Tuesday, May 8, 2012


I, personally, have never been a big fan of Sunday School.  In two of the churches we pioneered we did not have Sunday School.  We opted not to have Sunday School as I didn't find a precedence for it in the New Testament.  I have never liked anything that divides the Body of Christ - whether it be Sunday School divided into different age groups, men's meetings or women's meetings, senior's meetings, etc.  I'm often invited to a local men's group, but have graciously turned down the opportunity.  For me, it's a personal conviction.  For others it may not be. 

Now back to Sunday School.  Sunday School first began in the 1700's.  Robert Raikes, a newspaper publisher in Britain established the first Sunday School not for the purpose of religious education, but rather to teach poor children the basics of education in general.

Sunday Schools peaked when they began in the U.S. in the late 1700's.  Even in the U.S. the original purpose of Sunday School was to provide education to poor children in order too keep them off the streets.  In the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries many Sunday Schools operated separately from churches.

In the early 1800's Sunday Schools began to transition from an effort to help poor children to an evangelical outreach.  D. L. Moody popularized the Sunday School as an evangelical outreach in America.  The Sunday School became prime recruiting ground for the contemporary church - and it still is.

Today, Sunday School is a permanent program in most institutional churches and  is used to recruit new converts and to train children, as well as adults, in the teachings of the faith. Public education has taken over the role for which Sunday School was originally started.

One scholar noted, "There is no evidence to suggest that teachers divided groups on the basis of age and sex.  The responsibility of the child's early education and, in particular, religious education lay with the parents.  No special arrangements seem to have been made for children by the early church.  The Christian school was a long way off - the Sunday School even more so" (Norrington, To Preach or Not, 59).  Too often today, we want to cart our children off to someone else for their teaching about God and His church instead of taking the responsibility that we ought for our children.  It all should start at home.

What about the Youth Pastor?  The dedicated youth pastor came on the scene long after the Sunday School.  The youth pastor began working in large urban churches around the formation of Youth For Christ in the 1940's.  By the early 1950's literally thousands of professional youth pastors were on the scene working with young people in an attempt to meet their spiritual needs.

Today, Youth Pastors are considered part of the "professional clergy".  This contributes to the false and misguided notion that there is a division between teenager and everyone else.

According to Frank Viola and George Barna in their book "Pagan Christianity", "Put another way, the youth pastor did not exist until a separate demographic group called teenagers emerged.  In so doing, we created a problem that never existed - what to do for (and with) the young people.  It is not at all unlike the problem we created when a new class of Christian - the laymen - was invented.  The question 'How do we equip the laity?' Was never asked before the institutional church made them a separate class of Christian."

The New Testament is silent on how we should train and instruct our children and young people.  It does, however, suggest that the responsibility for the moral and spiritual teaching of our children rests on the shoulders of the parents (Ephesians 6:4; 2 Timothy 1:5, 3:15).

We can become creative in how we teach and train our children.  Some learn in different ways.  The bottom line, though, is that they are taught and trained by their parents.  Certainly they will pick up and learn things as they gather with the church, as well.

I cannot say Sunday School, in and of itself, is wrong.  I can say without hesitation there is no precedence for it in Scripture.  My personal preference is for everyone of all ages to be together and learn, fellowship and function mutually as a community of believers.  If it was good enough for the early church, it's good enough for us.

Until next time, enjoy the journey!


This blog post is another in a series looking at the practices of churches today and how they line up with the New Testament.  Perhaps this series could be better called, "Kicking Over Sacred Cows". For further reading and research, I recommend the book "Pagan Christianity?" by Frank Viola and George Barna.

I want to thank those of you who are sharing this blog with others.  I so appreciate it.  It's my desire to encourage and challenge believers everywhere to be the church Jesus has called us to be.  Leave the baggage of organize religion and serve Jesus in freedom following the leading of the Spirit as we gather in His name.  Please feel free to continue to post a link to this blog on Facebook, Twitter, Google+ or even email it by using the icons below.  Let's see what God will do!

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