Sunday School can trace its origins to the mid-1600s in England. Robert Rakes, a successful newspaper man, used the Bible as the curriculum for a school he started for children. His goal was to teach illiterate children how to read since children who worked in factories all week long were unable to attend school. Rakes knew that without an education, these children would grow up in poverty, and he was unwilling to stand by while that happened. Rather than watching them run the streets of English towns on Sundays, their only day off, he started a school for them. Hence the origin of the name “Sunday School.”
When residents of England traveled by boat to the new world, they brought Sunday School with them. Once here, it was “Americanized” and took on a different mission – to teach the Bible to children, but with an emphasis on evangelism. Through the printing of pamphlets by Sunday School societies, teaching resources became more readily available throughout the colonies. As the country expanded to the West, Sunday School went with it. The emphasis on reading comprehension that began in the English version of Sunday School faded and gave way to evangelism and discipleship.
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