WHY FIRESIDE SCHOOLS ARE NEEDED.
It is an acknowledged fact that in these days the religious training of our children in their homes is too much neglected. Many parents expect the Sunday school teacher, pastor, or some one else to do this work. Others are careless and let their daily labor or demands of society make them neglect the souls of their children. Not a few mothers give all their time to feeding and clothing the body, while the soul starves or is fed by Satan.
Our usual plans for helping the children have taken them away from their parents, and thereby we have lost the help of the parents to a great extent. I refer to our Sabbath schools, children's and missionary meetings, kindergarten, etc. Scarcely one mother out of one hundred comes to these meetings with her children. Perhaps this need not be so, but facts prove it true. We must keep the mother and child nearer together. The mother is the God-given teacher of the child. But we seldom have them together, even in the house of God. The children come to the Sabbath school, and when it is out the children leave and the parents come to the preaching service. If the child cannot attend both services, then it had better come with the parent to either the preaching service or the Sunday school.
Now I do not want to be understood as condemning the Sabbath school and other helps, but only to say that they are not able, in one hour out of every seven days, to do the great work of the religious and moral training of our children. Indeed, much of this work should be done before the child is old enough to go alone from home.
A mother said to me a few days ago, "Sister Moore, I have brought my children up in the Sabbath school, and yet they have gone astray." I said, "My dear sister, you could not bring your child up in the Sabbath school, because it is in session only one hour and half during the whole week. At home is where your child has been brought up. There is where its character was formed, to a great extent, before it was seven years old."
SOME OF THE BENEFITS OF THE FIRESIDE
1st. Reading with the children will bring the parent and child into sympathy with each other, because these books and lessons will give them a common subject for thought and conversation.
2nd. The church will know more of the home life of its members. A report from the parents each month will naturally lead the pastor and leading members to speak of this work as they visit the homes during the month. The other members of the church will see by the monthly reports the good results of such daily study and prayer in the homes.
3d. By means of this the homes will be supplied with appropriate books for mother and child from year to year, because the books will be selected by good men and women who have the time to read and the judgment to decide which are the best books. We all know that bad books are as dangerous to the young as bad company; also that a large number of parents pay no attention to the books their children read, and, alas, many do not know enough to select the right kind of books.
4th. A large number of persons reading the same books, and thinking along on the same lines, will give to each an ambition and energy that could not be felt if we read alone.
5th. Our mothers do not receive the sympathy and attention that their situation demands. Housekeeping and the duties of motherhood as regards the body of the child are so absorbing that they are liable to take a mother's entire time; and therefore her own soul and mind and those of her children will be neglected unless there be some plan to call special attention to these duties every day. Our Fireside School does this beautifully and sweetly. Of its good results we have a multitude of witnesses.
FOR ALL SECTS AND RACES.
The Fireside School is a matter of common interest to all denominations and races, and is left in the hands of the churches, so that each sect can adjust it to suit their plans of church work. Let us counsel and advise together. Other subjects are important, but none as important as how to make our homes pure, intelligent and happy.
NOT A WOMAN'S SOCIETY.
One point must be guarded: Do not call the Fireside School a woman's society; if so, you will shut out father and children, and thus destroy the harmony of God's plan for the home.
We began with mothers first, because father would not take time to listen to us. After a few years, father came and said to us, "Have you forgotten there is a father as well as a mother in the family?" Therefore, we changed our pledge from mothers' to parents' pledge. Soon after this a little child wrote us, saying, "Mamma has promised to be good to me, and I want to promise to be good to mamma." This led us to prepare a sons' and daughters' pledge.
PLAN FOR FIRESIDE SCHOOLS.
1. Sign the parent's pledge, which is as follows:
"(a) I promise that by the help of God I will pray with and for my children and daily teach them God's Word and expect their early conversion.
"(b) I will be a good pattern for my children in my daily life, especially in temper, words, and dress.
"(c) I will train my children to live for the glory of God in body, mind, and spirit.
"2. Read daily the course of study assigned to the school.
"3. Report monthly to the church. (We suggest that the pastor devote one service a month in his church to this subject. Preach a sermon on some part of home duties and follow it with reports from parents and children's testimonies of improvements, also things that discourage.)
"4. Report every three months to headquarters, 513 Mulberry Street, Nashville, Tenn.
"5. Parents who are not Christians can be associate members. These are not required to sign the pledge nor report, but only to read the lessons."
