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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Sunday school, Manzanar War Relocation Center, 1943. Photographed by Ansel Adams.

"Sunday school" is the generic name for many different types of religious education pursued on Sundays by various denominations.



Sunday school, Indians and whites. Indian Territory (Oklahoma), ca. 1900.

The first Sunday school may have been that opened in 1751 in St. Mary's Church, Nottingham.[1] Another early start was made by Hannah Ball, a native of High Wycombe in Buckinghamshire, England, who founded a school within the town in 1769.[2]

However the founding of Sunday schools is more commonly associated with the work of Robert Raikes, editor of the Gloucester Journal, who saw the need to prevent children in the slums descending into crime. 1784 was an important year, with many new schools opening, including the interdenominational Stockport Sunday School, which financed and constructed a school for 5000 scholars in 1805; in the late nineteenth century this was accepted as being the largest in the world.[3] The first Sunday school in London opened at Surrey Chapel under Rowland Hill. By 1831, Sunday schools in Great Britain were attended weekly by 1,250,000 children, approximately 25 percent of the population. They provided basic literacy education alongside religious instruction. Their work in the industrial cities was increasingly supplemented by ragged schools (charitable provision for the industrial poor), and eventually by publicly funded education under the late nineteenth century school boards. Sunday schools continued alongside such increasing educational provision, and new forms also developed such as the Socialist Sunday Schools movement which began in the United Kingdom in the late 19th century.

The American Sunday School system was first begun by Samuel Slater in his textile mills in Pawtucket, Rhode Island, in the 1790's.

Some Roman Catholic churches operate Sunday schools, though Catholics commonly refer to Sunday school as "Catechism class".


Sunday schools, contrary to the name, are virtually never recognized educational institutions; rather than offering formal grades or transcripts, Sunday schools simply attempt to offer meaningful instruction concerning Christian doctrine and keep little or no record of performance for any given week. Attendance is often tracked as a means of encouraging children to attend regularly, and awards are frequently given for reaching attendance milestones.

Sunday school often takes the form of a one hour or longer Bible study which can occur before, during, or after a church service. While many Sunday schools are focused on providing instruction for children (especially those occurring during service times), adult Sunday school classes are also popular and widespread (see RCIA.) In some traditions, Sunday school is too strongly associated with children and alternate terms such as "Adult Electives" are used instead of "Adult Sunday school". Some churches only run Sunday school for children concurrently with the adult worship service. In this case there is typically no adult Sunday school.



Today many different expressions of Sunday schools exist. They range from traditional methods of teaching, using small groups, Bible-based teaching, familiar songs etc. to the more contemporary. Sunday school is often part of a larger Christian Formation program in many churches.

Postal Sunday schools conduct religious education via correspondence for children in sparsely populated areas.

In 1986 a new kind of Sunday school started out of a ministry of Bill Wilson in the inner city of Brooklyn, New York, called Sidewalk Sunday School. With little delivery trucks that can be converted to stages, project areas and parks are being served Sunday school programs. Metro Ministries is now in many major cities in the U.S. and has branches in eight other countries.


Sunday school teachers are usually lay people who are selected for their job by a church board or committee, normally because of their advanced experience with the Bible — few teachers receive any formal training in education, though many Sunday school teachers have a background in education as a result of their occupations. Some churches, however, do make Sunday school teachers and catechists attend several courses on religion to ensure that they have a mature enough understanding of the faith to educate others. Some Baptist Churches (particularly Southern Baptist Churches) do allow volunteers to teach even without formal educational backgrounds. A profession of faith and a desire to teach is all that is required in such a case.

It is also not uncommon for Roman Catholic priests or Protestant pastors (church ministers) to teach such classes themselves.

See also


External links


Up to date as of January 14, 2010
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From Wikiquote

Sunday school is the generic name for many different types of religious education pursued on Sundays by various denominations.


  • What I recalled of Sunday School was that the more difficult something became, the more rewarding it was in the end.
  • I teach Sunday School, motherfucker.
  • I cannot imagine any boy of spirit who would not be delighted to play a drunkard — even to vomiting — in front of his Sunday school. Indeed, the vomiting might be the chief attraction of the role.
  • All I really need to know about how to live and what to do and how to be, I learned in kindergarten. Wisdom was not at the top of the graduate-school mountain, but there in the sand pile at Sunday School.
    • Robert Fulghum, All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten (1986).
  • I went to Sunday School and liked the stories about Christ and the Christmas star. They were beautiful. They made you warm and happy to think about. But I didn't believe them. The Sunday School teacher talked too much in the way our grade school teacher used to when she told us about George Washington. Pleasant, pretty stories, but not true.
    • Frances Farmer, "God Dies" (1931); essay with which she won first prize in a writing contest during high school.
  • Sunday School: A prison in which children do penance for the evil conscience of their parents.
  • I associated much of Christian doctrine with children's stories because I grew up in church. My Sunday school teachers had turned Bible narrative into children's fables. They talked about Noah and the ark because the story had animals in it. They failed to mention that this was when God massacred all of humanity.
    • Don Miller, Blue Like Jazz (2003, Nelson Books).

