Soul winning and spiritual re-awakening of the world

Christian Education Department

Pastor S. O. Oladele

The birth and growth of the Sunday School Department in Christ Apostolic Church has been an established concept from inception. At the dawning of the industrial era in the late 1700s (about the time of the United States’ Revolutionary War), England had a large underclass of poor people who had moved from the countryside to the city to work in factories. There was at least one factory in Gloucester that manufactured pins. Children, as young as eight years old, worked six days a week, in gruesome surroundings, for a pittance. When their tiny hands (which helped them as workers) got caught in the machinery and got cut off, the children were simply dumped on the streets and new workers were hired. There was no free schooling at this time. Education was considered a family (not a communal) purchase – if you had enough money, you send your children to school. If you were poor, your children did not learn to read and write and were probably destined to a life of poverty. So, they could not even read. In the growing factory society, the poor never seemed able to rise out of their abject poverty.

Sunday was the one these children got off. Many blew off steam, wandering around the town, breaking windows and robbing homes, while the upscale parishioners attended church. The street urchins of the day survived miserable conditions at work and learned how to be pickpockets and thieves at a young age. There was no way out of the poverty cycle for these children.

These gangs of street urchins sparked a vision and burden in Robert Raikes who was at that time the editor of the Gloucester Journal. He saw their lack of education, their dead end life of poverty, and their turning to crime as something Christian folks should be concerned about. So, he got an idea. His idea was simple: Why not start a school on Sundays for these poor children where good Christian people would teach them to read and write, teach them the Ten Commandments, and instruct them in moral living? Maybe with a basic education they might be able to escape their dreadful life.

So Raikes started a Sunday School for these poor children. Their parents could not pay for school like other better-off people could, so Raikes paid for the first school himself and recruited others to contribute. He became obsessed with reforming the morals of the poor children and the lower class. In 1780, he started this first Sunday School and paid the teacher himself. She (the teacher) quit soon after but he hired others. Since he was a printer, Raikes published large sheets with the Ten Commandments and other scripture verses on them so the children could use them for his double-duty aim of learning to read and write, and at the same time learning moral principles to live by. These printed sheets were in a sense the first Sunday School curriculum. Raikes was a devout member of the Church of England.

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The Spread To America

It was not too long before Sunday School moved to the United States. Before 1800, there had been Sunday Schools in Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and New Jersey. Interestingly, despite that, the Sunday School movement began in Great Britain, it is believed that the Sunday School made America just as America made the Sunday School. After 1800, Sunday School, which was initially aimed at helping the children to read and write, and learn moral principles to live by, had its purpose expanded to affording opportunities for biblical evangelism and education. Sunday School in America had the slated purpose of organising, civilising and evangelising. By 1880, there were thousands of Sunday Schools all over America.

The Sunday School movement eventually became the teaching, nurturing, and evangelising arm of the church in America, so much that by 1900, about 80% of all new church members in America first came to church through the Sunday School. Sunday School continued towards reaching its greatest popularity in North America until when an alarming retrogression in enrolment hit it between 1915 and 1940. This is most likely to have informed how in 1944, a number of outstanding Christian education leaders representing many denominations and inter-denominational agencies in America met, prayed, planned, and later organised the National Sunday School Association (NSSA), to spearhead a Sunday School revival.

The NSSA convention was held in Moody Memorial Church, Chicago, in October, 1945. Since then, National Sunday School conventions have been held in major cities across the USA, Canada, U.K., Israel, etc.

London, 1785

Once newspapers got a hold of the story, the idea spread to other cities. By 1785, Baptist William Fox organised a nationwide society to promote the Sunday School in Great Britain. He observed that it was embarrassing that Christians would show so much concern for the heathen of other lands but ignore the poor in their own country. The idea quickly caught on and Christians all across England began starting Sunday schools for the poor. By 1811, there were more than 400,000 children in these Sunday schools in England. Just 20 years later (1831), England had more than a million children enrolled in Sunday school.

There is not so much writing available on the movement of Sunday School in Christ Apostolic Church. However, Sunday School is not new in the mission. It has been part of the church since its inception. It was established by the progenitors of the church. Sunday was regarded as the Lord’s Day, a day when all true worshippers of our Lord Jesus Christ should devote for serving the Lord and studying His Word. There were morning and evening services on Sundays. In the afternoons, like 2 or 3pm, the congregation was expected to return to the church for the Sunday school programme. The programme would dovetail into the evening service which usually started by 4pm, and lasted for about one hour. Each minister decided where and what to study in the Bible.

