Did you attend Sunday school today? I sure did! If we could take a trip down the memory lane, how was your childhood Sunday school or Bible Club experience, if you had one? Fun? Or boring?
About a month ago, I read a heart-warming story about the history of Sunday School in England from my Bible In One Year 2021 with Nicky Gumbel reading plan on YouVersion. It was the 18th century and there was a high rate of moral depravity and godlessness in the United Kingdom, much as we have around the world today. Church attendance had greatly reduced and people would not be bothered. In that thick darkness, God stirred His servants like John Wesley and George Whitefield to preach, and thousands of people started to get saved. In 1780, Robert Raikes started the first Sunday School and as a result of the singular idea of Sunday School, 300,000 children who had never been in church were reached within 5 years! And it didn’t stop because by 1910, 5 million children were in Sunday school!
I am in awe at how much impact that Sunday Schools and Sunday school teachers in particular have made in innumerable lives – children and adults alike.
A big shoutout to all wonderful children teachers, children workers and children evangelists who give their all to teach children about God and the Bible.
Don’t you just imagine that if only a few professions would receive greater rewards in heaven, one of those would be teachers?
For those who have never heard about Sunday schools, they are classes that are a part of church services, often held before the Sunday worship services but on some occasions, at a later time in the day. These classes are usually organized like a regular educational class, complete with a topic, a main text, an outline of lessons and a memory verse which is a Bible verse that is central to the lesson that you may be expected to memorize. Sunday School classes are designed to teach people about the christian faith – to impart the knowledge of the Bible and to teach christians about the values, doctrines, and tenets of the faith.
HOW IT STARTED
I recall that as a child, our children teachers had to put up with a lot of inconvenience in order to show up every Sunday and minister hope and light into our souls.
At that time in our church, over two decades ago, they coped with the rowdiness of a classroom full of children of varying age groups and attitudes. The ventilation system was not great and if you are familiar with how hot a tropical country like Nigeria can get when tens of excited kids sit in an enclosed room, you would appreciate just how much they gave. Some of the classes had no public address system at the time, so the children teachers had to speak at the top of their voices above wailing babies or mischievous children.
But these amazing persons never complained nor were they deterred. They taught us with their hearts. They showed up happily and punctually, brought their Sunday School manuals, Bibles, teaching aids and formulated demonstration songs. They spoke loudly and clearly in as many languages as it took to get the message across, managed to carry as many children along, assisted very young children on their multiple toilet trips, asked and answered questions and gave out incentives. They conducted quizzes and competitions to see how much we had learned over a period of time. They held weekly preparatory classes for themselves and attended interdenominational children teachers/workers/evangelists conference because they wanted to keep giving more.
And oh my, did it pay off! God prospered their efforts. The children-now-turned-adults who passed through the Children Sunday School of my childhood church are literally arrows in the Lord’s quiver to this day. It probably wasn’t the largest church in the small town where I grow up but they sure did Christian service with a heart full of love and selflessness.
I guess it’s like Mother Theresa’s quote,
“Not all of us can do great things. But we can do small things with great love.”Mother Theresa
My teachers did great things with great love!
The not-so-fun part of Sunday school classes is probably during the question and answers section when the teacher would ask random questions on what had been taught. God bless your soul, be clueless. Lol.
The fun times came when a birthday celebrant gave us a pack of biscuits and each of us got a single stick or two by the time it was distributed, lol. Children are so easy to impress. I also really enjoyed when we sang our demonstrative songs out loud with joy, sometimes messing up the lines. Guess what? Some of those songs are still fresh and green, I sometimes look them up on Spotify and play for my child! Maybe one of these days, I would show him our choreography, if I can remember the steps at all, lol!
My parents were also super amazing (still are!), doing their responsibility to check that my siblings and I have actually learned what was taught in church.
Back then as children, my siblings and I knew that the family devotion either on Sunday evening or Monday morning would automatically be a review of the Sunday school or sermon. Lol
Once everyone is settled and seated, my dad would ask each of us questions, from the oldest to the youngest (or in the reverse order). The level of difficulty of the question you receive would be proportional to your maturity.
“What was the Sunday school topic?”
And as we got older, “What were the lesson outlines?”
And so on.
Although you would not be punished if you missed your question, none of us wanted to fail ours because that would only indicate that you probably weren’t paying attention or you skipped class.
My childhood Sunday school class has since been reorganized to allow only a manageable number of kids to be taught in each class, but with what I believe is a matching amount of fervour and impact. I know this because shortly after I became a teenager, I felt burdened to go back to the children department and help my former teachers. So, during school breaks, I would walk past adult church which had ceiling fans, glittering clothing and modern musical instruments into the children classes with characteristic loud drumming, tambourines and disorderly but joyful noise. It was quite fulfilling. I was more a child than an adult myself at the time but I would not be stopped. One cardinal Bible verse for me in that season of life was;
“Let no one despise your youth.”I Timothy 4:12
So I knew I was making a difference. A few times, I gave into the temptation to go straight to adult service and I enjoyed it very much, lol. But for the most part, it was such a pleasure to give back in this small way. A few other teenagers and young adults were also children workers. The old teachers embraced us and didn’t hesitate to engage us with responsibilities. I told you, they all have hearts of gold!
Then again, with my parents’ suggestion, I made the effort to attend adult Sunday school classes held during the week because I had to be with the children on Sundays and they didn’t want me missing out on the treasure in the adult classes. Such wisdom and love we all receive from parents and guardians, yea?
I served with the children department while I could, until I had to relocate to a city too far away to be a part; but the fond memories and impact they made on me stays fresh.
HOW IT IS GOING
Another thing that occurred to me from reading about the origin of Sunday School in UK is how far Sunday school has been sustained over the years, all the while making blazing impact.
I am particularly thankful for adult Sunday school, for all the doctrines and Christian principles taught here. In my present family church, I always look forward to the Sunday school classes because I am quite certain that I would learn something new. The teachers are seasoned and God’s word gets sweeter with every dip we take.
During the lockdown as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, it seemed like this all-essential arm of Christian worship would suffer. But no, Sunday school has continued to thrive and make impact. For instance, my church has now adopted both on-site Sunday school classes and online classes complete with breakout rooms, outlines accessible from the Cloud and even Kahoot quizzes! How thrilling! For those who do not know, Kahoot is a game-based learning platform and I am yet to meet even one person who does not enjoy play-learning!
It is no doubt that the church is marching on and the gates of hell will not prevail against it!
God bless all our children and adult Sunday school teachers today and always.
Hopefully, these stories of mine have warmed your heart to the idea of always attending Sunday school in your church assembly, going forward. 😊