Sunday School Celebrates 225 Years

October 3, 2005 by

Reviewing one of the calendars from an organization I work for, I noticed that yesterday was the 225th celebration of Sunday School (first Sunday of every October). A quick Google search found little marking the occasion, although I did find a link from the Pennsylvania State Sunday School Association. Apparently, this organization is urging churches to celebrate. Who their urges are going to I am not sure.

I did jump over to the History Channel’s site to search through their encyclopedias. An article from Funk & Wagnalls New Encyclopedia says that British religious leader Robert Raikes established the first Sunday school in 1780, “as a means of furnishing both secular and religious education to children whose employment in the factories prevented them from attending the secular schools.”

Is the lack of celebration an indication of our seemingly increasing distance from this foundational element of the modern Church? Is this not still an effective outreach method for churches who want to make disciples?

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Brad Abare

Brad Abare is the founder of the Center for Church Communication. He consults with companies and organizations, helping them figure out why in the world they exist, why anyone should care and what to do about it.
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6 Responses to “Sunday School Celebrates 225 Years”

  • Phillip Ross
    October 3, 2005

    If Sunday Schools are essential adjuncts to church life, why is the Bible silent on this subject especially since the Bible is complete in every detail. Sunday Schools were not even originated to teach Bible stories or Christian morality, but were started in nineteenth century England to give poor children of laborers a chance to read and write. Who had primary responsibility for training children before the appearance of Sunday Schools? The family.

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  • Brad Abare
    October 3, 2005

    Phil – To say Sunday Schools are “essential adjuncts” is not reading what I wrote. I was simply implying that Sunday School is a great way to reach communities, and it is sad to see its seemingly apparent demise. Don’t confuse the method with the message.

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  • kevin
    October 3, 2005

    I’m not sure Sunday School is an effective way to reach people anymore. At least not the Sunday School classes I’ve attended.
    In the church I grew up in Sunday School was often the abandoned step child compared to the more popular Wednesday evening Awana program. Sunday School was definitely the hardcore education focus of our church, and while also Awana served that function, it was the primarily evangelism focus of our church (along with VBS, at least for children).
    At the church I attend now Sunday School seems to be filled with the usual kids who come to everything, as well as the kids whose parents force them to go so they’ll have some sort of religious education. Neither group ever seems especially excited about Sunday School.
    What I think is interesting are the historical roots of Sunday School and how it’s changed over the years. Sunday School used to have major a social justice and outreach angle to it, which seems to be largely forgotten today. Why? Public schools fill that void for straight-up education and religious education isn’t seen as worth getting up early for on a Sunday morning.

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  • [rhymes with kerouac]
    October 3, 2005

    Why on earth would I want to go to Sunday School? To start with, it sounds like a lot of brainwork on a Sunday morning. I’d much rather have a coffee with someone before church, thanks. And with all the kazillions of ways to ‘educate’ myself – all the books, magazines, tapes, cd’s, dvd’s, tv shows, web-sites, plus the Sunday morning sermon, plus the small group I’m involved in – I mean, what’s the point, really?
    And I teach a Sunday school class – to a group of ten year olds. They’re ‘church’ kids, and know all the answers. At least, they know the answers they’re supposed to give. My guess is they’re not sure why they’re doing it, either. So again, I have to ask, what’s the point?
    And Sunday School as an outreach? That notion just seems odd.

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  • BabuLife
    October 4, 2005

    Sunday School Celebrates 225 Years

    According to Church Marketing Sucks, Sunday School celebrates it’s 225th birthday this week. At Grace, we’ve elected to not hold a Sunday School hour and instead have classes available during the week. There are various reasons Grace elected to go

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  • JEFF Beltz
    January 24, 2006

    You answer is contained in your own writing. The Sunday school was a secular/Christian education tool for kids who could not go to school. (A great outreach! Find a need fill a need , a la Disney’s Robots) But we have good education and child labor laws. Which leads us to Christian education and discipleship which is not limited to the Sunday AM time frame per se. I like the small group concept for adults and Sunday AM or any other time for kids (Including afternoons and/or evenings).
    Pastor Jeff

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