Protestant Educators

Picture of Clarence Herbert Benson

Clarence H. Benson, Litt. D. (1879-1954). A pioneer Christian educator who taught at Moody Bible Institute (1923-1941) and who, through the work of the Evangelical Teacher Training Association, spearheaded an international movement to revitalize the Sunday school.

Biography

Early Life and Education

Clarence Herbert Benson was born on August 13th, 1879 in Minneapolis, Minnesota, the son of Aaron W. Benson and Elizabeth Davis Smith. His was a progressive, well-educated, and ministry-oriented family. His father, the Rev. Aaron Benson, was a Dutch Reformed and Presbyterian minister as well as a public school teacher. His mother, Elizabeth, also taught in the public schools and was the daughter and granddaughter of Moravian missionaries. Members of the extended family included public school superintendents. What can be known about Clarence's early years is derived mostly from autobiographical comments. His publications suggest the influence of a strong work ethic, eclectic educational interests, a high motivation for learning, and an enterprising, even visionary, spirit. The picture of young Clarence's home life is of a rich and stimulating experience. His parental instruction included musical instruction and lessons in amateur astronomy from his mother and frequent interaction with his father's pastoral apprentices.

Young Clarence's faith was molded by his father's Reformed Christian outlook and his mother's missionary heart. Probably baptized in infancy, Benson was an insider to the Reformed faith from an early age. His father's charge, the Westminster Presbyterian Church of Minneapolis, was Benson's spiritual home from the age of eight when he made his profession of faith to the congregation and was formally added to its membership roles. That Clarence enjoyed the devoted instruction of his mother is also evident from the dedicatory forewords found in the texts he later published. His older brother had died in childhood leaving Clarence the sole recipient of his parents' affections and attention.

The Benson home was undoubtedly an industrious one. Clarence credited his father with organizing a dozen congregations and Sunday schools, and "starting sixteen young men (including himself) in the ministry." Clarence's enterprising nature first found its outlet in after-school newspaper delivery and later in journalism. His efforts in newspaper circulation won him recognition (with the Minneapolis Journal) and by the age of seventeen Clarence was publishing articles on science and the Bible, the subject of astronomy becoming his specialty. As a young man, Clarence, bored with his regular job responsibilities, successfully persuaded his business employer to adopt a new advertising scheme. Confident and hardworking, he thrived on new challenges and opportunities.

He was reared with a strong sense of vocation: whatever would be his life's work, he would do "with all his might." Given Clarence's college studies in astronomy, journalism, and business, a future in ministry seemed less likely especially given his eclectic interests and restless, ambitious nature. But there was the family's four-generation legacy of raising up a clergyman from the oldest son, so when his older brother died, God's sovereignty handed Clarence a challenge which he eventually owned as a call to ministry.

Although his family was of limited means, Clarence was able to finance his college and graduate studies through grants and part-time endeavors in journalism, business, and on occasion, speaking on the subject of science and the Bible to college audiences. Curiously, his studies at the University of Minnesota (1900-1903) and Macalester College (1902-1905) never culminated in earned degrees. This may have been due to limited finances but perhaps also to young Benson's restless and enterprising spirit. He had after all been called to ministry. In that day many young ministers, even some Presbyterian, were ordained to ministry without having completed seminary graduation requirements. After three years of study at Princeton Theological Seminary (1905-1908), Benson was licensed to preach by the Minneapolis Presbytery (June 28th, 1908) and ordained to ministry, like his father before him, in the Dutch Reformed Church (August 4th, 1908). Before the year had passed he met Rena Pearl Clark at a Christian Endeavor convention and the two were married.

With significant life and work experience already under his belt, Benson, now age 29, received his first pastoral charges, two small Reformed congregations in rural New York. Eager for challenge and mindful of the biblical counsel not to "despise the day of small things," Benson set the tone for his pastoral ministry by emphasizing the equipping of lay leaders for decision making and ministry. Before the end of his first year he had significantly increased the level of participation in both congregations, and by the middle of the second year new opportunities to serve larger congregations opened up. For the next decade, from the fall of 1909 through the fall of 1919, Benson served increasingly larger Reformed and Presbyterian congregations throughout Pennsylvania and New York and built a reputation for outstanding church-program development and growth. In this work, and perhaps owing to his mother's influence, Benson saw himself as a missionary and approached each new congregation as a mission. His success at developing flourishing church bodies from stagnant congregations may be attributed in part to his gift for inspiring others with the evangelistic mission of the church, but also to the skills of promotion and program development gleaned from his business experience. Obviously, Benson's strengths lay in church growth, not in long-term pastoral care (three years being his average length of stay in any one place). But the growth of Benson's congregations should not be viewed merely in terms of numbers. Bethlehem Presbyterian Church of Buffalo, New York (Benson's final American pastorate) had a reputation for disunity and a resistance to growth. Both trends reversed dramatically within two years of Benson's arrival. Noting his success the Presbytery offered Benson what would become his final charge. Benson accepted a mission pastorate, the Union Church of Kobe, Japan, a congregation particularly in need of a leader whose ministry would foster unity among missionary factions.

