou sittest in thy house, and when thou walkest by the way, and when thou liest down, and when thou risest up ... and thou shalt write them upon the door-posts of thy house and upon thy gates" (Deut. 6: 6, 7, 9).

Much later, the messianic hope, the belief that in some Jewish family there should be born one divinely commissioned and endowed to liberate Israel and to give the Jews world-sovereignty, operated to elevate the conception of motherhood and, through that, of the family. It made marriage desirable and children a blessing; it rendered motherhood sacred. It tended to center national hopes and religious ideals about the family.[9]

There are a few glimpses of ideal family life in the Old Testament. They are all summed up in the eloquent tribute to motherhood in the words of King Lemuel in the last chapter of the Book of Proverbs. It must be remembered, however, that such ideals did not belong to the Jews alone, that Plutarch shows many pictures of maternal fidelity and wifely devotion, that Greek and Roman history have their Cornelia, Iphigenia, and Mallonia.[10]

The Jews are an excellent example of the power of the family life to maintain distinct characteristics and to secure marked development. Practically throughout all the Christian era they have been a people without a land, a constitution, or a government, and yet never without race consciousness, national unity, and separateness. Their unity has continued in spite of dispersion, persecution, and losses; they have remained a race in the face of political storms that have swept other peoples away. Their unity has continued about two great centers, the customs of religion and the life of the family.

The results of Jewish respect for family life can also be seen in the health of their own children. In 1910, for instance, among poor Jews in Manchester the mortality of infants under one year of age was found to be 118 per thousand; among poor Gentiles, 300 per thousand; and comparisons made some six years ago between Jewish and Gentile children in schools in the poorer parts of Manchester and Leeds (England) have shown that the Jewish children are uniformly taller, they weigh more, and their bones and teeth are superior.[11]


The Christian family is a type peculiar to itself, not as a new institution, for it has developed out of earlier race experience, but as controlled by a new interpretation, the spirit and conception of the home and family given in the teaching of Jesus of Nazareth. He did not give formal rules for the regulation of homes; rather he made a spiritual ideal of family life the basic thought of all his teaching. He said more about the family than concerning any other human institution, yet he established no family life of his own. He is called the founder of the church, yet he scarcely mentions that institution, while he frequently teaches concerning home duties and family relations. He glorifies the relations of the family by making them the figure by which men may understand the highest relations of life. He speaks more of fatherhood and sonship than of any other relations. He gives direction for living, using the family terms of brotherhood. He points forward to ideal living in a home beyond this life. He teaches men when they think of God and when they address him to take the family attitude and call him Father.

If we sum up all the teachings of Jesus and separate them from our preconceptions of their theological content, we cannot but be impressed with the facts that he seized upon the family life as the best expression of the highest relationships; that he pointed to a purified family life, in which spiritual aims would dominate, as the best expression of ideal relationships among his followers; and that he glorified marriage and really made the family the great, divine, sacramental institution of human society.

We can hardly overestimate the importance of such teaching to the character of the family. The early Christians not only accepted Jesus as their teacher and savior; they took their family life as the opportunity to show what the Kingdom of God, the ideal society, was like. Family life was consecrated. Men and women belonged to the new order with their whole households. Religion became largely a family matter. The worship that had been confined to the temple now made an altar in every home and a holy of holies in the midst of every family. The scriptures that belonged to the synagogue now belonged in the home. Above all, this family existed for the purposes taught by Jesus, that men might grow in brotherhood toward the likeness of the divine Fatherhood. It was an institution, not for economic purpose of food and shelter, not for personal ends of passion or pride, but for spiritual purpose, for the growth of persons, especially the young in the home, in character, into "the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ."

Christianity is essentially a religion of ideal family life. It conceives of human society, not in terms of a monarchy with a king and subjects, but in terms of a family with a great all-Father and his children, who live in brotherhood, who take life as their opportunity for those family joys of service and sacrifice. It hopes to solve the world's ills, not by external regulations, but by bringing all men into a new family life, a birth into this new family life with God, so securing a new personal environment, a new personality as the center and root of all social betterment. He who would come into this new social order must come into the divine family, must humble himself and become as a little child, must know his Father and love his brothers.

