The Church of Christ is opposed to the concept and practice of Sunday school. A comparison between Scripture and the origin and expansion of Sunday school will explain our position.
Sunday School Begins
The Sunday school movement began in Britain in the 1780s when the Industrial Revolution had many children spending all week working in factories. The work week was six 12-hour days and the only day off was Sunday! Some prominent people, such as Robert Raikes (1725-1811), editor of the Gloucester Journal, realized that illiteracy would grow and children in the slums would fall into crime unless something was done.
Raikes proposed starting a one day school that was aimed at teaching youngsters reading, writing, cyphering and a knowledge of the Bible. This was supported by many clergymen as well as parents who welcomed the idea of their children getting some education. Within four years over 250,000 children were attending schools on Sunday throughout England.
The idea soon spread to America where both denominations and non-denominational organizations caught the vision and energetically began to create Sunday schools. Within decades, the movement had become extremely popular. By the mid-19th century, Sunday school attendance was a near universal aspect of childhood.
The most common book available, the Bible, was used as a reading primer with many children learning to write by copying passages from Scripture. Soon a basic catechism was taught, as were spiritual practices such as prayer and hymn-singing. Introducing Christian morality and virtues soon became a part of the process.
The Concept is Ingrained
Working-class families were grateful for the opportunity to receive such an education. They also enjoyed friendly gatherings such as prize days, parades, and picnics, which they looked forward to as much as the traditional seasonal holidays. Sunday school became an important part of their lives.
Eventually both Britain and America recognized the inadequacies of a one day education. In the 1870s universal, compulsory state education was established on both sides of the Atlantic.
Sunday School Becomes Religious
With reading and writing now being learned on weekdays at school the only thing left for the Sunday school curriculum was religious education. Because it had become so ingrained in their lives it continued and soon became part of most Christian churches, with the religious classes based on age of the students.
The founding of Sunday Schools was simply to provide a place where poor children could learn to read. Now, by default, it became a part of the religious curriculum. Regrettably that was not in God’s plan.
A divided Bible study prior to any worship service is unnecessary.
The class arrangement requires an action different from the single, undivided assembly. In the class arrangement, the church comes together in a number of places (classrooms) with a teacher over each group. This is an unscriptural form of a church gathering contrary to the undivided assembly.
Both the Old and New Testament clearly advocate always assembling together. In Deuteronomy 31:12-13 they (men, women, children and the stranger within the gates) are told to gather together "that they may learn." Apparently God did not exclude little children as they could learn surrounded by friends and family. He did not ask that they be separated into age groups. Joshua 8:35 tells us that the word of Moses was read by Joshua before "all the congregation of Israel," including the men, women, children and strangers visiting with them. These are only two of the instances of the people gathering together to hear the Word of the Lord. In all the other instances they also met together. At no time are we told of their segregating into simultaneous groups/classes to hear the Word of the Lord!
In Acts 20:7 (came together), Acts 11:26 (assembled themselves with the church) and Hebrews 10:25 (assembling of ourselves together) Christians are instructed to gather together. We are commanded to assemble together for the purpose of learning together. It is impossible to be together and be separated into classes at the same time. These passages demand a single, undivided assembly. Apparently it is important to God that His people meet together to study and learn. In 1 Cor 14:23 we are instructed what to do when the "whole church be come together into one place." Again, there are no examples of any assembly being divided into classes for any purpose.
Remember, the concept of Sunday school was first developed to provide poor children with a rudimentary education. It was not intended to replace the called assembly of Christians.
Since the concept of Sunday school began classes, organized by age, are now well-established as part of the tradition of most modern churches. We would not expect them to easily give up this “tradition.”
To call the members of the church to a specified address or meeting place and constrain them to meet in age groups for the purpose of being taught God’s word is foreign to the scriptures. Nowhere can such an arrangement be found in the entire Bible.
Church and Home
Obviously there is a difference between a church assembly and private meeting in houses. When the church calls a group together, that group constitutes a called assembly. Bible classes are not considered private teaching as they are part of the "called assemblies."
It is not wrong to have private Bible studies at home, in fact it is encouraged! However, dividing an advertised assembly into classes under any pretext is subverting the Word of God and not something we feel comfortable doing. We lean towards doing what the Bible does teach and avoid what it does not teach. The Bible does not teach the Church to separate Bible study into classes.
Some research material was found at: