For decades, students from all ages have met together in Apostolic Faith Sunday school classes around the world to be informed, encouraged, and inspired by studying the Bible. Classes and curriculum are tailored for the needs of students of every age group, with an emphasis on the life-changing power in Jesus Christ.
For many years, two Sunday school sessions were held each Sunday on the Apostolic Faith campground in Portland—one in the morning and another in the afternoon. For the afternoon session, six large buses would travel the length of the city to transport hundreds of children from far-distant neighborhoods.
The Sunday school setting provides an opportunity for children and young people to use their musical talents, and special performances have been the means of encouraging many parents to come to events at the church. The first annual Sunday School Christmas Program in Portland was held in December of 1947, and featured a Sunday school orchestra, songs by several choirs, and a number of recitations. Dedicated teachers have spent countless hours producing pageants, programs, and other special events every year since then.
In Portland, Sunday school sessions begin in the main sanctuary, where the various departments meet together for an opening assembly. Following prayer and singing, children representing the Sunday school departments present vocal or instrumental numbers. Then the students are dismissed to their department locations, where each group enjoys more songs, class time, and other Bible-learning activities.
Sunday school teachers make a commitment to the personal encouragement of their students. The wife of one Apostolic Faith pastor testifies that the one-on-one interest of her Sunday school teacher played an important role in her salvation. Her parents did not attend the church, but she came to Sunday school on the Sunday school bus. When she was in eighth grade, God began to show her that her life was not pleasing to Him. “I didn’t know that the heavy feeling in my heart was God’s conviction for sin—I just knew I was miserable,” she reminisces. “One night my thoughts turned to my Sunday school teacher. She had given all of us in the class her phone number, telling us to contact her if we ever wanted to come to church. That night, the Lord put it in my mind to call her and see if I could go with her. How thankful I am that I made that phone call! My teacher was happy to come and get me, and I went to church, not knowing that the events of the evening were all planned.” That night, God saved her soul, and His peace flooded her troubled heart.
Sunday school teachers meet on a regular basis to study upcoming lessons, share ideas for teaching resources, and learn new presentation techniques. The curriculum materials used in the Sunday school were written and printed by Apostolic Faith members. Sunday school steering committees have been in place for more than fifty years, writing and rewriting, designing and redesigning, in order to keep curriculum materials up-to-date and attractive.
Teachers in Apostolic Faith churches make an effort to involve themselves in their students’ lives for more than just one hour a week. Class outings and group activities are a regular part of their time investment. High school students enjoy prayer breakfasts, gym nights, and retreats at various times during the year, as well as involvement in church services and outreach endeavors.
In 2002, Portland Sunday school teachers participated in coordinating a Block Party for the neighborhood around the church. The eye-catching banners and activities provided a great deal of “eye-appeal” on Duke Street, and those passing by were encouraged to come into the parking lot and join in the fun. More than 300 welcome bags were handed out, and neighborhood children were offered a “tour” of the Sunday school facilities, with the hope of enrolling new families. Branch churches have held similar functions, with good results.
An annual event tied to Sunday school outreach is that of Vacation Bible School. The first session was held at the Portland church in August of 2001. Each year’s weeklong program has a Biblical theme, which is presented by a crew of enthusiastic volunteers ranging from high school age young people through grandmothers. They spread the Gospel in a setting complete with games, skits, crafts, music, and life-changing Bible stories. Year by year, the numbers attending this neighborhood outreach have increased. Several branch churches also host similar annual events.
A recent opportunity for young people of the Apostolic Faith organization has been that of short-term mission trips. Groups of young people representing several of the branch churches have made trips to Mexico, Korea, Romania, the Dominican Republic, and most recently, the Philippines. The participants in the trips have enthusiastically expressed their appreciation for the opportunity and have found the experience to be both eye opening and spiritually challenging. Getting to know young people from other cultures, joining in the outreach efforts in far-distant places, and sharing precious spiritual fellowship around the altars of prayer has been a tremendous blessing to both the visitors and to the people at the locations visited.
As a result of years of nurturing and supporting the youth of the organization, many in the ranks of Apostolic Faith workers are the third, fourth, and fifth generations of families who have been longtime participants in the ongoing efforts of the church.