Christianity, then, not only seeks an ideal family; it makes the family the ideal social institution and order. It makes family life holy, sacramental, religious in its very nature. This fact gives added importance to the preservation and development of the ideals of family life for the sake of their religious significance and influence. It not only makes religion a part of the life of the home but makes a religious purpose the very reason for the existence of the Christian type of home. It makes our homes essentially religious institutions, to be judged by religious products.

I. References for Study

G.A. Coe, Education in Religion and Morals, chap. xvi. Revell, $1.35.

Article on "The Family," in Hastings, Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethics.

II. Further Reading

On the educational function of the family: A.J. Todd, The Primitive Family as an Educational Agency. Putnam, $2.00.

On the religious place of the family: C.F. and C.B. Thwing, The Family. Lothrop, Lee & Shepard, $1.60.

I.J. Peritz, "Biblical Ideal of the Home," Religious Education, VI, 322.

H. Hanson, The Function of the Family. American Baptist Publication Society, $0.15.

W. Becker, Christian Education, or the Duties of Parents. Herder, $1.00. A striking presentation of the Roman Catholic view; could be read to advantage by all parents.

III. Topics for Discussion

1. What place did religion hold in the primitive family? What reference or allusion do we find in the Old Testament to the place of religion in the family (Deut. 6:7-9, 20-25)? What in the New Testament?

2. What has been the effect of purity of family life on the Jewish race?

3. What place did the family hold in the teachings of Jesus?

4. What shall we think of the relations of the church and family as to their comparative rights and our duty to them?

5. Do you agree that the family is the most important religious institution?


[7] For a brief statement see Brinton, Religions of Primitive Peoples, Lecture 4, Sec. 7; also Todd, The Family as an Educational Agency.

[8] See Webster, Primitive Secret Societies, chaps. i, ii.

[9] On the place of the family in different religious systems see the fine article under "Family" in Hastings, Encyclopaedia of Religion and Ethics.

[10] See Lecky, History of European Morals, chap. ii.

[11] Quoted by Lofthouse in Ethics and the Family, p. 8, from W. Hall, in Progress (London), April, 1907.




With the brief statement of the history of the family and of its function in society which has already been given we are prepared to put together the two conclusions: first, that the family has an educational function, in that it exists as a social institution for the protection, nurture, development, and training of young lives, and, secondly, that it is a religious institution, the most influential and important of all religious institutions, whenever it realizes in any adequate degree its possibilities, because it is rooted in love and loyalty. It exists for personal and spiritual ideals and, in Christianity, it is inseparably connected with the teachings and the ideals of Jesus. It is educational in function and religious in character, so that it is essentially an institution for religious education. Religious education is not an occasional incident in its life; it is the very aim and dominating purpose of a high-minded family.


To make this the more clear we may need to clarify our minds as to certain popular conceptions of education. Education means much more than instruction; religious education means much more than instruction in religion. Many habitually think of an educational institution as necessarily a place where pupils sit at desks and teachers preside over classes, the teachers imparting information which is to be memorized by the pupils, so that, from this point of view, a Sunday school would be almost the only institution for the religious education of children in existence, because it is the only one exclusively devoted to imparting instruction to children in specifically religious subjects. Such a view would limit religious education in the home to the formal teaching of the Bible and religious dogma by parents. The memorizing of scriptural passages and of the different catechisms once constituted a regular duty in almost all well-ordered homes. Today it is rarely attempted. Does that mean that religious education has ceased in the home?

But education means much more than instruction. Education is the whole process, of which instruction is only a part. Education is the orderly development of lives, according to scientific principles, into the fulness of their powers, the realization of all their possibilities, the joy of their world, the utmost rendering in efficiency of their service. It includes the training of powers of thought, feeling, willing, and doing; it includes the development of abilities to discern, discriminate, choose, determine, feel, and do. It prepares the life for living with other lives; it prepares the whole of the life, developing the higher nature, the life of the spirit, for living in a spiritual universe.

Religious education, then, means much more than instruction in the literature, history, and philosophy of religion. It means the kind of directed development which regards the one who is developing as a religious person, which seeks to develop that one to fulness of religious powers and personality, and which uses, as means to that end, material of religious inspiration and significance and, indeed, regards all material in that light. Religious education seeks to direct a religious process of growth with a religious purpose for religious persons. Religious education is the spirit which characterizes the work of every educator who looks on the child as a spiritual nature, a religious person; it is the work of every educator who sees his aim as that of training this spiritual person to fulness of living in a society essentially spiritual.

