How to Conduct a Summer Bible School

By the Rev. Abraham Lance Lathem, D.D.
[excerpted from Christianity Today, 8.2 (June 1937): 32-33].

Click here to view a letter from the Rev. Francis A. Schaeffer, written in commendation of the Summer Bible School program.

Click here to view the finding aid for the A.L. Lathem collection at the PCA Historical Center.

The Summer Bible School has long since ceased to be an experiment. It has been proved to be of the highest efficiency in every school where it has had a fair trial. Many witnesses might be summoned who by their own testimony would establish this fact. A test of a quarter of a century with continued success and blessing is an evidence that cannot be lightly treated or to which a deaf ear can be turned by a consecrated pastor and church officials.

In order that it may be understood just what the "Summer Bible School" is by those who may not be acquainted with it, the curriculum appears at end of article.

It will be noticed that there is no place in this course of study for handwork in the ordinary sense of that word. A few maps are drawn and written tests are used.

The quotation marks in the curriculum indicate that the title thus set off is a book or booklet used in teaching, as are the books in public school. It is quite impossible to successfully conduct a Summer Bible School or any other type school unless the pupils have the necessary books, and they should by all means be provided by the church or churches putting on the Summer Bible School. A good motto for each School should be: "A book in the hand of each child who can read for every subject he is required to study." This can be said quite freely as there is no personal profit on books; the profit all goes toward promoting the "Summer Bible School" work. It is unwise to cheapen the Bible School by trying to run it on a cheap scale--our children are too important. Without question the falling away in the Church (and there is a constant falling away) is largely due to lack of training or faulty training in childhood along Christian lines.

If possible, the teachers employed should be public school teachers of experience, and of course Christians. The care of the young being the most important function of any church, the teachers employed should be paid for their services. Economy that fails to provide for the proper training of the youth is a false economy. If public school teachers in exercising their functions in the state are paid, they should surely be paid for standing three hours a day and teaching in the Bible School.

The length of the term to be efficient should be five weeks--five days a week and three hours a day.

All Scriptures should be carefully memorized, and the same perfection required in all other studies as is required in the public school work. Older pupils should take tests and receive grades according to what they have done.

As an encouragement to study, emblems are useful, such as: stars, crosses, crowns, crescents, etc., as well as the giving of grades.

Perfect discipline should prevail in any school if it is to be a success. Children respect and appreciate a thing that is well done, and will be found almost unanimously willing to help.

The "Summer Bible School" is not a local organization. Such schools are now found in nearly all of our states, many of them have been continuous from summer to summer for ten to fifteen years. They are found also in a number, if not all, of the Provinces of Canada. The "Summer Bible School" is a missionary institution, both home and foreign. By action of the Korean General Assembly the "Summer Bible School" is officially put on in that country, with the result that during the past five years (the school term being five weeks each summer) more than 50,000 young Koreans have made public acceptance of Christ. Many of these that have been gathered in have never been in Sabbath School or Church before.

The Summer Bible School is non-sectarian. Its ardent advocates are found among practically all denominations.

It might also be noted that the "Summer Bible School" is not for lecturing, but for searching the Scriptures and mastering them and getting them into the mind. The Word hidden in the heart is used largely of the Holy Spirit.

Those wishing information and literature may obtain it by writing Dr. A.L. Lathem, Summer Bible School Assn., Broad and Potter Streets, Chester, Pa., and enclosing 10c to cover the postage. The books used in the course may be purchased from the same address.

[Note: Copies of three curriculum items mentioned in the text below are preserved at the PCA Historical Center in St. Louis:
1. Old Testament History: Adam to Saul, in Question and Answer (1924)
2. The Twelve Apostles and James, the Lord's Brother (1926)
3. The Shorter Catechism of the Westminster Assembly. Standard Edition. Printed by the Summer Bible School Association. Undated.
If you have other examples of the Summer Bible School curriculum that you would like to see carefully preserved, please contact the staff at the PCA Historical Center. We'd like to hear from you.]

(Pupils three and four years of age)
(1) The Books of the New Testament.
(2) The Twenty-Third Psalm.
(3) Fifteen questions from "Catechism for Young Children."
(4) The Lord's Prayer.
(5) Bible Stories.
FIRST GRADE (age five years)
(1) The Lord's Prayer.
(2) First Psalm.
(3) Twenty-two questions from "Catechism for Young Children.
(4) Twenty-Third Psalm.
(5) Books of the Old Testament.
(6) Special Bible Verses.
(7) Bible Stories.
SECOND GRADE (age six years)
(1) "The Bible, The Christian's Sacred Book"--first half.
(2) "The Life of Jesus"--twenty-one questions.
(3) The Beatitudes--Matt. 5:3-12.
(4) "Catechism for Young Children"--fifty questions.
(5) Psalms 8, 15, 24. Review of Psalms 1, 23.
(6) Selections from "The Way of Life."
(7) Readings from "Beautiful Bible Stories."
THIRD GRADE (age seven years)
(1) "The Bible, the Christian's Sacred Book"--completed.
(2) "The Life of Jesus"--fifty-four questions.
(3) Matt. 5:1-24.
(4) "Catechism for Young Children"--one hundred questions.
(5) Selections from "The Way of Life."
(6) Psalms 19, 27. Review Psalms 8, 15, 24.
(7) Readings from "Beautiful Bible Stories."
FOURTH GRADE (age eight years)
(1) "Catechism for Young Children"--completed.
(2) Psalms 32, 34. Review of Psalms 19, 27.
(3) "The Life of Jesus"--reviewed and completed.
(4) "Shorter Catechism"--questions 1-15.
(5) Matt. 5:1-48.
(6) Readings from "A Handful of Corn."
FIFTH GRADE (age nine years)

(1) "Adam to Saul"--forty-three questions.
(2) Psalms 37:1-11, 46, 51. Review of Psalms 32, 34.
(3) "The Twelve Apostles of Our Lord"--pages 1-15.
(4) Matt. 6:1-23. Review Matt. 5.
(5) Selections from "The Way of Life."
(6) Readings from "A Handful of Corn."
(7) "Shorter Catechism"--questions 16-30; review questions 1-15.

SIXTH GRADE (age ten years)
(1) "Adam to Saul"--reviewed and completed.
(2) Psalms 65, 67, 72. Review Psalms 46, 51.
(3) "The Twelve Apostles of Our Lord"--reviewed and completed.
(4) Matt. 6:23 to Matt. 7:1-14. Review Matt. 5, 6:1-23.
(5) "Shorter Catechism"--questions 31-50; review questions 1-30.
(6) Selections from "The Way of Life."
SEVENTH GRADE (age eleven years
(1) "Saul to Christ."
(2) Psalms 84, 87, 90. Review of Psalms 65, 67, 72.
(3) "The Apostle Paul"--questions 1-48.
(4) Matt. 7:14-29. Luke 2:8-20.
(5) "Shorter Catechism"--questions 51-75; review questions 1-50.
(6) Selections from "The Way of Life."
EIGHTH GRADE (age twelve years)
(1) Psalms 91, 121, 122; 1 Cor. 13.
(2) Review Psalms 84, 87, 90. Matt. 7:14-29 reviewed. Luke 2:8-20.
(3) Nine Lessons from "The Way of Life."
(4) Twenty-eight pages from "The Geography of Palestine" (A.L. Phillips)
(5) "Shorter Catechism"--questions 71-90; review of questions 1-70.
(6) "The Apostle Paul"--completed.
(7) Kings and Prophets of Israel and Judah. (From "Bible.")
NINTH GRADE (age thirteen years)
(1) John 1:1-18; 3:1-21. Review Psalms 91, 121, 122 and I Cor. 13.
(2) "The Way of Life," eighteen lessons. Isaiah 35.
(3) "Shorter Catechism"--completed.
(4) "Geography of Palestine" (A.L. Phillips)--completed.
(5) "Bible History" (Blaikie)--begun pp. 1-84.
TENTH GRADE (age fourteen years)
*(1) "Bible Atlas," pp. 1-6; p. 11, pp. 13-19; pp. 26-46.
(2) Romans 8. Isaiah 40. Review John 1:1-18; 3:1-21; Isaiah 35.
(3) "The Way of Life"--Twenty-eight lessons.
(4) John 14.
(5) "Bible History" (Blaikie)--continued pp. 84-192--reviewed pp. 1-84.
ELEVENTH GRADE (age fifteen years)
*(1) "Bible Atlas," pp. 47-83. Review 14th year.
(2) Isaiah 53. John 15. Review Isaiah 40 and Romans 8.
(3) "The Way of Life"--completed.
(4) "Bible History" (Blaikie) pp. 192-351. (Omitting Kingdom of Israel.) Review 84-192.
TWELFTH GRADE (sixteen years and older)
(1) "A Study" of the Gospel of John. Memory chapters 16, 20, 21. Review John 15. Special Chapter the Third--see Curriculum Ninth Grade.
(2) "The Way of Life"--reviewed.
*(3) "Bible Atlas," pp. 94-129; pp. 134-142. Review pp. 47-83.
(4) 1 Cor. 15. Review Isaiah 53.
(5) "Bible History" (Blaikie) pp. 351-500). (Omitting interval between Old and New Testament.) Review pp. 192-351. (Omitting Kingdom of Israel.)
(First Year)
(1) "The Book of The Acts" (A Study) chapters 1-14. Memory Chapter Acts 2.
(2) "Oliver's Teacher Training Course." Lessons 1-25.
*(3) 'Bible Atlas" pp. 7-11; pp. 21-25. Review principal features to p. 84.
(4) "Bible History" (Blaikie). (The Kingdom of Israel or the Ten Tribes) pp. 267-299. Review of principal facts in Blaikie to p. 299.
(5) General Review of the first half of "The Way of Life."
(Second Year)
(1) "The Book of The Acts" (A Study) Chapter 15-28. Memory Verses Chapter Acts 20:17-35; also II Timothy, Third Chapter (throughout) and Fourth Chapter, verses 1-8.
(2) "Oliver's Teacher Training Course" lessons 26-50.
*(3) "Bible Atlas" pp. 84-93; pp. 143-154. General Review pp. 84-154.
(4) "Bible History" (Blaikie). (Interval between Old Testament and New Testament) pp. 382-408. General Review of Blaikie pp. 300-500.
(5) General Review of the second half of "The Way of Life."
*Changed to conform with new edition of the Atlas.