In this five (six)-part series, I have shared five steps toward Sunday School growth that have become known as Flake’s Formula: (1) know the possibilities, (2) enlarge the organization, (3) provide space and equipment, (4) enlist the leaders, and (5) go after the people. In Part 5A, I focused on what the previous steps prepared for: going after the people in these ways: pray, establish a prospect assignment system, gather prospect names, and establish a contact/visitation system. In Part 5B, I will look at four more essential actions to go after the people:
- COMMUNICATE THE ENROLLMENT SYSTEM. While people will not always say yes when invited, they like being invited. That includes being invited to join the class. You may need to word the invitation differently today. Some may assume we are asking them to join the church. We may need to ask if they would like to be added to the class prayer, fellowship, and ministry list. If they allow us to enroll them, they are expressing their willingness for the class to connect with and care for them. In fact, every local guest and prospects should be invited to enroll. And the person does not even have to have attended the class first. This is called open enrollment (see below for some research and statements about open enrollment). Finally, the only reasons a person should be removed from the class list is if they die, move out of the ministry reach of the church, or join a Sunday School class in another church. This system should be clearly and regularly communicated. Every person joining a class should be on a Sunday School master list as well as the class roll so there is no chance of his/her information being lost.
- INVITE PROSPECTS TO FELLOWSHIPS/PROJECTS. Very few people show up in Sunday School without having been invited to church by someone. Why not use class fellowships and projects for opportunities for friends, relatives, associates and neighbors to get to know each other better along with members of the class? Fellowships and projects can be opportunities to get acquainted, have fun, and discover things in common. They can create interest in being together at other times, including class. On a side note, eating meals or dessert with unenrolled people can be fun ways to “go after the people.” Sometimes projects connect men better than social activities.
- ENLIST GREETERS. Don’t take first impressions for granted. Enlist class greeters in youth and adult classes to welcome, register, dispense name tags, introduce, sit with, and walk class guests to recover their children, find bathrooms, and move to the sanctuary. An opportunity for guests to continue the relationship that was begun in Sunday School comes a couple of days later by calling the guest to thank him/her for visiting, to invite to a class fellowship, to ask for and share prayer requests, and to pray together. The best way to have second time guests and to enroll them is to treat them well on their first time in class. So make sure to “go after the people” who express interest by showing up in class!
- FOLLOW UP ALL GUESTS. Make sure you register all guests in worship, Sunday School, other programs, and special events. If you have a fall festival, offer a nice give-away prize for those who register. Then, make sure to follow up. Make a home visit. Write a thank you letter. Make a phone call to connect. Establish a system to keep the interest going. One way to do this well is to assign all prospects/guests to care group leaders who will connect with them weekly (or assign a group member to do so). They will do what the greeter did above: call the guest to thank him/her for visiting, to invite to a class fellowship, to ask for and share prayer requests, and to pray together. Offer a thank you gift. Answer questions. Show you care. I know a church who has a handwritten correspondence ministry to follow up with all guests. This works today since so few people receive handwritten mail anymore.
I mentioned research above. Through research, the Georgia Baptist Convention discovered that 91% of their growing churches practice “open enrollment” In other words, they “enroll anyone, anywhere, at any time so long as the person agrees.” “They make it easy to get on the Sunday School roll and difficult to be removed!” Pray. Prepare for Sunday School growth and then go after the people. Expect God to work in people’s lives. Expect people to come. Expect growth. Be revolutionary!