In simplest possible terms, religious education means the training of persons to live the religious life and to do their work in the world as religious persons. It must mean, then, the development of character; it includes the aim, in the parents' minds, to bring their children up to the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ. It is evident that this is a much greater task, and yet more natural and beautiful, than mere instruction in formal ideas or words in the Bible or in a catechism; that it is not and cannot be accomplished in some single period, some set hour, but is continuous, through all the days; that it pervades not only the spoken words, but the actions, organization, and the very atmosphere of the home.


Normal persons never stop growing. Just as children grow all the time in their bodies, so do adults and all others grow all the time in mind and will and powers of the higher life whenever they live normally. We grow spiritually, not only in church and under the stimulus of song and prayer, but we grow when the beauty of the woods appeals to us, when the face lightens at the face of a friend, when we meet and master a temptation, when we brace up under a load, when we do faithfully the dreary, daily task, when we adjust our thoughts in sympathy to others, when we move in the crowd, when we think by ourselves. The educational process is continuous. The children in the home are being moved, stimulated, every instant, and they are being changed in minute but nevertheless real and important degrees by each impression. There is never a moment in which their character is not being developed either for good or for ill. Religious education—that is, the development of their lives as religious persons—goes on all the time in the home, and it is either for good or for ill.

Next to the idea of the continuous and all-pervasive character of this process of religious development the most important thought for us is that religious education in the home may be determined by ourselves. This continuous, fateful process is not a blind, resistless one. It is our duty to direct it. It is possible for wise parents to determine the characters of their children. We must not forget this. It cannot be too strongly insisted on. The development of life is under law. This is an orderly world. Things do not just happen in it. We believe in a law that determines the type of a cabbage, the character of a weed. Do we believe that this universe is so ordered that there is a law for weeds and none for the higher life of man? Do we hold that cabbages grow by law but character comes by chance? If there is a law we may find it and must obey it. If we may know how to develop character, with as great certainty as we know how to do our daily work, will not this be our highest task, our greatest joy, the supreme thing to do in life?


This is the first great obligation of parents and of those who are willing to accept the joys and responsibilities of parenthood. We have no right to bring into this world lives with all the possibilities that a religious nature involves unless we know how to develop those lives for the best and from the worst. When we picture what a little child may become, from the vile, depraved, despoiling beast or the despicable, sneaking hypocrite on one extreme, to the upright, God-loving, man-serving man or woman with the love of purity, honor, truth, and goodness speaking through the life, we may well pause, realizing we need more than a sentimental desire that the child may reach the heights of goodness: we must know the way there and the methods of leading the life in that way. True devotion to God and to childhood will mean more than petitions for the salvation of children; it will mean the prayer that is labor and the labor that is prayer to know how they may attain fulness of spiritual life; it will mean reverent searching into the divine ways of growth in grace. The study of the means and methods of religious education, especially of children, in the home and family, is one of the most evident and important religious duties resting on parents and all who contemplate marriage and family life.


In discussing the development of character in children one hears often the question, "Which is the earliest virtue to appear in a child?" People will debate whether it is truthfulness, reverence, kindness, or some other virtue. All this implies a picture of the child as a tree that sends forth shoots of separate virtues one after another. But the character desired is not a series of branches, it is rather like a symmetrical tree; it is not certain parts, but it is the whole of a personality. The development of religious character is not a matter of consciously separable virtues, but is the determination of the trend and quality of the whole life. Moral training is not a matter of cultivating honesty today, purity tomorrow, and kindness the day after. Virtues have no separate value. Character cannot be disintegrated into a list of independent qualities. We seek a life that, as a whole life, loves and follows truth, goodness, and service.


But it is wise to inquire as to those manifestations of a pure and spiritual life which will earliest appear. One does not need to look far for the answer. Children are always affectionate; they manifest the possibilities of love. True, this affection is rooted in physiological experience, based on relations to the mother and on daily propinquity to the rest of the family, but it is that which may be colored by devotion, elevated by unselfish service, and may become the first great, ideal loyalty of the child's life. Little boys will fight and girls will quarrel more readily over the question of the merits of their respective parents than over any other issue. Almost as soon as a child can talk he boasts of the valor of his father, the beauty of his mother. Here is loyalty at work. He stands for them; he resents the least doubt as to their superiority, not because they give him food and shelter, but because they are his, because to him they are worthy; in all things they have the worth, the highest good; they are, in person, the virtue of life. Therefore in fighting for the reputation of his parents he is practicing loyalty to an ideal.