Also, some assemblies and individuals had been practicing Sunday School as early as the 50s and 70s. Sunday School had been operating in some local assemblies in Christ Apostolic Church such as Mushin and Olorunsogo, in Lagos State, Oniyanrin and Olugbode, both in Ibadan, Oyo State, and in some other places that might not have been immediately known to others, through the individual efforts of some well-meaning brethren/ministers and groups that had tasted of the beauty of the programme, and who wanted the joy extended to others.  It was also in existence in such places as Christ Apostolic Church Ikosi-Ketu assembly, where Sunday School started as early as the commencement of the church in 1974, with Brother F.O. Ojuolape (now pastor), Brother Joseph Ola Osunkoya (now pastor), late Evangelist Kayode, Brother Ebenezer Owodunni (now pastor), Brother Leke Obasoyin (now pastor), Brother John Agbaje (visiting teacher), Brother Dodo, Mrs. Oni, Sister Jumoke, Mrs. Fakoyejo (now midwife), and Elder Adeleke as the pioneer teachers.

CAC Oke Isegun, Taiwo Road, Ilorin, started by the hands of the Faith Tabernacle founding fathers, from Oyan in the year 1946, started a form of Sunday school as the educative arm of the Church as early as the 1950s. The Sunday School classes were by 3:30 pm, before the commencement of the evening service, by 5.00 pm. The catechists taught the classes. In CAC Ogbomoso land, Sunday school was practiced on Sunday evenings, like bible study before 1971 and before it was changed to Sunday morning under the leadership of late Pastor J.O. Amoo in CAC Oke-Ayo Assembly.

These assemblies and individuals and many other unmentioned ones were independent of themselves in the preparation and dissemination of their respective Sunday School lessons. Most of them made use of Sunday School materials from the Assemblies of God, Baptist Church and others. Notable men of God like Pastor M.O. Yusuf and Pastor John Oyebanji are trailblazers in this respect. They took charge of their different assemblies, getting Sunday School pamphlets from other denominations to teach their congregations on Sundays.

The history of organised Sunday School in Christ Apostolic Church cannot be detached from the erstwhile President of the Church, Pastor E. H. L. Olusheye, assisted by Pastor S. O. Akinsulure. When Pastor Olusheye returned from Overseas, with Pastor Akinsulure in 1977, they came over to complement and harmonise these already existing individual efforts into an organised national and international Sunday School programme which cuts across the length and breadth of the Church, at home and abroad.

After the President of the church, Pastor E.T. Latunde gave Pastor Olusheye and his lieutenant the authority to continue with his God-given Christian educational vision, the Church Authority constituted a Committee for Christian Education to oversee the Sunday School matter, and Pastor Olusheye was made the chairman. This was formalised in October 1976, after Pastor Olusheye and Pastor Akinsulure presented their proposed programme to the Standing Committee of the then Christ Apostolic Church Supreme Council, and that was the meeting that officially and finally ratified the establishment of the Sunday School Department in Christ Apostolic Church.

The Sunday School Department programme was fully launched in 1977, to coordinate the affairs of Sunday School in the Church, and to hold annual national rallies to bless the entire Church and the teachers, in particular. Pastor E.H.L. Olusheye was appointed the National Sunday School Superintendent and assisted by Pastor S.O. Akinsulure. They were charged with oversight of the department.

The pioneer Christ Apostolic Church Sunday School Department staff included:

Pastor J.A. Ibilewa – Hausa Translator (late).

Pastor Moses Maton – Hausa Translator.

Pastor E.E. Mapur – Hausa Translator (now General Secretary, Christ Apostolic Church).

Pastor Umezurike – Igbo Translator.

Mr. Ikechukuru Nnamani – Igbo Translator.

Pastor I.I. Omeh – Igbo Translator.

Pastor M.O. Yusuf – Children’s Lessons Script Writer.

Pastor E.S. Famuyide – Yoruba Translator.

Pastor J.O. Ojo – Yoruba Translator (Former Deputy Provost,

CACTS, Ile-Ife).

Pastor Oyeniyi – Yoruba Translator.

Pastor S.B. Alomaja – Yoruba Translator (late).

Pastor F.A. Akpabio – Efik Translator.

Mr. Johnson Obotutung – Efik Translator.

Pastor Gbenro Olonade – Sales Officer.

Mrs. Lydia Ademujimi – Typist.

Mrs. Margaret Ologunleko – Typist.

