Formalizer of Sunday School


Robert Raikes was born in England in 1735 and was raised in Gloucester. He lived during the middle of a century that saw the doubling of the population -- most of them in urban areas due to the Industrial Revolution. He worked for his father's newspaper there, the Gloucester Journal and eventually inherited the publication.

While a layman in the Church of England he could not help but notice the disenfranchisment of the families who left village social and church ties, and the ensuing decline in their moral environment. Raike's concern for the rowdy children, who ended up so many times in prison, was more than the irritation of their constantly interrupting Sunday services, but wanting to answer the probem as he put it: "...having no idea of instilling into the minds of their children principles to which they themselves were entire strangers." The main problem was the fact of Sunday was the only day off, not just for the parents, but for the poor little kids who were working six days a week, too!

Suffer not the Little Children

By around 1780 Raikes was prepared to do something positive with the youth on their one day off, Sunday, to try to break the chain of poverty, ignorance, and uncivilized behavior. Some churches had set up Sunday schools, some as early as the century prior, but Raikes wanted to launch a comprehensive institution. The first problem was the physical malnutrition (let alone the hunger and thirst for righteousness, or knowledge) and threadbareness preventing children to attend any meetings; and after insured the potential students that a washed face and brushed head would suffice, they could feel welcome -- and he would provide lunch. That meal was served with an hour break at two, after starting lessons at ten in the morning devoted to reading. They were then instructed in the catechism after church finishing at five-thirty.

The Sunday School Society

The success of using positive reinforcement with rewards to changed behavior--


  • Profanity
  • Discourteousness
  • Unrestrained behavior
  • Lack of Mental Discipline


  • Dutifulness
  • Improvement Ambition
  • Civic Responsibility

In 1783 Raikes published in the Gloucester Journal his first editorial on the subject, and by 1785 Raikes took advantage of his publishing power to gather public, officials', and nobles' support. Furthermore, he managed to see the expansion of this Sunday school idea throughout the British Empire with the establishment of the London based Sunday School Society.

The need developed for:

Raike's Support

Publishing Background Provided

  • Publishing
  • Importing

Benefits to Everyone

The Crime Rate Dropped

  • 1786 Magistrates passed an unamimous votes of thanks re young's moral improvement.
  • ,
  • 1792 Criminal appearances before judge dropped to zero, from a high of 100 a decade earlier.
  • Prominent flax and hemp manufacturer, Mr. Church, employer of the area's children remarked:
    The change could not have been more extraordinary, in my opinion, had they been transformed from the shape of wolves and tigers to that of men.

Positive Quips

What better kudos could one's ministry get, than from none other than Methodist great, John Wesley, himself who, in 1788 complimented:

I verily think these Sunday Schools are one of the noblest specimens of charity which have been set on foot in England since William the Conqueror.

What did this man, Robert Raikes say about his tremendous achievement, that public schools finally supplimented before he finally died in 1811?

The world marches forth on the feet of little children. ... But who can doubt that there is today a desperately important educational task for the children, whether through the Sunday School, or some other format. To change the world -- reach the children!
But, who did he give credit for the accomplishment?
If the glory of God be promoted in any, even the smallest degree, society must reap some benefit. If the good seed be sown in the mind at an early period of human life though it shows itself not again for many years, it may please God, at some future period, to cause it to spring up, and to bring forth a plentiful harvest.

What can one say when one sees how the great civilization that Great Britain sprang upon the world on the back of these kids made so. The pattern has been repeated throughout history: great societies take care of the total needs of their members, and marvelous results are enjoyed. Unfortunately some human endeavors forget, and the people stripped of a Higher purpose leaving only Materialistic Humanism are left wallowing in their increasingly impoverished surroundings.

Source: A History of Christianity Kenneth Scott Latourette

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