The History of Sunday School: From the 18th Century to Today

Sunday schools have a long and storied history, beginning in the 18th century in England. William King started the first Sunday school in 1751 in Dursley, Gloucestershire, and Robert Raikes, editor of the Gloucester Journal, followed suit in 1781. The purpose of these schools was to provide education for working children who were unable to attend regular school due to their labor. The Industrial Revolution had a major impact on the Sunday school movement. With many children spending their entire week working in factories, Christian philanthropists sought to free them from a life of illiteracy.

This inspired some of the most influential minds of the time, such as Adam Smith, Thomas Malthus and John Wesley, to promote popular education. The first national Sunday school convention was held in Philadelphia in 1832. The Sunday school movement also had its detractors, but it continued to grow in popularity. It was even used as a way to teach slaves in the antebellum South, with Francis Asbury leading the charge. By 1872, a uniform curriculum had been adopted by the National Sunday School Convention.

Today, Sunday school is still an important part of many people's lives. It provides an opportunity for students to learn about Christian doctrine and its application to their lives, as well as gain leadership experience by becoming teachers themselves. Even parents who don't attend church regularly often insist that their children go to Sunday school.

Terence Wedgeworth
Terence Wedgeworth

I love the Bible and love sharing God's truth with others! I dream of being a full-time evangelist, but for now it's Bible college and blogging for me. I also teach 4th grade Sunday School at my church. Click here to see my kids Bible lessons.