In fact, the Bensons' prayer letters to their stateside family and friends during their time in Kobe (fall 1919 through spring 1922) document a significant degree of disunity among Protestant missionaries at work there. The impact of Benson's ministry in this particular situation is less well documented. What is apparent from the sources is that Benson's enterprising nature found creative outlet in several pioneering outreach strategies. For example, Benson founded a boating club for Japanese youth and taught at a business college in Kobe. Once again, however, the Bensons would soon be moving on. This time due to an (unspecified) illness, Mrs. Benson required several months convalescence in Florida. Now home, Benson looked toward new endeavors.

Throughout his fourteen years in pastoral ministry, a growing interest in the topic of science and the Bible led Benson to write articles purporting to interpret modern scientific findings in light of scriptural data. Some of these were written explicitly to oppose the theory of evolution. Toward the end of Benson's missionary pastorate, these articles came to the attention of James M. Gray, then Dean of the Moody Bible Institute and publisher of the conservative and influential Moody Bible Institute Monthly. Through the efforts of Dean Gray and others, the cause of Christian fundamentalism was gaining national prominence, and "Moody Science" became an important tool in the fundamentalist arsenal. Gray wrote to Benson inviting him to come on faculty and, subsequently, to assume the editorship of the journal. After the summer's convalescence in Florida, the Bensons relocated to Chicago and Clarence took up his duties in the fall of 1922. At the Institute, Benson's gifts and experience would discover their ideal outlet in a long-term project aimed in a new direction-"revitalizing America's Sunday schools."

Benson's transition from missionary pastor to Moody Bible Institute instructor came at a time when the Institute itself was undergoing change. Throughout the decade of the 1920's Moody trustees redefined the Institute's mission to focus on evangelism and lay-training. This emphasis came in response to the perceived negative impact of modernism on the church in general and to the liberalization of religious higher education in particular. The statement, "the Bible without a college education is more valuable than a college education without the Bible," expresses the preeminence for evangelicals of God's word over intellectual thought. If the Moody constituency increasingly associated higher education with higher critical scholarship, then a practical, biblical, lay-ministry approach was needed. Benson's pastoral ministry had emphasized this very thing. Moreover, though he had studied at several institutions of higher learning, Benson's record was free of the formal credentials usually attached to academicians.

Soon after Benson's arrival in Chicago, James M. Gray was installed as President of the Institute (1925), and a number of faculty members were added with a view toward the development of professional, undergraduate-level programs. Benson was assigned to develop a program whose aim was the professional preparation of directors of Christian education for local churches. This initially entailed the revamping and augmentation of an existing "Sunday School Course." Ultimately it required the training and mobilization of a virtual army of students to plant Sunday schools, teach, and develop evangelical Bible curriculum, all in response to the decline in Sunday school participation nationwide. Contacts made through the Institute introduced Benson to the wider circle of evangelical and fundamentalist leaders. His appointment as Associate Editor of the Moody Monthly in 1926 provided Benson with a national platform for pursuing the larger mission of "revitalizing the American Sunday school."

In the classroom Benson was never known as an exciting teacher. Even so, his lecture preparation became the impetus for documenting church growth strategies, for studying the history of Christian ministry (particularly the Sunday school movement), and for theorizing about the pedagogy of evangelical Christian nurture. This work resulted in the publication of a number of evangelically-oriented texts, including An introduction to child study (1927), The church at work (1929), The Sunday School in action (1932), A popular history of Christian education (1943), and The Christian teacher (1950). Most of these works saw multiple printings. In connection with the international Sunday school movement, the two volumes on church work and the Sunday school were translated for use on the foreign mission field (e.g. Japan and Latin America).

At home in the U.S., however, the Sunday school was receiving failing marks. National Sunday school conventions had reached a highpoint of participation and influence in the late 1880's. Attendance, both in conventions and local Sunday schools, dropped steadily thereafter. When held up to the model of public school education, the Sunday school was widely judged to be "a waste of time." Benson pointed to the absence of teacher training and the negative impact of modern religious-educational ideals as the most likely causes. To these he addressed both journalistic and institutional solutions.

Clarence Benson's greatest impact on the American Sunday school came through his work with the Evangelical Teacher Training Association. Benson founded the ETTA together with James M. Gray, Charles Trumbull (editor of the Sunday School Times) and others, serving as its first executive secretary and later as its president. Writing a series of teaching training manuals on subjects ranging from Bible content and theology to child development and church school management, Benson developed a highly successful certificate course that enabled Sunday school teachers to be certified by studying at participating Bible schools and colleges throughout the U.S. and the world. Participation in the certificate course grew to 168 member schools by 1954, by which time over 25,000 certificates had been awarded nationwide, as well as in Canada, Central America, Cuba, the Philippines, Puerto Rico, and elsewhere. Benson also teamed up with gifted students Lois and Mary Lebar to develop graded, evangelically-oriented Bible curricula for Sunday schools. Together with the certificate course training materials, the curricula became the inaugural publications of Scripture Press. Benson retired from Moody Bible Institute in 1943 but continued to champion the cause of the Sunday school through publication, speaking, and oversight of national conventions. The King's College formally recognized Benson's contribution to Christian education by awarding him an honorary doctoral degree late in his career (June, 1945). The Bensons had two sons, Charles Francis and Clark David, the latter of whom was ordained as missionary to the Miskito people of Honduras. On September 16th 1954 at the age of 75, Clarence Benson died of an illness contracted while visiting and speaking in the West Indies.

Works Cited

  • Benson, Clarence H. (1929). The Sunday School at work. Los Angeles: Bible Institute of Los Angeles.
  • _________ (1929). An impending peril and how to meet it. Moody Bible Institute Monthly 29, 476-477.
  • _________ (1954). Give the Sunday School a chance. Moody Monthly 54, 3, 15.
  • Evangelical Teacher Training Association. (1953). Secretary's annual report for September 1, 1953-August 31, 1954, Wheaton, Illinois.
  • Getz, Gene A. (1967). A history of Moody Bible Institute and its contributions to evangelical education. Unpublished Doctoral Dissertation, New York University.
  • Hunt, Clayton J. (1984). A historical study of the development of Scripture Press Ministries and Scripture Press Publications, Inc. Unpublished Doctoral Dissertation, Temple Baptist Theological Seminary.
  • Lay, Robert F. (1991). Metaphors of the Christian teacher. Unpublished Doctoral Dissertation, Presbyterian School of Christian Education.
  • Lockyer, Jr., Herbert. (1954). Dr. Clarence H. Benson called home. Moody Monthly 54, 86.
  • Palmer, Joy E. (1958). The contribution of Clarence H. Benson to the field of Christian education. Unpublished M.A. Thesis, Wheaton College.
  • Princeton Theological Seminary. (1908). Alumni records of the General Catalog for 1908, Princeton, N.J.
  • Princeton Theological Seminary. (1932). Biographical Catalog for 1815-1932. Princeton, N.J.
  • Trumbull, Charles. (1954). Dr. Clarence H. Benson. The Sunday School Times 96, 874.
  • Zorn, Laurin J. (1943). Benson in action. Sunday School Promoter 5, 7-10, 45.

Contributions to Christian Education

Clarence Benson was an influential and transitional figure in twentieth century Christian education. His mission, as he described it, was to "strengthen the things that remain" (from Revelation 3:2, KJV). For Benson, this meant reinvigorating the Sunday school, which he believed to be "the most indispensable institution in America." His optimistic claims regarding an institution whose time many felt was past has led some to characterize Benson simply as an "old timer" from the "old-time school" (Lynn & Wright, 1980, 117). Yet, as Edward Hayes has noted, "Were it not for the efforts of Clarence Benson, evangelical Christian education prior to World War II would have suffered from substantive thinness" (Hayes, 1976, 202).

A key objective in Benson's mission involved restoring the Bible to its rightful place in Sunday school curricula. This entailed both a research-based critique of the most popular Sunday school curricula of the day, and a response via the publication of new curricula through The Scripture press. Benson's The Sunday school in action outlines his critique. During the publication years of 1872-1918 the widely used International Uniform lessons addressed "limited (35%) Bible material," with many books of the Bible simply omitted from the curriculum. Secondly, the Uniform lessons were "not adapted to children," having "adult conceptions, principles, doctrines, truths, and needs, stamped upon them from first to last." Finally, Benson challenged the "experienced-centered" approach taken in the newer, project-oriented curricula since it "substitutes methodology at the expense of content" (Benson, 1932, 143-149).

Along with Edward Hayes, Warren S. Benson has affirmed Clarence Benson's key role as "a pioneer among evangelical educators." Benson led the way, he explains, by involving Moody Bible Institute students in "writing curriculum that became Scripture Press Publications." He also notes Benson's influence on Lois Lebar, a student of Benson's who later authored the influential Education that is Christian (Benson, 1984, 57-61).

Benson's contribution, then, began in the context of evangelical Christian education and developed through his Moody Bible Institute program and publications. A page from Lawrence Cremin's American education: the metropolitan experience, 1876-1980, sets the stage for Benson's unfolding career.

The new institute formally opened in 1889 with Moody as president…and it developed over the next half-century into a major center of orthodox evangelical Christian education under the leadership of three immensely gifted leaders: Reuben A. Torrey, who was the first superintendent; James M. Gray, who served as dean from 1904 to 1923 and as president from 1923 to 1934; and Clarence H. Benson, who inaugurated the Institute's religious education course in 1924. Torrey and Gray exerted national influence in developing a systematic pedagogy for Bible study, while Benson led in the preparation and publication of curriculum materials for orthodox evangelical Sunday schools and in the organization of the Evangelical Teacher Training Association as a kind of orthodox evangelical alternative to the Religious Education Association. Unconstrained by the traditions of degree-granting colleges and seminaries and committed solely to the preparation of competent practitioners of evangelization, the institute was one of the most innovative educational institutions of the era (Cremin, 1988, 36).

It should be noted that Benson was recruited for the Institute on the basis of his teaching and writings on science and the Bible, while still serving a mission pastorate in Kobe, Japan. In Benson, James Gray recognized an articulate ally in the counteroffensive against the modernist attack on Scripture. Benson's numerous articles, published throughout the 1920s and 30s, defended a literal reading of Genesis narratives against higher critical perspectives. He endeavored to show that "science is one of the strongest witnesses to the facts of God's Word," and that, "of necessity, the two must harmonize and corroborate each other" (Benson, 1929, 5-6). Although his primary emphasis soon shifted to religious education, Benson never stopped writing and publishing in this area. His texts, The earth, the theatre of the universe (1929), Immensity: God's greatness seen in creation (1937), The greatness and grace of God (1953), and How great thou art (1957) took their place along side similar fundamentalist classics found in homes and on the shelves of Bible college libraries throughout the U.S and Canada.

Benson's greater contribution, however, relates to evangelical Christian education in general and to the Sunday school movement in particular. In accepting a call to the Moody Bible Institute faculty, Benson was enlisting in the Institute's urban mission of preparing "gap-men"-ministers who functioned as liaisons between laity and professional workers in religious education. Throughout the decade of the 1920s, Torrey and Gray redefined the Moody mission to focus on the development of a highly trained and competent laity not otherwise "spoiled" by the tenets of modern biblical scholarship. Benson's first assignment was to "revise the Institute's Sunday School Course (department)." This entailed developing a program of Christian educational studies whose aims were rigorously biblical and whose methods supported traditional church methodologies. Many colleges and seminaries were offering programs to prepare professional religious educators, but most required three or more years of undergraduate-level studies and few regarded the Sunday school as an important provider of religious education.

Benson defined his new program over against the "deficits" (reduced Bible content, reduced emphasis on missions and evangelism, higher critical methodologies, etc.) of existing models advocated by the Religious Education Association (est.1903) and the International Council of Religious Education (est.1922). His revised curriculum raised program credibility through the introduction of selected modern topics of study such as child development, teaching methodology, and Church school administration. It also raised the academic standards of traditional methods such as Bible story telling, manual arts (crafts), and blackboard drawing. Benson himself wrote the textbooks for many of these classes. Texts such as An introduction to child study (1927), The church at work (1929), The Sunday School in action (1932), A popular history of Christian education (1943), Techniques of a working church (1946), and The Christian teacher saw numerous printings. Several of these were translated into Spanish, Japanese, and other languages, carrying Benson's influence well beyond his Chicago classroom.

Graduating several Christian education majors each year through the Moody program would not be sufficient to reverse the downward spiral of the Sunday school, nationally. In 1931, together with Sunday school times Editor Charles Trumbull, President Gray of Moody, and representatives of several evangelical Bible colleges, Benson organized the Evangelical Teacher Training Association (ETTA). Its aims included (1) fostering cooperation among evangelical institutions, (2) raising the quality of Sunday school teacher training nationwide, and (3) maintaining standards of evangelical orthodoxy in the publication and distribution of teacher training materials. To this end, Benson's Christian education course curriculum was repackaged as an extensive twelve-unit Certificate Course that could be offered by member institutions. Benson himself produced the certificate manuals on nearly all required subjects, including doctrinal and Bible surveys, Sunday school administration, child development, teaching pedagogy, and so on. By the end of the decade over 100 evangelical colleges and Bible schools were offering the ETTA Certificate Course. By the time of Benson's death in 1954, 168 Bible institutes and colleges in the U.S., Canada, Latin America, Africa, Philippines, Pakistan, Bahamas, and Formosa held memberships with the ETTA and had awarded over 25,000 certificates. The impact of the ETTA outlived its founders, surviving well into the second half of the twentieth century. By 1962 over a million certificate manuals had been sold, with nearly 40,000 teacher certificates awarded world-wide (Getz, 1967, 308). Tens of thousands of Benson's certificate manuals were also distributed in several foreign languages.

Few evangelical educators of the first half of the twentieth century have thus experienced greater influence at home or abroad than Clarence H. Benson. His most popular text, The Sunday School in Action (1932) was reported by a National Sunday School Association textbook survey (1958-59) to be the single most utilized Christian education text among evangelical seminaries, Bible institutes, Bible colleges, and Christian liberal arts colleges (Getz, 1967, 314). Believing that "the Sunday school in action means the church in action," Benson reaffirmed the traditional (but faltering) view of Sunday school as synonymous with laity and true piety. In Benson's view, "the church must be brought into action in order that it may utilize the promised power of the Holy Spirit" (Benson 1932, 9 & 45).

Finally, Benson's contribution to an evangelical history and philosophy of education has gone largely unrecognized. The Sunday school in action (1932) offered readers a thoroughly (albeit simplistically) historical derivation of Sunday school curriculum and methods. A guide to pedagogy (1935) adapted and expanded Gregory's Seven laws of the teacher for a 20th century evangelical readership. The latter text draws on the language of behaviorism to propose "that the aim of the Sunday school teacher is to shape the immortal destiny of a soul according to the Word of God" (emphasis in original, Benson, 1953, 12). In his most theoretical work, The Christian teacher (1950), Benson wrote about the psycho-spiritual dynamics of Christian teaching in language evocative of late 19th century theology. Here, Benson declared that a Christian teacher must reach the interpersonal spheres of the pupil's world-consciousness, self-consciousness, and God-consciousness if a lesson was to succeed. Benson's appeal to a trichotomistic anthropology (that describes a human as comprised of body, soul, and spirit) was not unusual for late 19th and early 20th century evangelicals (see also, for example, Jessie-Penn Lewis's Soul and spirit). Yet, he broadened these ideas ontologically, describing "three planes of life," that of beasts (or animals), of man, and of God. In contrast to the beasts, man alone is able to "pass from one plane to another" since his "endowment of self-determination enables him (to) descend and live on the plane of the beast, or…rise to heavenly places and hold communion with God" (Benson 1950, 33). This philosophy is undoubtedly behind Benson's threefold pedagogical prescription, that Christian teachers must reach (in invariant sequence) the mentality, personality, and spirituality of their pupils. It perhaps also underlies his Sunday school slogan concerning the necessity of "reaching, teaching, and saving the youth of America."

If evangelical students of Christian education are skeptical about the value of history or theory for ministry, Benson's texts may not change their minds. Postmodern readers mine the latest publications in search of new methods while rejecting or simply ignoring authors' attempts to ground their methods in the latest research. What ends, then, did theoretical justification serve in Clarence Benson's texts? Were they mostly rhetorical, allowing Benson to exercise his philosophical vocabulary? Were they literary, meeting the expectations for philosophical rigor prevalent among Benson's colleagues and publishers?

Benson's conscientious efforts to ground his methods in history and theory were appropriate, fruitful, and influential-especially when compared to the larger body of evangelical literature on Sunday school methods. Rhetorical and literary purposes, however, should neither be minimized nor disdained. Clarence Benson demonstrated his "reaching pedagogy" on the pages of many of his texts, especially The Christian teacher. One cannot settle, Benson averred, for merely capturing a pupil's attention (reaching the mentality) through the communication of interesting facts. The effective Sunday school teacher must go on to reach the personality, which happens through the sharing of personal (to the teacher) anecdotes carefully chosen on the basis of the teacher's familiarity with the pupil. Those, like Benson, who illustrate their messages with compelling, personal illustrations make a "point of contact" insuring that the message has become personally relevant to the pupil. Furthermore, reaching the mentality (gaining attention) and then the personality (the pupil's personal interest) are prerequisite but not sufficient for a transformed life. A third sphere, God-consciousness or spirituality-a pupil's innate capacity for perceiving God-remains to be reached for the lesson aims to be fully realized and become the pupil's conviction. Benson's writing style demonstrates this final pedagogical step throughout The Christian Teacher. Specifically, lesson material is arranged in a manner that leads the reader through a growing crescendo of praise for the marvel of God's work and provision. The entire pedagogical sequence (as the chapters in The Christian Teacher) unfolds as a sermon, moving from opening thesis, through carefully chosen personal anecdotes, and finally to a call for commitment, the expression of personal conviction.

In conclusion, during his relatively brief career at the Moody Bible Institute (1923-1941), Clarence H. Benson mapped out and led a remarkably effective and influential campaign on behalf of the Sunday school. International in scope and thoroughly biblical and constructive in its approach, Benson's campaign for evangelical Sunday school teacher training did more to extend the life and improve the quality of church-based, biblical teaching than perhaps any other single effort of its kind.

After retiring from his faculty position at Moody in 1941, Benson continued, until his death in 1954, to serve in positions of national leadership in Christian educational organizations and to crusade tirelessly throughout the world on behalf of the Sunday school. The mission of the Evangelical Teacher Training Association continues in force through the agency of the Evangelical Training Association of Wheaton, Illinois.

Works Cited

  • Benson, Clarence H. (1929). The Sunday School at work. Los Angeles: Bible Institute of Los Angeles.
  • __________ (1929). The earth, the theatre of the universe. Chicago: Bible Institute Colportage Association.
  • __________ (1932). The Sunday School in action. Chicago: Moody Press.
  • __________ (1950). The Christian teacher. Chicago: Moody Press.
  • Benson, Warren S. (1984). Evangelical philosophies of education. In Taylor, M.J. (ed.), Changing patterns of religious education. (pp. 53-73). Nashville: Abingdon Press.
  • Cremin, Lawrence A. (1988). American education: The metropolitan experience, 1876-1980. New York: Harper & Row Publishers.
  • Evangelical Teacher Training Association. (1953). Secretary's Annual Report for September 1, 1953-August 31, 1954, Wheaton, Illinois.
  • Getz, Gene A. (1967). A history of Moody Bible Institute and its contributions to evangelical education. Unpublished Doctoral Dissertation, New York University.
  • Hayes, Edward L. (1976). Evangelicalism and Christian education. In Taylor, M.J. (ed.), Foundations for Christian education in an era of change. (pp.198-207). Nashville: Abingdon Press.
  • Lay, Robert F. (1991). Metaphors of the Christian teacher. Unpublished Doctoral Dissertation, Presbyterian School of Christian Education.
  • Lynn, Robert W. & Wright, E. (1980). The big little school (2nd ed). Birmingham, Religious Education Press.
  • Palmer, Joy E. (1958). The contribution of Clarence H. Benson to the field of Christian education. Unpublished M.A. Thesis, Wheaton College.
  • Penn-Lewis, Jessie. (nd) Soul and spirit. Overcomer Publications.

Bibliography

Books

  • (1927). An introduction to child study. Chicago: Bible Institute Colportage Association.
  • (1929). The earth, the theatre of the universe. Chicago: Bible Institute Colportage Association.
  • (1929). The church at work. Los Angeles: Bible Institute of Los Angeles.
  • (1932). The Sunday School in action. Chicago: Moody Press.
  • (1937). Immensity: God's greatness seen in creation. Chicago: The Scripture Press.
  • (1943). A popular history of Christian education. Chicago: Moody Press.
  • (1946). Techniques of a working church. Chicago: Moody Press.
  • (1950). The Christian teacher. Chicago: Moody Press.
  • (1953). The greatness and grace of God. Chicago: Scripture Press.
  • (1957). How great thou art. Westchester, IL.: Christian Readers Club.
  • (1964). Sunday School success, (Rev. Ed.). Chicago: Evangelical Teacher Training Institute.