Evangelist Emman Ijeweremeh – Driver (late).

Pastor Felix Adesola – Driver (now at CAC General Secretariat, Ibadan).

Just like opposition arose quickly to Graham and Bethune and their idea of starting Sunday Schools in New York, formal/organised Sunday School in Christ Apostolic Church also met with some opposition at the beginning. Let us read the story of Graham and Bethune:

Isabella Graham yearned for revival and collected sermons and articles about revival in England and shared them with her New York friends which spawned a small group that included her married daughter, Joanna Bethune. This gathering of women prayed and chatted about revival until eventually, in 1816, they founded Female Union for the Promotion of Sabbath Schools in New York City borrowing the constitution for the elaborately named group from England’s Bristol Sunday School Union. In this day when women could not vote and were considered “pushy” if they sought leadership, these women launched a New York movement that led to planting Sunday Schools and simultaneously became a way of empowering women. Working with children was one of the few ways women could lead in most churches at the time.

However, the idea of holding classes on Sunday was called Sabbath-breaking. This mother-daughter team faced typical opposition from established pastors (especially the prominent role of women in the movement). For instance, in 1817 in Medway, Massachusetts when the minister and deacons were opposing the women’s idea of starting a Sunday School one male leader complained, “These young folk are taking too much upon themselves.” Others said “These women will be in the pulpit next.”

Initially, the idea of Sunday School programme did not go down well with some people in some quarters, obviously due to its newness and ‘strangeness,’ but it soon became the desire of every Christ Apostolic Church member, as it is today. Olusheye (2006) said that after reporting the vision to pioneer the Sunday School Department in CAC to the President of the Church, then, Late Pastor E. T. Latunde, on the arrival of Pastor Olusheye and his assistant, Pastor S.O. Akinsulure from Canada, in 1976, some of the leaders doubted the message. They feared that “Pastor Olusheye may unwittingly annoy the Hoy Spirit away from CAC with the proposed new ‘acada’ Sunday School cclass teachings rather than the usual undiluted Sunday Worship services…” This informed the stiff opposition from the different quarters.

However, the stiff opposition didn’t deter the President of the Church from giving Pastor Olusheye the go ahead to establish the Sunday School Department in the Church.

One of the primary assignments received from God by the founding fathers is the writing of Christian Literatures for the Church in particular and the world in general. Most of the materials we read before and after salvation were produced by ministers of God and children of the living God from other established Churches. But now, Christ Apostolic Church also writes Sunday School lessons for its members and the entire world. How did it happen?

After the approval of the Church Authority, Pastor Olusheye, his assistant plus some other brethren began to execute the planned programme of itinerary teaching of Sunday School cclasses round the selected big assemblies in Western Nigeria, from October 1976 to December 1977. Then, in January 1977, the first Sunday School lecture pamphlet was written by Pastor Olusheye and his assistant, Pastor Akinsulure. It was a miniature replica of the present CAC Sunday School lessons handbook. It came to replace the ones that were formerly being used, published by the Assemblies of God Church. The duo had to write, publish, and distribute at their expense, then. It was very hectic.

The Sunday School Pamphlet is now being published in different languages, including English, Yoruba, Igbo, Efik, Hausa, TIV, French, and Isoko. The lessons also exist in Braille (for the visually challenged) which up till now is given out free of charge by the Authority of Christ Apostolic Church.

Other Sunday School publications are: Sunday School Teachers’ Manual (in English and Yoruba languages), Parents’ Day Pamphlets, Sunday School Day Pamphlets, Children Sunday School manuals and workbook; and the Daily Devotional Book (LIVING WATER and OMI-IYE). The circulation of these publications even extends to other denominations and overseas countries.

Below are the Sunday School publications and the date of their first impressions:

  • Sunday School Pamphlets: English & Yoruba (1977), Hausa, Efik, Igbo, French, Braille Sunday School pamphlet for the blind (2014), TIV: 2017, Children pamphlet (1993).
  • Teachers’ Manual: 2002.
  • Sunday School Day pamphlet: 2005.
  • Children Workbook: January 2008.
  • Radio Ministry: July – December 2008 Sunday School Series.
  • Parents’ Day pamphlet: 2010.
  • Daily Devotional Book (Living Water/Omi Iye): July – December 2014.
  • CACTV Ministry: 2014.

Children Worker Seminar

The children worker seminar normally comes up in July/August. It started in 1993 and has always been a period of togetherness for the children workers. It is usually a forum for children teachers to rub minds, share experience and get equipped with the latest educational/spiritual tips and technology on children ministry. It has always been a period of blessings to the participants. This is also a decentralised programme being held in about five centres approved by the authority of the church.

