In preparation for my sermon on Sunday, I reread, Seven things John Wesley Expected Us to Do for Kids by Christopher Miles Ritter. It’s a nice, short read, less than 70 pages, and it’s a theological reflection on a quotation from Wesley, “But what can we do for the rising generation?” I learned and relearned a lot about John Wesley from this little book.
One thing that I didn’t get to touch on in my sermon was the Sunday School movement. The Methodist Church had a large hand in starting the Sunday School movement. A woman named Sophia Cooke, who Wesley knew growing up, saw poor and ragged children running around in Gloucester. When conversing with Robert Raikes about the future prospects for these children, she suggested that they educate them and take them to church. Together, the two set about setting up Sunday School for children on their day off. They used the Bible as their text for instruction, and through their teaching, they educated children on reading and writing, and also how to be good citizens. John Wesley reflected on the movement in his writings, and the number of children in Sunday School classes reached up to 800 with 80 teachers in one parish. Clearly, the Holy Spirit was moving through this idea that was sparked because of the need to care for children. The Sunday School movement eventually influenced modern public education.
We live in a culture where we do have free public education, where children are taught to read and write, to be good citizens, and a whole host of other things. Sunday School is now primarily focused on educating adults and children on what the Bible says. The great thing is that we need to expand Sunday School in the fall. We will need more teachers in the children’s areas and we could even start a new class for adults. Is God calling you to teach? Do you have excuses about why it shouldn’t be you? Remember, Wesley said, “Gift or no gift,” we are called to minister to children. If you are interested in becoming a teacher, please talk to me, and I can get you resources so that you can feel equipped to teach our children.