All posts written by Jared Kennedy

History of Family Ministry, Part 2: Sunday School & the Industrial Revolution

Robert Raikes invented Sunday Schools to minister to inner-city boys (July 1780). We should understand this as missionary ministry for a very specific people group—children in the inner-city slums. Raikes was a philanthropist and an Anglican layperson.  He initiated the Sunday school movement by founding a school for boys in the inner-city slums.  Raikes had been involved with prisoners incarcerated in the “Poor Law”—workhouse prisons set up for those in poverty, and he wanted to set up a Christian school to educate boys before they got in trouble.  The best available time was Sunday as poor boys were often working in factories the other six days. The best available teachers were ordinary people.  The textbook was the Bible, and the originally intended curriculum started with learning to read and then progressed to the catechism. Raikes bore most of the cost for the Sunday Schools in the early years. The movement began in July 1780 in the home of a Mrs. Meredith.  Only boys attended, and she heard the lessons of the older boys who coached the younger.  Later, girls also attended.  Within two years, several schools opened in and around Gloucester.  Later the schools were publicized through papers, and they received some criticism—including that this would weaken home-based religious education, and that Sunday School might be a desecration of the Christian Sabbath. By 1831, Sunday schools in Great Britain were teaching weekly 1.25 million children, approximately 25 percent of the population.

“The children were to come after ten in the morning, and stay till twelve; they were then to go home and return at one; and after reading a lesson, they were to be conducted to Church.   After Church, they were to be employed in repeating the catechism till after five, and then dismissed, with an injunction to go home without making a noise.” –quoted in Montrose J. Moses, Children’s Books and Reading (1907).

Consider the words of Pastor Charles Spurgeon as he talked about Sunday School nearly one hundred years later:

  • Charles H. Spurgeon, “Children Brought to Christ, and Not to the Font” (July 24, 1864)

    “So soon as they become of years capable of understanding the things of God, we endeavor to bring them to Christ by teaching them the truth.  Hence our Sabbath schools, hence the use of the Bible and family prayer, and catechizing at home.”

    “I do think that the gospel is suitable to little children. There are boys and girls in many of our Sabbath-school classes down below stairs, who are as truly converted to God as any of us.”

Thursday Book Club: Goals for Education

Daniel J. Estes, Hear, My Son: Teaching & Learning in Proverbs 1-9, (Inter-Varsity Press, 1997), 174 pages.

Estes’ third chapter unpacks goals for education.  He gives four goals.  The goals for education “focus for the most part on the cultivation of the learner as a mature godly person, rather than upon the transmission of a discrete body of knowledge” (85).  The first three speak to the kind of person that biblical education seeks to equip and disciple.   These goals answer the questions: Who should you become?  What is your character?  The final goal speaks to the reward of becoming that kind of person.

  1. Commitment (Knowing God).  “A primary goal for education is that the learner may accept for himself the values that wisdom propounds so that his life is shaped according to Yahweh’s desires” (85).  Commitment requires conversion and faith.  This is the first goal of a Christian education–that learners might know, fear, and trust in God.
  2. Character. Commitment leads to godly character, which “provides the learner with an internal compulsion to keep learning and growing in wisdom” (85).
  3. Competence in Skillful Living. Proverbs uses many words for wise living, but this is the most obvious point of the book.  The learner should be skillful in the way that he learns to live within God’s world.  How often do we really teach for this kind of response?  How often do we connect the truths of the Bible to life in a way that equips our children and students to live in a way that is wise?
  4. Prosperity and Protection.  The  result of becoming a faithful, godly, and wise person is the prosperity and protection that wisdom affords.  The Lord’s way of wisdom generally leads to well-being, success, stability, wealth, honor, protection, and satisfaction.  This does not mean that suffering is totally avoided.  Suffering is inevitable in a sinful world.  But one can follow God and generally expect good to follow rather than harm.  One can follow God and know that ultimately (even if this is only in heave) good will follow rather than harm. This is an important part of our teaching for kids.  Without making prosperity the point of the gospel, we should be clear that following God generally brings success.

History of Family Ministry, Part 1: The Reformation & the Home as a Little Church

Children were brought up in the Lord through the teaching of their parents. There was little if any training for children by the church as an institution.  Pastors trained fathers, and fathers trained their children.  There was no youth ministry, children’s ministry, or Sunday School, but church leaders championed the home as a place where fathers taught their children about God:

  • Martin Luther, Lectures on Genesis, Chapters 21-25 (1539)“Abraham had in his tent a house of God and a church, just as today any godly and pious head of a household instructs his children… in godliness.  Therefore such a house is actually a school and a church, and the head of the household is a bishop and priest in his house.”
  • Richard Baxter, The Reformed Pastor (1657), chapter 2, section 1.4

    “Get masters of families to do their duty, and they will not only spare you a great deal of labor, but will much further the success of your labors.  If a captain can get the officers under him to do their duty, he may rule the soldiers with much less trouble, than if all lay upon his own shoulders.  You are not like to see any general reformation, till you procure family reformation. Some little religion there may be, here and there; but while it is confined to single persons, and is not promoted in families, it will not prosper, nor promise much future increase.”

    “Go occasionally among them, when they are likely to be most at leisure, and ask the master of the family whether he prays with them, and reads the Scripture, or what he does?  Labor to convince such as neglect this, of their sin; and if you have opportunity, pray with them before you go, and give them an example of what you would have them do.  Perhaps, too, it might be well to get a promise from them, that they will make more conscience of their duty for the future.”

Thinking Orange: A History of Family Ministry from the Reformation to Reggie Joiner

Later this afternoon, Pastor Gary Almon and I will be taking four other Sojourn leaders to the “Orange” conference in Atlanta, GA.  “Orange” is a conference about connecting church and home.  If red represents the home (and its warm nurturing hearts) and yellow represents the church (and its bright missionary lights) then orange represents what happens when these two influences combine.  One of the most influential brains behind this strategy is Reggie Joiner, founder of the ReThink group and co-founding pastor of Northpoint Community Church in Atlanta.  In honor of Reggie’s conference, I’ll be blogging through the history of family ministry from  over the next few days.  I hope you enjoy this little journey as much as we’re going to enjoy our trip to the ATL.

Christian Freedom & Parenting Series Review

Sojourn believes in Christian freedom, and our church has done a good job of staring down some of the legalistic controversies that plague many churches.  Sometimes we really do seem to “get it,” but what do we believe about Christian freedom when it comes to our children?  Is there freedom when it comes to feeding babies, school choices, spanking, and immunizations?  And what does Christian freedom look like when it comes to these kinds of issues?

Over the past few weeks, we’ve taken a look at several of these issues.  This has been an informative series.  I’ve learned a lot about what it means to dive into controversial matters with an eye on the Scriptures.  Perhaps on another day we’ll revisit these issues and touch on other controversial matters for kids–like spanking and what age you might allow a child to have ear rings or a tattoo.  But for now, we’re going to put these matters aside.  If you missed them, here are links to the posts in the series: