This is the third post for 31 Days of Missionary Sunday School. Chick here to view the previous article.
Sunday School: Program or Movement
Is Sunday School a Program or a Movement? The answer is Yes.
Last October, before a conference at First Baptist Church in Dunkerton, Iowa, I begin to read the history of this church. The church was the result of a Sunday School Missionary, who came to town and started a Sunday School for the children. As the Sunday School and the town grew, the Church of Lester Center (later relocated to Dunkerton) was organized in 1866. According to the church’s website, “there was more of the Baptist faith at the meeting, so it was decided to become a Baptist Church.” Sunday School Missionaries such as these were a part of the Sunday School movement…yes, Sunday School was and still is a great movement that has been used by God in an incredible way.
“Sunday School was a revolutionary concept that common people should be able to read the Bible for themselves over against the argument that such skills should be reserved for the clergy.” The Sunday School movement took root in England around 1780. Robert Raikes accelerated the movement when he established classes to teach child laborers to read and write using the Bible as the primary textbook. The Sunday School movement is credited with ushering in libraries, schools, and churches across the US. Is Sunday School a movement? Absolutely.
Is Sunday School a program? Programs are simply strategies that the people use and develop to accomplish the purpose of God. So, Is Sunday School a program? Yes. Individual churches recognized the potential of Sunday School as a strategy to fulfill the Great Commission. Today, the vast majority of the churches in the Southern Baptist Convention still report Sunday School classes for all ages.
As the 20th Century dawned, the Sunday School movement changed and church Sunday Schools became the norm. The Sunday Schools moved from being a movement of independent societies associated with churches and became classes and groups associated with a particular church. Denominations publish Sunday School materials, provide conferences, and resources to grow Sunday School. As the Sunday School primarily became a program of local church, it lost some of the characteristics of the movement. Pastors began to simply see Sunday School as a “school” instead of a “strategy.” The movement is still alive and is being rekindled as Sunday School classes are being challenged to think and act like missionaries.
David Francis wrote in his book Missionary Sunday School, “If you’re reading this book, you’re probably a Sunday School teacher or leader. Thank You! You are a part of a movement that has been a mighty tool for transformation in churches, counties, countries, and continents. I believe it is a movement that not only has a remarkable history but also a bright future.”
Is Sunday School a program? Yes. Is Sunday School a movement? Yes.
Dr. Mark Miller, State Sunday School Director, Tennessee Baptist Convention