The Origins of Sunday School
With the start of a new school year, a new term of courses will also begin for the childrenˇ¦s and adult Sunday Schools at the church. Through Sunday School, we hope to systematically teach the Biblical Truth, so that children, truth-seekers and new believers can learn more of the Bible, gain faith in the Lord and have proof of salvation. Then they will gradually know more about God and learn to fear and love Him, and the church as a whole will grow and mature in spiritual life.
The origins of Sunday School date from the late 18th century. At that time, cities and industry in Britain were both experiencing rapid growth. Large numbers of uneducated farming families swarmed into the cities from the countryside to settle down and find work. Even children of many poor families had to work in factories. These child labourers toiled 6 days a week without the opportunity of an education. On their day of rest (Sunday), they wandered around the city streets making a racket and running afoul of the law, creating many problems for the society.
Robert Raikes was the founder of the Gloucester Journal newspaper in England. When he saw that these child labourers lacked purpose and direction in their lives, and would easily degenerate from street ruffians into convicts, he determined to start a Sunday School for them. Through the teaching of Biblical Truth and basic education, he hoped to let them recover the meaning of life and the opportunity for personal development. In the mid 1780ˇ¦s, he established a Sunday School in his community, hiring 4 lady tutors to help him teach the street children reading and writing. Later, with the help and promotion of Reverend Thomas Stock, he was able to increase the number of Sunday School students to around 100. At first, the street children were reluctant to come to the school because of their ragged clothing, but Raikes patiently encouraged them, indicating that so long as they washed their faces and combed their hair, they could attend classes. Every Sunday morning, the tutors first taught them reading and writing. Then after lunch, there was a worship service, following which they were instructed in the Biblical Truth. Raikes employed a reward system to inspire the street children to learn, gradually altering many ruthless, unrestrained young lives. Because he continuously promoted Sunday School education, the youth crime rate kept dropping in his community. The benefits of Sunday schooling received the widespread accolades of society, and churches in many cities began to operate Sunday Schools as well.
Robert Raikes was not the first person to establish a Sunday School. Some charity schools had been operating on Sundays before his time. But because he greatly publicized the benefits of Sunday Schools in the newspaper, that caught the attention of the public. In 1785, a Sunday School Society was formed in London. Churches not only operated Sunday Schools in the community, they also distributed bibles and other books. Utilizing the printing plant that he owned, Raikes continued to import, promote and publish many more educational books and Scriptures, so that Sunday schooling became an official movement for many churches in England. John Wesley considered the development of Sunday Schools in England to be one of the noblest specimens of charity to society by the Church.
In his time, Robert Raikes was motivated to start Sunday Schools by the words of Christ to Peter, ˇ§feed my lambsˇ¨. Today, because of our love for the Lord, we use all wisdom through the Biblical Truth to admonish and teach everyone, so that we can present everyone before God perfect in Christ (Colossians 1:28) Our new term of Sunday School starts today. This writer encourages everyone, young and old, to actively participate in it. If members are not required to attend to new friends after worship, please try your very best to enroll in Sunday School, diligently complete your chosen course, and do not quit half way. I wish that all brothers and sisters will either be Sunday School students or Sunday School tutors from now on, and continue to build up one another in the Truth.
ˇ§Let us acknowledge the Lord, let us press on to acknowledge Him. As surely as the sun rises, He will appear; He will come to us like the winter rains, like the spring rains that water the earth." (Hosea 6:3)
By: Daniel To