The principle of loyalty is the life-force of virtue; it is like the power that sends the tree toward the heavens, the upthrust of life. It may be cultivated in a thousand ways. Provided there is the outreach and upreach of loyalty within and that there is furnished without the worthy object, ideal, and aim, the life will grow upward and increase in character, beauty, and strength.

Next to the affectionate idealization of parents and home-folk one of the earliest manifestations of the spirit of loyalty in the child is his desire to have a share in the activities of the home. He would not only look like those he admires; he would do what they do. This is more than mere imitation; it is loyalty at work again. The direction of this tendency is one of the largest opportunities before parents and can make the most important contribution to character.

The religious life of the child is essentially a matter of loyalty. His faith, affections, aspirations, and endeavors turn toward persons, institutions, and concepts which are to him ideal. He does not analyze, he cannot describe, or even narrate, his religious experiences, but he affectionately moves, with a sense of pleasure, toward those things which seem to him ideal, toward parents, customs of the home or school, the church, his class, his teacher, toward characters in story-books. He is likely to think of Jesus in just that way, as the one person whom he would most of all like to know and be with. The life of virtue and the religious life then will be weak or strong in the measure that the child has the stimulating ideals which call forth his loyalty and in the measure that he has opportunity to express that loyalty. His religious life will consist, not so much in external forms perhaps, still less in intellectual statements about theology or even about his own experiences, as in a growing realization of the great ideals, an increasing sense of their meaning and reality within, and, on the objective side, a steady moving of his life toward them in action and habits and therefore in character and quality.


It is worth while to insist upon two important considerations. Parents who stand as gardeners watching the growth of the tender plant of child-character may be looking for developments that never ought to come and will be disappointed because they were looking for the wrong thing. First, in watching for the beginnings of the religious life of the child in the family we are not expecting some new addition to the life, but rather the development of this whole life as a unity in a definite direction which we call religious. It is the first and most important consideration that religious education is not something added to the life as an extra subject of interest, but the development of the whole life into religious character and usefulness. Secondly, this growth of religious character is going on all the time. It is not separable into pious periods; it is a part of the very life of the family. Perhaps this increases the difficulty of our task, for it removes it from the realm of the mechanical, from that which is easily apprehended and estimated. It takes the task of the religious education of children out of the statistical into the vital, and reminds us that we are growing life every second, that there is never a moment when religious education is not in operation. This demands a consideration, not alone of lessons, of periods of worship and instruction, but of every influence, activity, and agency in all the family life that in any way affects the thinking, feeling, and action of the child. We are thinking of something more important than organizing instruction and exercises in religion in the home; we are thinking of organizing the family life for religious purposes, for the purpose of growing lives into their spiritual fulness.

Perhaps the capital mistake in the religious education of the family is that we overemphasize this or the other method and mechanism instead of bending every effort to secure a real religious atmosphere and soil in which young souls can really grow while we leave the process of growth more largely to the great husbandman. And the second great mistake is that we are looking for mechanical evidence of a religious life instead of for the development of a whole person. We must reinterpret the family to ourselves and see it as the one great opportunity life affords us to grow other lives and to bring them to spiritual fulness by providing a social atmosphere of the spirit and a constant, normal presentation of social living in spiritual terms.


When parents conceive the family in these terms and so organize the life of the home, the child becomes conscious of the fact, and at once the life of the family furnishes him with his first, his nearest, and most satisfactory appeal to loyalty. He feels that which he cannot analyze or express, the spiritual beauty and loyalty of family life. That life furnishes a soil and atmosphere for his soul. It is an atmosphere made of many elements: the primary and dominating purpose of parents and older persons, the habitual life of service and love, the consciousness of the reality of the Divine Presence, the fragrance of chastened character and experience, the customs of worship and affections. These things are not easily created, they cannot be readily defined, nor can directions be given in a facile manner for their cultivation. They are the elements most difficult to describe, hardest of all to secure when lacking, least easily labeled, not to be purchased ready-made, and yet without them religious education is wholly impossible in the family. Without this immediate appeal to loyalty the loyalties of the child toward higher and divine aims do not develop early; they are retarded and often remain dormant. For us all scarcely any more important question can be presented than this: What appeals to spiritual idealism and loyalty does our family life present to the child? What quickening of love for goodness and purity, truth and service, is there in the home and its conduct?

