Historians are pretty-well agreed that an Anglican from Gloucester, England, named Robert Raikes, started the first Sunday school. It is also well-known that it had nothing to do with the Bible. At a period when there were no child labor laws, Sunday was the only day in which kids had time to be taught to read and write. That, with his social gospel background, was Raikes’ primary purpose.
On the other hand, a Baptist layman, named William Fox, a member of the Baptist Church in Prescott Street, Goodmans Fields, pastored by Abraham Booth, was the man to start the first Bible-based Sunday School. It was on this day in 1785 that Fox called a meeting for the purpose of organizing a systematic teaching of the Bible to children. From England the idea of Sunday schools swept across the Atlantic to enter Baptist churches in this country.
It is claimed that when the Frenchman Alexis de Tocquerville visited the United States he famously said, “I sought in vain for the secret of America’s greatness until I went into her Sunday schools and churches. Then I understood why France is a slave and America is free.”
Only the Lord can assess the good that has been accomplished over the years by the systematic teaching of children and young people in Sunday schools across this country.