Does God expect Sunday School to grow? I have to smile just to type this question. My answer would be in the negative but with a caveat. [CAVEAT: While I don’t believe God expects Sunday School to grow, I do believe our Lord expects us to carry out the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20). And without hesitation I believe that Sunday School WHEN DONE RIGHT can greatly help Christ’s body to carry out the Great Commission.]
What do we need to do to enable Sunday School to carry out the Great Commission? What can Sunday School do to prepare and mobilize God’s people to “make disciples of all nations?” How can Sunday School help in baptizing them and teaching them to obey everything Jesus commanded us?
Part of the answer is in setting goals. If we set the wrong goals, we will focus our people, classes, and work in the wrong directions. But if we fail to set goals and expectations, we will also not be providing the leadership God expects and His people need. If we set unrealistic goals, we can demotivate our people. On the other hand, we are about a God-sized task that can only be accomplished in His power.
My friend, Mark Miller, wrote a great blog post in September entitled, Realistic Expectations for Sunday School Growth. I want to encourage you to read the entire post, but here are Mark’s closing two paragraphs:
My philosophy of Sunday School and church growth was impacted by the late Ron Lewis. In my first church as minister of education in Little Rock Arkansas, he led a Church Growth Conference and served as our church’s consultant. He stated that a church would double every 10 years if they just grew at 7.5% a year. In other words, a church averaging 100 in Sunday School would need to average adding 7-8 new members plus replace its churn. David Francis estimates that the average church loses 20% of its attendance every year to deaths, relocations, transfers, etc. So for a church averaging 100 in Sunday School, they would have to discover 20 new attendees simply to maintain plus 7-8 to begin the process of doubling every 10 years.
Let’s dream big, but set realistic timetables for growth. Unrealistic goals develop unrealistic expectations. Realistic goals and realistic expectations provide energy and motivation. I am sure that one day Tennessee will beat Alabama again and win a national championship, but realistically it probably will not happen in 2011.
Does God expect Sunday School to grow? Maybe not, but we will benefit from using effective tools to carry out His work. Let’s make Sunday School a tool that works well and works right. Give your best effort. Lead. Set goals. Expect. Grow. Make disciples. Be revolutionary!