The interest all over Arkansas was very great, and we decided to call a
It was called a mothers' conference, because, at this time, the fathers had not joined us. But men, including pastors, as well as women attended our first conference in Little Rock, September 9th, 1893. Some of the subjects discussed were as follows:
1. Why is an organization of mothers needed ?
2. The use of the mothers' pledge.
3. The necessity of a mother being a good pattern to her children, especially in temper, conversation, and dress.
4. The best time for family devotions and the best manner of conducting them so as to make them helpful for the children.
5. Mothers need to improve themselves mentally, morally, and physically for the good of their children.
6. Since love and cheerfulness attract children more than anything else, how can we supply our homes with an abundance of these virtues?
7. How can mothers secure the confidence of their children while young and keep that confidence as the child grows older?
8. At what age should obedience be enforced?
9. Mention right and wrong methods of punishing children.
10. Can children be taught honesty, order, kindness, and many other virtues in their plays? If so, should parents give attention to the kind of plays in which even very young children engage?
11. What are proper and what are improper amusements for our young men and women?
12. What is proper dress and healthy food for children, and how much sleep do children require at certain ages?
13. The necessity of eating, sleeping, dressing, and working "decently and in order," according to 1 Cor. 14:40.
14. Why is cleanliness necessary to health?
15. Temperance is self-control of our appetites and faculties. How are children taught intemperance when very young?
16. How are children taught selfishness, vanity, and disobedience by their parents ?
17. How old should a girl be when she may accept the attention of a young man in the capacity of a lover, and how old should the young man be?
18. Is it as bad for a young man to use bad language or lounge around a saloon as it is for a young lady to do so? Or in other words, should we require as high a standard of morals from a young lady as we do of a young man?
19. How can we sustain a Fireside School in every home, and how secure the necessary books for that school?
20. How does our present plans for raising money for God's cause teach our children boldness, vanity, pride, selfishness, and self-gratification?
21. Give us methods by which this money could be raised, and thereby our children taught self-denial, modesty, reverence for God, and a love for the cause of Christ.
We had nine sessions, three each day, held in seven different churches, including representatives from all the denominations in the city. This is the first time to my knowledge that all sects among the colored people united in Christian work, and it was to me a great source of joy, a direct answer to prayer. The minutes were kept by Sister Lottie Stephens, of Little Rock, a member of the M. E. church, and were remarkably concise, clear, and instructive. Through them were learned much more of the lessons taught than of the people who spoke. That meeting and those that followed, cheer and comfort me to-day, when I am discouraged because of the failure of other plans. Anyone who will read a copy of those minutes with the papers written by those colored women who had had so little opportunity, will never afterwards say the negro is an inferior race.
This mothers' conference went on gloriously, holding annual meetings from 1893 to 1898, at which time some misunderstanding arose between the pastors and our sisters in charge of the work. I left the state in 1894, but returned each year for two successive years to attend the conference. Perhaps the collecting of money by the conference was at the root of the trouble, as there was in the state a woman's organization whose special work was the collecting of money for various objects. I had repeatedly said and written that the Fireside School was not an agency for collecting money, but one in which we educated the whole household to deny themselves, and give for all lines of Christian work through the church. I had seen too many side issues draining the church of her money, and influences to add to the number. I see now that our work was too narrow in Arkansas because it was a mothers' instead of a parents' conference. We have it now on God's plan, father and mother, church and home, all united in this good work. "What God has joined together let not man put asunder," and may we all see that work and workers, not money, is our greatest need, and may God awaken pastors to see the value of keeping alive the little church at home. All good people are grieved to see how much of the time of a church service is spent in collecting money, which ought to be given to teaching each redeemed soul that all they have and are belongs to God. When this truth is learned and obeyed, Christians will deny themselves at home in order to give God His part of their earnings.
Though the conference in Arkansas has not met for the last three years, yet the work of reform in the homes through daily Bible study flourishes. It is indeed refreshing to see how bravely our mothers have held on to our paper, HOPE, with its daily Bible lessons and Bible band meetings held in homes when they could not meet in churches.
We also have local parents' conferences in Tennessee, North Carolina, Alabama and Virginia, but no state organization. Pastors usually attend and take part and are becoming more interested each year. We hope the time is not far distant when our pastors will hold the monthly parents' meeting, which the Fireside School recommends so as to foster the daily prayerful study of a special lesson in every home, and that they will see that good books supersede bad ones, knowing that, "If good we plant not, vice will fill the place."
IMPORTANCE OF CHRISTIAN SERVICE.