Dictionary of Burning Words of Brilliant Writers (1895)

Reported in Josiah Hotchkiss Gilbert, Dictionary of Burning Words of Brilliant Writers (1895).

  • We the Sunday-school workers, what are we but the church at work? The Sunday-school is the church in futuro. Our recruits come almost wholly from the training classes of the Sunday-school. The Bible, the open Bible, the studied Bible, the Bible in the heart is the only hope of our land to-day.
    • Henry M. Parsons, p. 569.
  • The hope of the nation and of Christendom, and of the lands called heathen, alike is to be found in the indoctrination of little children in the knowledge of God's truth; for the missionaries will tell you that the adult heathen population of to-day are to die heathen; the minister will tell you that the adult, virtually heathen population of Christian lands to-day are to die in that condition, unless God showers down altogether unprecedented grace — with only such occasional exceptions as confirm this general and terrible law. If this be so, the hope of Christianity is in childhood. Towards childhood must be directed the work of the sappers and miners of the church. Here is the weak point of the enemy's fortress. Here let the breach be made, and his topmost turret shall be laid low.
    • Cyrus David Foss, p. 570.
  • Let the Sunday-school for the children teach Christ first, Christ last, Christ in the middle, Christ all the time. And the school that shall be so single-eyed for the Master, shall have the full beam of His eyes which smile as the sun shining in its strength ever upon them.
    • Stephen H. Tyng, Jr., p. 570.
  • It is a grand thing to train the human mind in the academy and in the college and university to great intellectual achievements. It is a grand thing for you to leap, as it were, by the lightning of your thought, from crag to crag of discovery. It is well to make paths for tender feet through the morasses and over the mountains of study. These bring honor and power. But it is also well to remember that the diplomas of colleges and universities can never bring pardon for sin; that all the scholarships and all the titles in the world can never bring peace to the dying. Oh, brethren, it is this discipleship with the Man of Galilee who trod the wine-press alone, and carried His cross up Calvary's hill; this discipleship with the man Christ Jesus, that constitutes the moral and spiritual power in our work. That power it is yours to impart to the children under your care. Aye, this is grander than all human achievements.
    • J. Clement French, p. 571.
  • Bring the little ones to Christ. Lord Jesus, we bring them to-day, the children of our Sunday-schools, of our churches, of the streets. Here they are; they wait Thy benediction. The prayer of Jacob for his sons shall be my prayer while I live, and when I die: " The angel which redeemed me from all evil, bless the lads."
  • Begin in prayer; continue in prayer; end in prayer. All the help that we have in the conversion of the children comes from God. We cannot convert their souls, but God can by the influence of His Spirit. When we study our lessons, let us go first for illumination to God, that we may so impress it on the minds and hearts of those we are teaching, that they may bring forth fruit for salvation; that they may see our earnestness — see that our desire is for their conversion. Let us pray individually for each one of our scholars.
    • A. O. Van Lennep, p. 571.
  • Learn to teach the children to look at this world as a beautiful symbol of Jesus; every thing, Jesus; Christ, all; Christ, in all. So shall you educate the imaginations of the children to receive, and their memories to retain and to use, that Christian truth; and you yourself shall be lifted up, as on angel's wings, to see with John things which are unspeakable, but which the sanctified imagination realizes.
    • Stephen H. Tyng, Jr., p. 572.
  • Oh, be assured, fellow teachers, that there is no time in life so favorable to sound conversion as early childhood.
  • To live a godly life is the best way to light up a lesson that the teacher can possibly employ.
    • J. H. Vincent, p. 572.
  • Let us see to it that in our schools, as far as possible, every week, some lessons from Scripture, in the language of the Scripture are learned.
    • Wayland Hoyt, p. 572.
  • The teacher should use illustrations for the better teaching of the lesson, and never to fill up time, to amuse the class, or to display his own genius.
    • J. H. Vincent, p. 572.
  • It is quite likely that the modern contrivances for making Sunday-schools amusing have given them a distaste for the more solemn services of the sanctuary. If so, the amusement is a sin. The schools should feed the church. Children ought to be led by one into the other, exposed to the preaching of the gospel, taught the ways of God's house, and brought up under its influence, with all its hallowed and elevating influences.
  • The more you study the lessons as the word of God speaking to you by the Holy Ghost, and the more you come to believe in direct answers to prayer, the more efficacious will be your teaching by word and example upon the hearts and lives of others.
    • Henry M. Parsons, p. 573.
  • The primary principle of education is the determination of the pupil to self-activity — the doing nothing for him which he is able to do for himself.
    • Sir William Hamilton, p. 573.
  • Be assured, my dear Anne, that it is only by taking our lesson from God and doing the will of God, that we can either please Him in time, or be happy with Him in eternity.
    • Thomas Chalmers, p. 573.

External links

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Look up Sunday school in Wiktionary, the free dictionary

Simple English

Sunday School is a kind of class found in many churches, mosques or religious communities. Before or after the main part of worship, a class is held to learn more about that church's teachings, and about the Bible or holy scripture of the religion. Sometimes the class is only for children, sometimes adults go there as well and sometimes there are different classes for adults and for children.


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