Where did sunday school come from?

Sunday schools were first created in the 18th century in England to provide education for working children. William King started Sunday school in 1751 in Dursley, Gloucestershire. Robert Raikes, editor of the Gloucester Journal, created a similar one in Gloucester in 1781.Sunday schools were originally schools where poor children could learn to read. The Sunday School movement began in Great Britain in the 1780s.

The Industrial Revolution caused many children to spend the whole week working in factories. Christian philanthropists wanted to free these children from a life of illiteracy. One of my favorite observations about Sunday School is that there is an answer to every question in Sunday School that can never be wrong. While the Sunday school movement was inspired by the positive spirit of social reform characteristic of the Industrial Revolution, the movement also had its detractors.

The strength of the Sunday School movement inspired some of the brightest minds of the time, including the economist Adam Smith (1723-1790), the philosopher Thomas Malthus (1766-183) and the Methodist theologian John Wesley (1703-179), to highlight their virtues in promoting popular education in general. The first national Sunday school convention was held in Philadelphia in 1832, with 15 states represented among its 220 delegates (Brown, 1901, p.). Among the many male Sunday school teachers who enlisted in the service of their country was a Baptist from Ohio, Thomas Shaw, who fought for the Union Army. The change in their behavior and attitude was remarkable, so remarkable that in 1785 a Sunday school society was formed to distribute Bibles and spelling books.

Teaching slaves became a unique consequence of the Sunday school movement in the United States, as Elliott's efforts inspired other inhabitants of the antebellum South, such as Methodist Bishop Francis Asbury (1745—181), to establish schools for black slaves. However, many parents still believed that regular Sunday school attendance was an essential component of childhood. Boylan points out that increasingly, Sunday school involved discussing Christian doctrine and its application to student lives. Denominations and nondenominational organizations caught the vision and began vigorously creating Sunday schools.

To create a common and uniform curriculum for American Sunday schools, the National Sunday School Convention adopted the International Uniform Lesson in 1872.Even parents who didn't attend church regularly used to insist that their children go to Sunday school. Working with a local pastor, Raikes established a Sunday school for the poor and orphans in July 1780. Sunday school was only part of reformers' efforts to improve the lives and morale of children during this period, along with public schools, orphanages, and reform schools. Since most English parish churches had no facilities, the first Sunday school classes were held in the homes of paid teachers or in rented rooms.

Sunday school students often graduate to become Sunday school teachers, thus acquiring leadership experience not found anywhere else in their lives.

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.