Curricula

  • (1930). A guide for pedagogy. Chicago: Evangelical Teacher Training Association.
  • (1933-54). The all Bible graded series. (with Lois and Mary Lebar). Wheaton, IL: Scripture Press.
  • (1935). A brief Bible outline. Chicago: Evangelical Teacher Training Association.
  • (1949). A guide for Bible doctrine. Chicago: Evangelical Teacher Training Association.
  • (1950). A guide for Bible study. Chicago: Evangelical Teacher Training Association.
  • (1950). Old Testament survey: poetry and prophecy. Chicago: Evangelical Teacher Training Association.
  • (1950). Old Testament law and history. Chicago: Evangelical Teacher Training Association.
  • (1950). New Testament survey. Chicago: Evangelical Teacher Training Association.
  • (1950). Teaching techniques. Chicago: Evangelical Teacher Training Association.
  • (1950). The triune God. Chicago: Evangelical Teacher Training Association.
  • (1956). A Guide for child study. Chicago: Evangelical Teacher Training Association.

Selected Articles

  • (1921). Longevity, a matter of the heart. Moody Bible Institute Monthly 21, 351-353.
  • (1922). The curse on the habitation, the horticulture and the hearthstone of man: A riddle for the evolutionist to solve. Moody Bible Institute Monthly 22, 1055-1057.
  • (1922). The star of Bethlehem. Moody Bible Institute Monthly 22, 704-706.
  • (1923). The Bible in advance of modern science. Moody Bible Institute Monthly 23, 470.
  • (1924). Earth's first catastrophe. Moody Bible Institute Monthly 24, 55-57.
  • (1924). The Sunday School teacher's golden hour. Moody Bible Institute Monthly 24, 178.
  • (1925). Community or denominational church schools, Which? Moody Bible Institute Monthly 25, 223.
  • (1926). The home, the church, the school-a unified program. Moody Bible Institute Monthly 26, 223-224.
  • (1926). The country Sunday School teacher. Moody Bible Institute Monthly 27, 476-477.
  • (1928). A model Sunday School curriculum. Moody Bible Institute Monthly 28, 108-113.
  • (1929). An impending peril and how to meet It. Moody Bible Institute Monthly 29, 476-477.
  • (1933). A new departure needed in Sunday School. Moody Bible Institute Monthly 33, 206.
  • (1934). Children-a neglected ministry. Moody Bible Institute Monthly 35, 5.
  • (1938). Have we found a new mission field? The Sunday School Times 80, 588.
  • (1939). Vacation Bible School. Moody Bible Institute Monthly 39, 546.
  • (1939). E.T.T.A. Questions and answers. The Sunday School Times 81, 136.
  • (1945). Evangelicals must revitalize the American Sunday School if nation is to have a new day. The Sunday School Times 86, 3-5.
  • (1945). Curbing crime by correcting children. Moody Bible Institute Monthly 45, 1-7.
  • (1947). Canvassing a neighborhood for new scholars. The Sunday School Times 89, 637.
  • (1952). The Sunday School's place in the atomic age. The Sunday School Times 94, 767-768.
  • (1953). Where is God in education? The Sunday School Times 95, 5-7.
  • (1954). Sunday School in a democracy. The Sunday School Times 96, (np).
  • (1954). Give the Sunday School a chance: It has made America; It can save America. Moody Monthly 56, 3, 15.

Pamphlets and Brochures

  • (1951). The second coming of Christ. Birmingham: Southeastern Bible School.
  • (1953). E.T.T.A. Constitution. Chicago: Evangelical Teacher Training Association.
  • (1954). I am debtor. Chicago: Chicago: Evangelical Teacher Training Association.
  • (1956). The story of Scripture Press. Chicago: Scripture Press.

Excerpts from Publications

(1924). The Sunday School teacher's golden hour. Moody Bible Institute Monthly 24, 178.

The average child spends twenty-five hours a week in school, sixty-three hours in sleeping, seven hours in eating and seventy-two hours in reading, working and playing. Is the Sunday school prepared to give the child every chance in this one golden hour out of every one hundred and sixty-eight? A total eclipse of the sun occurs somewhere on the earth every year, but even when found in an accessible spot, the path is narrow and the duration short. Months before hand astronomers gather at that favored portion of the earth and spend days and weeks in rehearsal so that when those six brief minutes of darkness at length arrive everything is in readiness to make the most of them. Can it be as truthfully said of pastors, superintendents and teachers that they have as fully planned, prepared and rehearsed to give the child his chance in these sixty diamond minutes? (pg. 178)

(1930). A guide for pedagogy. Chicago: Evangelical Teacher Training Association.