The children arm of the department is witnessing tremendous and unstoppable achievements and the entire church has begun to position it properly, thanks be unto God for those who were there when it started and those who have just began to wholeheartedly identify with them.

General Christian Education Committee

In 1982, the General Christian Education Committee (GCEC) was inaugurated to oversee the affairs of everything that constitute Christian Education in the church, including Sunday School. This step has consistently aided the development of Sunday School in this great mission.

The chairmen of the committee till date are:

1. Pastor J.B. Orogun, President and Trustee (First Patron).

2. Pastor A.O. Ade Olutimehin, General Superintendent and Trustee (First Chairman for Sunday School Board).

3. Pastor D.O.A. Oloye (1995 – 1998).

4. Pastor S.A.O. Babawemi (1998 – 2007).

5. Pastor G.O.E. Okafor (August 2007 – December 2011).

6. Pastor Olufemi Akeju (2012 – 2014).

7. Pastor C.S.A. Balogun (8 October 2014 to date).

Sunday School Office

Sunday School work in Christ Apostolic Church has a functional office from where the mixing, cooking, serving and administrative aspects is carried out. This place is called the Sunday School Department, and situated at 12A, Irekari Street, Off Oyemekun Road, Akure, Ondo State. It was initially a three-bedroom flat converted for office use but in 2011, the Lord engineered the authority of the church, then, under the leadership of our erstwhile president, late Pastor E.H.L. Olusheye to erect a befitting 22-room Storey building office complex on the same landed property that housed the original small office.

Today, the office has the following divisions: Administrative Section, Writers’ Unit, Translators’ Unit, Children Unit, Editorial Unit, Accounts Unit, Computer Pool, Library, Recording Studio, Sales Section, and the Power House.

Change In Nomenclature

The director was formerly addressed as the National Sunday School Superintendent until year 2008 when the authority of the church changed the title to director. The first Sunday School Superintendent was the erstwhile president of the church, Pastor E.H.L. Olusheye, followed by Pastor S.O. Akinsulure. Pastor S.O. Meroyi took over from Pastor Akinsulure and later handed over the mantle of leadership to Pastor S.O. Aluko, the incumbent director of Sunday School, during whose tenure the title was changed from superintendent to director. He is the first director of Sunday School.

National Sunday School Exam

The Annual National Sunday School Examination is held in the third week of January. The exam which covers lessons learnt from January to December (24 lessons in all) is aimed at helping Sunday School readers and students to be more diligent in studying, retaining and practicing that which they have read and learnt from the series of lessons in the year. It has reached a point where the best 10 candidates nationwide are rewarded during the following annual national rally.

State Sunday School Rallies

In furtherance of Sunday School at the state levels, each state has been encouraged to organise state rallies and the performances in some states have been wonderful to the point of stimulating and provoking other states to follow suit.

Sunday School Personnel

Sunday School cannot really develop without some people at the desk, working assiduously to bring the God-given visions and revelations into reality. These people work at the different units/sections within the Sunday School Department; mixing, cooking and serving the meal to the church. The authority of the church keeps equipping the department with a team of teachable, humble, formidable and dependable workers in order to ensure continued availability of the Sunday School content.

Establishment Of The Printing Press

It is worthy of note that Christ Apostolic Church established its Printing Press in 1987 at the Odubanjo Memorial Hall, 5, Shiaba Street, Agege, Lagos because it saw the need to handle the production of its Sunday School materials as well as other publications by itself.

Sunday School Day

The Sunday School Day is another annual programme, birthed to further Sunday School work in Christ Apostolic Church. It has been a day when all lovers of The Word specially appreciate God’s work done through the Sunday School Department. It is done via the practice of coming together at the feet of Jesus Christ for three inspirational and stimulating Bible-based lectures during the second week of February of every year. Sunday School Day in Christ Apostolic Church has continued to post encouraging results.

Christ Apostolic Church Sunday School On Air

Sunday School teaching and learning in Christ Apostolic Church is not limited to book form and classroom environment alone. To the glory of God, Christ Apostolic Church Sunday School content, with the approval of the authority of the church, is also being aired in some Radio Stations in Nigeria. The Sunday School department, being assisted by some individuals, families, and state Sunday School teachers has consistently, through the grace of God, been bringing the Sunday School lessons to uncountable multi-religious and multi-ethnic listeners on radio.