Frequently Asked Questions about the Bahá’í Children’s Classes
by Loie Mead
Bahá’í spiritual education for children is intended to nurture spiritually vibrant and healthy young people who will grow up without prejudice and with a positive, powerful sense that they are important to God and have a role to play in serving humanity. In communities around the world, Bahá’ís are developing neighborhood children’s classes to help foster this spiritual development of children.
What distinguishes Bahá’í-sponsored neighborhood children’s classes from current educational practices?
Bahá’í teachers believe in the nobility of every student, that each one is “a mine rich in gems of inestimable value”. They study the nature of spiritual qualities and develop knowledge of human talents and capacities so they can help their students discover these gems in themselves and actively polish them. Bahá’í teachers understand the importance of helping students develop habits and behavioral patterns in keeping with a spiritual life.
Who are the Bahá’í teachers of neighborhood children’s classes?
These teachers are people who believe that Bahá’u’lláh has been sent by God with a divine plan to unite all people and to build a new world. They long to help in this urgent educational effort for children. Bahá’í teachers have participated in the training classes especially focused upon education of young children. These teachers live in neighborhoods throughout the greater Portland metro area, and they also travel to assist with classes in different neighborhoods.
If my child participates in a neighborhood children’s class, will I be expected to participate?
You will be invited to attend the class with your child so that you can relate to the kinds of information and activities your child will share with you. The youngest children (5- and 6-year-olds), especially enjoy the classes when their parents are with them. We realize that at times your child may need to attend without you. The classes are offered as a service by the Bahá’í community and are free.
Will my child be exposed to indoctrination?
No. Bahá’í children’s classes differ from classes of indoctrination that are common in many other religions. Students of neighborhood children’s classes are instructed in the principles, teachings and basic beliefs of the Bahá’í Faith; however, instruction emphasizes learning to think, to reflect and to apply spiritual laws to the life of the individual student and to society. Bahá’í children’s class teachers see all religions as one and believe that God has planned for the unity of all His people.
Should I let my child grow up without any religious instruction? Maybe my child’s generation will be able to create a better world without any spiritual education.
Some people think their children should be left to themselves to make a free choice about religion through their interactions with society. To a very great degree, laxity in providing religious instruction has led to the present state of moral disintegration. Humanity, when left to its own devices without divine guidance, has produced chaos, injustice and suffering in the world.
“Children are even as a branch that is fresh and green; they will grow up in whatever way ye train them. Take the utmost care to give them high ideals and goals, so that once they come of age, they will cast their beams like brilliant candles on the world….”
What is the main focus in the neighborhood children’s classes?
The purpose of these classes is to develop in the child the attitudes and spiritual qualities that will bring him closer to God. Later, when the foundation of the child’s character has been established, there is time to develop the skills of acquiring knowledge.
What is a typical lesson like in a neighborhood children’s class?
Because this program of neighborhood children’s classes is used throughout the world, there is a simple and beautiful plan for teachers to follow. Teachers use what is called the Creative Word to awaken the spiritual susceptibilities in the children. Teachers help the children to memorize verses such as “Truthfulness is the foundation of all human virtues.” During the class, children also learn songs, play games, and listen to stories which directly reinforce the ideas presented in the memorization verses. There are also pictures to color that reinforce the theme of the lessons. The simplicity of the materials used makes it possible to offer these lessons to children in all parts of the world.
How do I sign up my child for children’s classes?
We welcome you to join us. There are regular children’s classes throughout the Portland area, including in Beaverton and Lake Oswego. Neighborhood children’s classes are held at various times. Please contact us for details.
Creative Word — excerpt from “Perspective: Literacy and Development“, One Country Newsletter, April-June 2004:
In virtually all of the world’s great religions, there is an emphasis on the creative power of the “word” — especially the Word of God — as the key to human transformation, empowerment, and advancement.
“The Word of God is the king of words and its pervasive influence is incalculable,” wrote Bahá’u’lláh. “The Word is the master key for the whole world, inasmuch as through its potency the doors of the hearts of men, which in reality are the doors of heaven, are unlocked.”