Modern astronomy reveals a universe of countless orbs in which the earth is but a speck and the sun a spark. And as if this immensity were not enough, there are an indeterminable number of universes (i.e. galaxies) as vast and incomprehensible as our own. But the privilege of the Christian teacher is to reveal the God whose "greatness is unsearchable," and His gracious and glorious purpose for His children. From the Bible and the Bible alone we learn of the interest of the mighty and majestic God in this earth, though it be but a grain in the mountain of creation, and of his great love for the hopeless and helpless people upon it. Before one can teach he must have a conception of the priceless value of one immortal soul…May we not say that the aim of the Sunday school teacher is to shape the immortal destiny of a soul according to the Word of God. (pg. 12)

(1932). The Sunday School in action. Chicago: Moody Press.

In this day of advanced Sunday school methods no argument should be needed for the necessity of teacher training. Of all the people in the world who need to study, the teacher heads the list. The fact is, one cannot be a teacher unless he is a learner…If pupils are to drink from running brooks and not from stagnant ponds, it is incumbent upon the teacher constantly to tap new reservoirs of teaching materials and teaching methods. (pg.122)

(1937). Immensity: God's greatness seen in creation. Chicago: The Scripture Press.

Considering man's complete dependence upon the Sun's heat and light for his very existence, is it not more reasonable for him to become a Sun-worshiper than a dollar-devotee? Only his failure to reflect upon the marvels of creation, which would logically lead him to the Creator, can account for the substitution of a baser shrine for his worship. (Pg.111)

(1950). The Christian teacher. Chicago: Moody Press.

In sharp contrast to the receptive contact (i.e. in "reaching the pupil's mentality") is the responsive contact. It deals with persons. Its end is the growth and culture of persons, the enrichment of their character, and the enlargement of their outlook on life. A responsive contact is made when you first give consideration to the interests and understanding of your pupils, and the questions which they ask. Your aim will be not only to secure a response from the pupil, but to make him feel responsible for his instruction. (pg. 24)

(1954). Give the Sunday School a chance: It has made America; it can save America. Moody Monthly 56, 3.

It was not a mere coincidence that the Sunday school reached America just at the time our forefathers were framing the Constitution of the United States. It provided the happy solution of keeping the Bible in the curriculum of American education without violating our guarantee of religious liberty. (pg. 3)


Recommended Readings

Books

(1927). An introduction to child study. Chicago: Bible Institute Colportage Association.

Benson's early contribution to the application of child-developmental and educational psychology to Christian education.

(1929). The earth, the theatre of the universe. Chicago: Bible Institute Colportage Association.

Benson's early classic on the relationship of the Bible to the findings of modern astronomy.

(1932). The Sunday School in action. Chicago: Moody Press.

Benson's most popular text, a compendium of practical and effective strategies gleaned from his decade in pastoral ministry.

(1943). A popular history of Christian education. Chicago: Moody Press.

His original sketches of education during Jewish, Early Church, Dark Ages, Renaissance, Reformation, and Counterreformation periods set the stage for Benson's detailed survey of the Sunday school movement (including details of the establishment of the Evangelical Teacher Training Association) comprising the majority of the text.

(1950). The Christian teacher. Chicago: Moody Press.

Benson's only theoretical text. This eclectic theory of Christian pedagogy introduces a threefold aim and methods for reaching the mentality, personality, and spirituality of the Sunday school pupil.

Curricula

(1930). A guide for pedagogy. Chicago: Evangelical Teacher Training Association.

Benson's unique adaptation of (John Vincent's) The seven laws of the teacher to Sunday school pedagogy.

(1933) The all Bible graded series of Sunday School lessons. Chicago: ETTA.

Sunday school curriculum written by Benson and students, Lois and Mary Lebar.

Selected Articles

(1923). The Bible in advance of modern science. Moody Bible Institute Monthly 23, 470.
(1924). The Sunday school teacher's golden hour. Moody Bible Institute Monthly 24, 178.
(1929). An impending peril and how to meet it. Moody Bible Institute Monthly 29, 476-477.
(1933). A new departure needed in Sunday school. Moody Bible Institute Monthly 33, 206.
(1934). Children-a neglected ministry. Moody Bible Institute Monthly 35, 5.
(1945). Curbing crime by correcting children. Moody Bible Institute Monthly 45, 1-7.
(1945). Evangelicals must revitalize the American Sunday school if nation is to have a new day. The Sunday School Times 86, 3-5.
(1954). Sunday school in a democracy. The Sunday School Times 96, (np).
(1954). Give the Sunday school a chance: It has made America; it can save America. Moody Monthly 56, 3, 15.

Author Information

Robert F. Lay

Robert F. Lay serves as Professor of Christian Education at Taylor University in Upland, Indiana.

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