I. References for Study

G.A. Coe, Education in Religion and Morals, chaps. i, ii, xii, xiii. Revell, $1.35.

George Hodges, Training of Children in Religion, chaps. i, ii. Appleton, $1.50.

J.T. McFarland, Preservation versus Resurrection. Eaton & Mains, $0.07.

II. Further Reading

C.W. Votaw, Progress of Moral and Religious Education in the American Home. Religious Education Association, $0.25.

George Hodges, Training of Children, chaps. i, ii, xv. Appleton, $1.50.

G.A. Coe, Education in Religion and Morals, chaps. i, iv, xvi. Revell, $1.35.

E.C. Wilm, Culture of Religion, chaps. i, ii. Pilgrim Press, $0.75.

C.W. Rischell, The Child as God's Child. Methodist Book Concern, $0.75.

E.E. Read Mumford, The Dawn of Character. Longmans, Green & Co., $1.20. See especially chap. xii on "The Dawn of Religion."

III. Topics for Discussion

1. How would you define education?

2. What is the difference between education and religious education?

3. What makes the home especially effective in education?

4. Is it true that it is possible to discover the laws of growth and so determine the development of character?

5. Recall any very early manifestations of religious character in small children. What would you regard as the best kind of manifestation?

6. What is the essential principle of the right life? How may we develop this in childhood?

7. What are the things which most of all impress children?

8. Would you think it wise to bring a child under the influence of a religious revival?



How shall I begin to talk with my child about religion? Even the most religious parents feel hesitancy here. It may not be at all due to the unfamiliarity of the subject, though that is often the case; hesitation is due principally to a conscious artificiality in the action. It seems unnatural to say, "My child, I want to talk with you about your religious life." And so it is. There is something wrong when that appears to be the only way. That situation indicates a lack of freedom of thought and intercourse with the child and a lack of naturalness in religion.


The instinct is correct that tells us that we should be trespassing on a child's rights, or breaking down his proper reticence, in abruptly and formally questioning him about his religious life. The reserve of children in this matter must be respected. The inner life of aspiration, of conscious relationship to the divine, is too sacred for display, even to those who are near to us. He violates the child's reverence who tears away his reticence. Even though the child may not consciously object, the process leads him toward the irreverent, facile self-exposure of the soul that characterizes some prayer meetings. But we may, also, as easily err in the other direction and, by failing to invite the confidences of our children, lead them to suppose we have no interest in their higher life.


First, we must be content to wait for the child to open his heart. We must not force the door. But we can invite him to open, and the one form of invitation that scarcely ever fails is for you to give him your confidence. Talk honestly, simply to him of the aspects of your religious life that he can understand. If he knows that you confide in him, he will confide in you. Here beware of sentimentality. Religion to the child will find expression in everyday experiences. Your philosophy of religion he cannot comprehend, and with your mature emotions he has no point of contact. Perhaps the best method of approach is to relate your memories of those experiences which you now see to have had religious significance to you. At the time they may have had no such special meaning. You did not then analyze them. Your child will not and must not analyze them, either; he must simply feel them.

Secondly, rid your mind of the "times and seasons" notion. There is no more reason why you should talk religion on Sunday than on Monday, unless the day's interests have quickened the child's questioning. There can be no set period; no times when you say, "This is the forty-five minutes of spiritual instruction and conversation." The time available may be very short, only a sentence may be possible, or it may be lengthened; everything will depend on the interest. It must be natural, a real part of the everyday thought and talk, lifted by its character and subject to its own level. Its value depends on its natural reality.


Thirdly, avoid the mistake of confounding conversation on "religion" with religious conversation, of thinking that the desired end has been attained when you have discussed the terminology of theology. To illustrate, in the family one hardly ever hears the word hygiene, but well-trained children learn much about the care of their bodies in health, and the family economy is directed consciously to that end. A good, nourishing meal always contributes more to health than many lectures on dietetics. Yet back, hidden away in the manager's mind, is the science of dietetics. So is it with quickening the child's power and thought in the spiritual life. We must avoid the abstract, the intellectually analytical. Religion should present itself concretely, practically, and as an atmosphere and ideal in the family. We parents must not look for theological interest in the child. A Timothy Dwight at ten or twelve, though once found in Sunday-school library books, is a monstrosity. The child's aspiration, his religious devotion, his love for God will find expression in almost every other way before it will be formulated into questions of a serious theological character. Nor ought we to force upon him the phrases of religion to which we are accustomed. He will live in another day and must speak its tongue. His faith must find itself in consciousness and then be permitted to clothe itself in appropriate garments of words. Those garments must be woven out of the realities of actual experiences in the child's life. We cannot prepare or make them for him. The expression of religion will be consonant with the stage of development. If his faith is to be real he must never be allowed or tempted to imagine that if only he can use the words, the verbal symbol, he has the fact, the life-experience. Try then to use words which are simple and meaningful to him and be content to wait for life to lead him to formulate vital verbal forms for himself.


Fourthly, we must have faith in God's laws of growth. If we be but faithful, furnishing the soil, the seed, the nurture, we must wait for the increase. Many factors which we cannot control will determine whether it shall be early or late and what form it shall take. We must wait. It is high folly that pulls up the sprouting grain to see whether it is growing properly.

Fifthly, manifestations of the religious life will vary in children and in families. The commonest error is to expect some one popular form alone, to imagine that all children must pass through some standardized experiences. Mrs. Brown's Willy may rise in prayer meeting. Do not be downhearted. Willy is only doing that which he has seen his parents do, and, usually, only because they do it. Your boy, or girl, is seeking health of life, of thought, of action; is growing in character. Let them grow, help them to grow. You know they love you even when they say little about it; you do not expect them to climb to the housetop and declare their affection. A flower does not sing about the sun, it grows toward it. That is the test of the child's religion: Is he growing Godward in life, action, character?


Sixthly, deal most carefully with the child's consciousness of God. The truth is that the child in the average home has a consciousness of God. It grows out of formal references in social rites and customs, informal allusions in conversation, and direct statements and instruction. But frequently the resultant mental picture is a misleading one, sometimes even vicious in its moral effect. Where superstitious servants take more interest in the child's religious ideas than do his parents, we have the child whose life is darkened by the fear of an omnipotent ogre. Nursemaids will slothfully scare small children into silence by threats of the awful presence of a bogey god. The life of the spirit cannot be trusted to the hireling. Parents must be sure of the character as well as the superficial competency of those who come closest to childhood. A child's ideas are formed before he goes to school. The family cannot delegate the formation of dominant ideas to persons trained only for nursery tasks.

But frequently the mother is a misleading teacher. To her the child goes with all the big questions outside the immediate world of things. Is she prepared to answer the questions? Few dilemmas of our life today are more pathetic than this: the mother has outgrown the theology of her childhood; she remembers keenly the suffering and superstition, the struggle that followed the darkened pictures she received as a little one, but she has nothing better to offer the child. No one has taught her how to put the later, more spiritual concepts into language for the child of our day. Weakly she falls back on the forms of words she once abhorred.

There are certainly two approaches of reality for the child-mind to the idea of God. Two immediate experiences are rich in meaning; they are the life of the family and the wonder of the everyday world, the life and variety of nature and human activities. The first is a very simple and rich approach. By every possible means help children in the family to think of God as the great and good Father of us all. Do this in the phrasing of prayers and graces, in the answers to their questions, in the casual word. Why should we assume that the Fatherhood of God is for the adult alone? And why should it be that this rich concept dawns on us like a new day of freedom in truth in later years instead of becoming ours in childhood and so determining the habit and attitude of our lives? The finest, the ideal person is, to the child, the father. God in terms of fatherhood is the sum and source of all that is ideal in personality.

The child's keen interest in the world of nature is our opportunity to lead him to love the gracious source of all beauty and goodness. How keen is the child's enjoyment of the beauty of the world! Can we forever fix the general concept of all this beauty as the thought of God in the words of flower and leaf, mountain and stream? And might we not also connect the idea of God with the affairs of daily life? That depends on the parent's attitude of mind; if we think of the universal life that is behind all battles and business and affairs, there will be a difference in our answers to the thousand curious inquiries that rise in the child's mind.

