What is Sunday School?



Some churches still have it.  Other churches feel it has gone the way of the dinosaur.  Some people have never heard of it.  Other people may not know what it really is. 

What is Sunday School?

In England, children were having to work in factories in the late 1700s.  Their work kept them from attending school. 

In an effort to remedy the lack of education, churches established Sunday School.  Sunday School began as a way to educate children in the reading, math and other academics they were missing while they worked, during the week.

The American Sunday Schools began with similar intentions, but gradually evolved into something much different.  Sunday School was initially held on Sunday afternoons and was taught by members of the church, but in the 1930s, American Sunday school began to move to Sunday morning before the regular worship service.

Although Sunday School began to teach children, churches began to include adult classes, as well.  As schools became more accessible, the lessons turned from secular academics to more strictly bible lessons.

Some churches even began to offer “sidewalk Sunday School”.  These churches used some sort of mobile stage, often a delivery truck that had been repurposed to allow one side to drop down and become a stage.  These sidewalk Sunday Schools then were able to travel into sections of the city where kids live and conduct Sunday School in those areas.

Today, the question of “what is Sunday School” begs a very different answer.  Sunday School eventually evolved into a method of teaching everyone about the Bible on a level they could easily understand.  This applied to both kids and adults.

Why Sunday School?

Some churches decided to do away with Sunday School because it was boring.  For my response to that, all I can say is, “You’re doing it wrong!”  When Sunday School lessons are planned to make sure students of the correct age are engaged in ways that relate to their age, Sunday School is one of the most fun things you can experience.  Too many Sunday School teachers simply walk in and read the lesson word-for-word.

Some churches decided to do away with Sunday School because they couldn’t get enough volunteers.  All i can say is, “You’re doing it wrong.”  Good volunteer training ensures that the volunteers are just as excited about the Sunday School program as the attendees.

Some churches decided to do away with Sunday School because they couldn’t get people to attend. All i can say is, “You’re doing it wrong.”  There are so many different ways that enthusiastic Sunday School workers can attract and maintain high levels of attendance.  All it takes is a little effort.  After attending churches that had outlawed Sunday School for several years, I found it hard to get up a little earlier and get there.  It turns out, it all boils down to expectations.  Once I returned to a church that expects Sunday School attendance, it didn’t take long before I returned to the habit of being at Sunday School and being on-time.  Some of the most fun things I remember were Sunday School competitions.  They involved the whole church.  They brought in new people.  And, they usually ended with some very fun fellowship activitiy.  One of the most fun I recall was called “Chicken or Beans”.  For the duration of the contest, we all wore buttons that simply said, “Chicken or Beans” everywhere we went.  The point was to get people to ask you what the button meant.  And, they did ask.  Teams were chosen.  Points were awarded.  The competition was fierce.  In the end, we had a church-wide dinner where the losers prepared and served a grand meal of chicken to the winners and the winners prepared and served a measly meal of beans to the losers.  (Granted, there were people like my mom who had pity on the losing team and made dishes like red beans and rice.)

The answer to the question of “why Sunday School” has to be, “Why not Sunday School??  It’s awesome!”


 What is Sunday School?

Michelle Rogers

Michelle holds a graduate degree in Curriculum and Technology as well as an undergraduate degree in Elementary Education. Having been in the Assembly of God affiliation of churches for her entire life, she easily incorporates the knowledge of how kids learn into the way churches should be showing the gospel to kids. Her work experience includes elementary school teacher, preschool teacher, day care director, children's pastor, Missionettes coordinator, Sunday School teacher, and online college instructor. On the side, she blogs, reads and creates new web applications with PHP, mySQL, JavaScript and more.
 What is Sunday School?
 What is Sunday School?

6 thoughts on “What is Sunday School?

  1. I think your point is a good one. If you are having struggles in your Sunday school program, you may need to approach it differently.

    One thing I wish my church would be willing to change is the strict age restrictions. I was very bored in Sunday school as a child, partly because my parents had undertaken our spiritual instruction at home. So many of the Sunday school concepts in my age-appropriate classes were review to me. I suspect my children feel similarly. I would have benefited so much by being allowed to be in a class with deeper instruction.

    I love the way we, as adults, can choose which Sunday school class to commit to. But children are expected to all be at the same level of understanding. Unfortunately, I don’t know a practical way to address this challenge.

  2. I never knew about the history of how Sunday School started. Thank you for the lesson! I think the best answer here is to teach the Bible on a level that all ages can understand. I can’t imagine not going to Sunday School when I was a child. Children miss so much when they are not part of a church family. It’s sad.

  3. That is very interesting! I often wondered how Sunday school even came about. Thankfully it’s different here now. If it wasn’t how would the little ones learn all about God and the bible stories?

  4. I never really knew how Sunday school started either. Very interesting that it went from a way to teach kids everyday items they would need to teaching the bible. I’m sure kids wouldn’t want to go now if it was still just teaching math, reading, etc..

    I have been to numerous Sunday school classes. Each one was taught different. Believe me I went to a few where the teachers (volunteers) basically just read word for word. The kids were bored and acted out at times.

  5. Thank you for providing the history. I never knew the history of sunday school before, and I find it interesting.

    Those competitions sound fun. I never really went to sunday school too much as a child, but I have a few good memories from attending, though they were so long ago that they are a bit vague in my mind now.

    Our church has an interesting way of doing it. Service is at 10:30. At 9:00, they have a breakfast where all are invited. Then at 9:30, people are split up into children, young adults, and older adults, and so there are three classes going on at once. I have not attended these yet, because it’s hard for me to sit in a church for three hours, but my wife says that she really enjoys it.

    • I did go to one church that had the breakfast first, like that. ALthough there were a lot of Sunday School classes after the breakfast.

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