There are several physical factors that can impact the growth of Sunday School. Such factors include worship space, educational space (classrooms), bathrooms, preschool space, hallways, and yes even parking.
In a previous post, I recommended that the Sunday School director count cars (and empty parking spaces) once a month during Sunday School. That is because parking can be a predictor of attendance and growth. Counter to my experience in Oxford, England, not many walk to church today in the United States (except in cities). When parking gets full and spaces difficult to find, guests and even members may circle the parking lot and drive off. There is little patience with a full parking lot.
In a recent Sunday School survey of Kentucky churches, parking was shown to have an analysis of variance (ANOVA) significance of difference between growing and declining Sunday Schools. Here is the statement from the survey and the potential responses followed by the table:
Most Sundays, the church parking lot and available street parking during Sunday School is… (Almost empty; Half full; Almost full; Full)
Question 19 Growing vs. Declining
- Almost empty 10.7% 16.8%
- Half full 52.5% 53.8%
- Almost full 31.1% 22.8%
- Full 5.7% 2.5%
Not surprisingly, growing Sunday Schools have less available parking. A higher percentage of growing Sunday Schools responded with parking that is almost full or full. This has to be given attention or it can lead to growth that will slow or stop. Even moving to dual or multiple Sunday School often will not relieve this problem. In fact, depending on the schedule, multiple Sunday School can sometimes make parking worse for a portion of the Sunday morning schedule.
Adding a session of Sunday School on another day can “add” spaces. Offering classes off campus can provide spaces away from church. Running a bus or van to shuttle people from a more distant (or leased) parking lot can be inconvenient but make continued growth possible. Some churches have even provided valet parking in order to park cars away from church or closer together so that more parking can be provided.
Resist allowing limited parking space to determine the size of your Sunday School. For more encouragement about not allowing the pot to determine the size of the plant, check out Ken Hemphill’s book, The Bonsai Theory of Church Growth. Pray and ask God to determine the size. Provide needed parking. Reach out. Make disciples. Be revolutionary!