The Division of Departments

by Pastor Jack Hyles

(Chapter 2 from Dr. Hyle's excellent book, The Hyles Sunday School Manual)

In the building of a Sunday school and in the training of children and young people, it is vitally important that the proper division be made concerning age, sex, etc.

Age Division

1. Nursery -- birth through age three should be divided into at least three different divisions:

(1) Bed babies

(2) Toddlers (The child becomes a toddler as soon as he is no longer left in the crib or bed. He remains a toddler until his second birthday.)

(3) Two- and three-year-olds. In this discussion we will say very little about the organization and layout of a church nursery. We will center our attention on the teachable ages of two and up. In the author’s book, The Hyles Church Manual, there is an entire chapter given to the church nursery. Any Sunday school superintendent or pastor would be wise to read carefully the suggestions contained in this chapter. We will limit our suggestions in this discussion by simply saying that the nicest facilities in the church should be given to the nurseries, and unlimited attention, care, planning, preparation, etc., should be given to the nursery facilities. When a child reaches the age of two, however, he is ready to begin his Sunday school life. (In some cases he may approach this era a little younger.) In larger churches and in smaller churches, if at all possible, it is best to divide the two-year-olds from the three-year-olds. The younger a person is, the more changes are made in his life within a year, and the more important it is that he be separated from those of different ages.

It is wise on the nursery level to promote a child on his birthday. In other words, when a child reaches his second birthday, he should immediately go into the nursery department where he can be taught. For all Sunday school pupils above nursery age, Promotion Day is on one particular Sunday each year. The Sunday following the child’s second birthday he is taken to his new surroundings. This means that the two- and three-year-old departments may be small on Promotion Day, but they will continue to grow throughout the entire year.

2. Beginners -- ages four and five

This department completes the preschool children. In smaller churches perhaps they would have to be together in the same department. It is advisable, however, when at all possible, to have different departments (or at least different classes) for each age -- four and five. Up through the age of five it is best to have each department in one large room, with each teacher sitting at a table with his or her class.

3. Primary -- ages six and seven or grades one and two

In some cases the primaries include the eight-year-olds and the 3rd grade. We have found it best, however, to limit the primaries to two grades, and we much prefer the divisions by grades in school rather than by age. Using this method the pupils are more likely to know each other since they are together most of the week at school.

Now when we come to the primary age we find it necessary to divide the boys from the girls, and to give each class its own private room or area. The girls and boys meet together for an opening assembly and then the boys go to classes taught by men and the girls go to classes taught by ladies. From the first grade through high school all boys are taught by men in our Sunday school. Also, all girls are taught by ladies. Most churches will find it necessary to have one primary department with several classes. Larger churches, however, would be very wise to have two primary departments--one for the first grade and another for the second grade with several classes in each department. When a child reaches the first grade he then enters the first time into a department where the assembly is for all the children, but his class is taught in a private room, and the lecture-type teaching methods is used.

4. Juniors -- grades three through six

The departmental and class setup is the same as the primaries. The smaller church may find it necessary to have all of the juniors in one department, but in such cases the division of classes should definitely be made by grade. In other words, all the juniors of the church may meet together for an opening assembly, then there could be a class for 3rd-grade boys and a class for 3rd-grade girls, a class for 4th-grade boys and a class for 4th-grade girls, etc.

When at all possible, it is highly desirable to have a department for each grade and then the classes may be divided into smaller groups in the same grade.

5. Junior High -- grades seven and eight

Again it is desirable to have a department for each grade, but its importance is not as great as that of the beginner, primary and junior-age departments. It is very satisfactory to have one Junior High Department with the classes divided according to grades. Still in larger churches, two departments would be more desirable.

6. High School -- grades nine through twelve

This can be all one department with class division by grades, two departments with class division by grades, or four departments with class division by grades. Of course, each department should be divided into classes.

7. Geographical division of classes

My present pastorate is located in a downtown section. People come from far and near to our Sunday school. Because of this, we find it very helpful to divide the classes by geographical locations. In other words, the members of each class live in the same area. There are several advantages to this. One is that the teacher’s visitation is helped greatly. More visits can be made in a given amount of time because there is less traveling involved between visits. Then too, the class members are more likely to know each other, for they probably attend the same school if they live in the same area.

8. Relaxing the visitors’ grade level by one year

In churches which are able to offer a department for each grade level, enlisting of prospects becomes a problem. For example, I have an eight-year-old daughter. If she can invite only third graders to her department, many of her best friends will not go to the same department when they visit with her in the Sunday school. Because of this we have found it advisable to start the year on Promotion Day with only third graders attending the third grade department. During the year, however, we allow the workers and pupils to invite and enlist boys and girls from one grade under and from one grade over their particular grade level. For example, my eight-year-old daughter, who is in the third grade, can invite second graders and fourth graders to her department. This gives a department three grades to work on instead of one. This, of course, is limited to visitors and new members to Sunday school. She cannot invite those who are from other departments in our Sunday school. This rule applies to all grades through high school. At the end of the year when Promotion Day comes, we once again readjust the entire Sunday school.

Each person is “promoted” to his proper department and repeats the same procedure. We have found this plan very beneficial in the growing of a department and in the increasing of the attendance.

At this writing the departmental division of the First Baptist Church is as follows:

  • Nursery 1 - bed babies
  • Nursery 2 - toddlers
  • Nursery 3 - 2 years
  • Nursery 4 - 3 years
  • Beginner 1 - 4 years
  • Beginner 2 - 5 years
  • Primary 1 - 1st grade
  • Primary 2 - 2nd grade
  • Junior 1 - 3rd and 4th grades
  • Junior 2 - 5th grade
  • Junior 3 - 6th grade
  • Junior High 1 - 7th grade
  • Junior High 2 - 8th grade
  • High School 1 - 9th and 10th grades
  • High School 2 - 11th and 12th grades


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