Good food and pure air will not make you strong physically unless you take exercise. Neither will Bible study and prayer give you spiritual strength unless you seek to save and edify other souls. Every true Christian, however ignorant, may be thus used of God. Some of my very best helpers did not know how to read the Bible. But they memorized Scripture and carried it from door to door to repeat at sick beds and to sorrowful hearts. They know how to make a garment for a poor child, sweep the floor, and wash soiled garments for tired mothers.
I was often criticised for setting people at work that others said were not ready for it. I had read, "But if there be first a willing mind it is accepted according to that a man hath and not according to that he hath not." 2 Cor. 8:12. Every Christian has, at least, one talent and he will grow by using it. The following is the plan of work outlined for our Fireside Schools:
1. Fireside Schools in every home.
2. Parents' Meetings as often as convenient for the purpose of comforting and edifying one another according to 1 Thess. 5:11.
3. Sons' and Daughters' Meetings, that they as well as their parents may be instructed in the duties that will help make home pure and happy. Both of these meetings can be held either in the church or private homes.
4. Sunshine Bands or Children's Meetings held in private homes during the week with the object of helping to do a parent's work for children whose parents are too careless or too busy to lead the little ones to Christ, and also to help the parents who are doing their best to properly educate their children.
5. Bible Bands for the purpose of emphasizing daily Bible study?not simply reading, but careful study of the Scriptures.
6. Reading interesting articles to our neighbors from our books and papers, and thus awakening in them a desire for knowledge; and teaching those who wish to learn as we have opportunity. Also striving to sell to our neighbors who need, Bibles and other appropriate books.
7. Collecting and preparing supplies for the poor in our own neighborhood.
8. Holding meetings in towns and country places for Bible study, and the discussion of the above lines of Christian work, and to advance the object of this school, which is to purify and educate the home life of the people. Anyone led of the Spirit can do some part of this work.
You can see that some one line of this work is adapted to the ability of different members in the church. Therefore it gives the pastor a chance to put every member of his church at some work for Christ. We want no "dead heads" in the church of the living God.
"There is a work for me and a work for you
And something for each of us now to do."
The three lines of work embraced in the six divisions of this plan have enabled me to multiply myself a thousand fold. We have enrolled the names of five hundred and thirty-two persons who are thus helping their neighbors with good books, also five hundred and twenty-nine, who received our paper HOPE in clubs, distribute them and collect the money. This requires much time and labor which is given freely for Jesus' sake. Most of these are women, a large number of them are mothers who know how to weave their Christian work into social calls at their own homes or neighbors'. A few are pastors of churches and some are young men. We estimate the development of these 1,061 persons as among the most cheering results of the Fireside School.
From 1895 to 1900 we sold about six thousand dollars' worth of books and donated about three thousand; this does not include Bibles. I failed to keep an exact record of them. The helpers I mention have been very useful in this part of the work. The plan of leaving books with different individuals as you can see, requires much sacrifice on the part of the owner of the books, for they are often lost, by accidents or by giving them out on trust.
We have at present more than one thousand dollars' worth unsold in the hands of these persons. But it is the best plan we know for training workers, and the only way considering that the colored people seldom have ready money.
The Fireside School has two great objects in view, namely:
1. To secure the daily prayerful study of God's Word in every home, with all the family together.
2. To help put other appropriate books in our homes and see that parent and child read them together as far as possible.
To secure these two objects we need a uniform Bible lesson and at least a few of the same books read in each home at the same time, so that neighbors may help and cheer each other. Without this neighborly, kindly help, those who read poorly, and those who are careless will give up their studies.
In order to succeed in this we have taken this motto?"All at it; always at it." Neighborhood cooperation has accomplished great things. This work appeals to all Christians without denominational distinction, because all sects and all races admit the need of a pure, intelligent home life.
NO ORGANIZATIONS NEEDED.
I noticed that all these outside organizations, especially the benevolent and secret societies, were draining the church of her money and influence, and leading its members to look to the world for help instead of to God, and thus forming a sinful union with the unconverted; therefore in planning our "Fireside School," we were careful to put it under the wing of the church, the same as the prayer meeting. We planned for no officers, but expected the pastor to call a parents' meeting once a month and thus encourage daily Bible study and a faithful performance of all the duties belonging to parent and child. But when pastors can see only the church and things that centered around that, we must needs have some plan to keep alive the little church around the fireside; therefore, we have Bible Band meetings for this purpose. These proved to be very helpful.
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