Nor must we leave the child to think of God as a separate, far-off person, on a throne somewhere in the skies. The child is finding his way into a universe. The God who is a minute fraction of that universe makes possible the religion that is no more than a negligible fraction of life. The child asks concerning clouds, the sea, the trees, the birds, and all the world about him; he tends to interpret it causally and ideally. Childhood affords the great opportunity for giving the color, the beauty and glory, the life of the divine to all this universe, to instil the feeling that God is everywhere, in all and through all, and that in him we live and move and have our being. The child's joy in this world can thus be given a religious meaning. He sings

My God, I thank thee thou hast made This earth so bright....,

and so beauty and joy become part of his religion. His faith becomes a gladsome thing; he knows that the trees of the forest clap their hands, the mountains and the hills sing, and the morning stars chant together in the gladness of the divine life.

Such a view of the world comes not by prearranged and indoor interviews. One must walk out into the good outdoor world for the opportunity and the inspiration. The garden plot, the park, and, best of all, the open fields and woods speak to a child and furnish us an open book from which we may teach him to read. Recalling religious impressions, the writer would testify to feeling nothing deeper, as a result of church attendance in childhood, than the shapes of seats and the colors of walls; but there remain deep impressions of wonder, beauty, and the meaning of God from Sunday mornings spent with his father under the great beeches in Epping Forest, listening to the reading and singing of the old hymns, or joining in conversation on the woods and the flowers, and even on the legends of Robin Hood in the forest.


Seventhly, natural conversation affords the best opportunity for direct instruction. A child is a peripatetic interrogation. His questions cover the universe; there are no doors which you desire to see opened that he will not approach at some time. There is great advantage when the religious question rises normally; when the child begins it and when the interest continues with the same naturalness as in conversation on any other subject. Then questions usually take one of three forms: mere childish, curious questions, questions on conduct, and questions on religion in its organized form.

The child's curiosity is the basis of even those questions which have usually been credited to preternatural piety. The tiny youngster who asks strange questions about God asks equally startling ones about fairies or about his grandmother. But his questions give us the chance to direct him to right thoughts of God. Here we need to be sure of our own thoughts and to keep in mind our principal purpose, to quicken in this child loyalty to the highest and best. He must be shown a God whom he can love and, at the same time, one who will call for his growing loyalty, his courage, and devotion. Everything for the child's future depends on the pictures he now forms. We all carry to a large degree our childhood's view of God.

Some of the child's questions probe deep; how shall we answer them? When you know the truth tell him the truth, being sure that it is told in language that really conveys truth to his mind. The danger is that parents will attempt to tell more than they know, to answer questions that cannot be answered, or that they will, in sloth or cowardice or ignorance, tell children untrue things. If a child asks, "Did God make the world?" the answer that will be true to the child may be a simple affirmative. If the child asks or his query implies, "Did God make the leaves, or the birds, with his fingers?" we had better take time to show the difference between man's making of things and the working of the divine energy through all the process of the development of the world. When the child asks, "Mother, if God made all things, why did he make the devil?" it would surely be wise and opportune to correct the child's mental picture of a personal anti-God and to take from him his bogey of a "devil." But the question of the relation of God to the existence of evil would remain, and the best a parent could do would be to illustrate the necessities of freedom of choice and will in life by similar freedom in the family.

It must be remembered that children's curious questions are only their attempt to discover their world, that they have no peculiar religious significance, but that they afford the parent a vital opportunity for direct religious instruction. These questions must be treated seriously; something is missing in parental consciousness when the child's questions furnish only material for jesting relation to the family friends.


Questions on conduct: Scores of times in the day the children come in from play or from school and tell of what has happened. Their more or less breathless recitals very often include vigorous accounts of "cheating," "naughtiness," unfair play, unkind words, discourtesies, all dependent as to their character on the age of the children and all opening doors for free conversation on duties and conduct. Here lies one of the large opportunities for moral instruction. There is no need to attempt to make formal occasions for this; so long as children play and live with others they are under the experience of learning the art of living with one another; this is the simple essence of morality. The parent's answers to their questions on conduct, the comments on their criticisms, and the conversation that may easily be directed on these subjects count tremendously with the child in establishing his ideals and modes of conduct. Returning to his play, there is no mightier authority he can quote than to say, "My mother says—," or "My father says—."

Let no one say that instruction in moral living is not religious, for there can be no adequate guidance in morals without religion, nor can the religious quality of the life find expression adequately except through conduct in social living. Children need more than the rules for living; they must feel motives and see ideals. They do not live by rules any more than we do. Besides the rule that is known there must be a reason for following it and a strong desire to do so. All ethical teaching needs this imperative and motivation of religion, the quickening of loyalty to high ideals, the doing of the right for reasons of love as well as of duty and profit.

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