In Part 11, I will take a look at Sunday School attendance. Over the last several blog posts, I have expanded on a post I wrote four years ago entitled Sunday School Growth Spiral. There I shared growth goals from Andy Anderson’s book, The Growth Spiral. There Andy Anderson referred to Sunday School attendance, worship attendance, offerings, and baptisms as projection goals.
In general, projection goals happen naturally as a result of pursuit of quantity goals (enrollment, prospects); quality goals (teaching units, workers, workers meeting attendance, training); and outreach/ministry goals (space, contacts, and outreachers). For instance, increased attendance will result from (1) increased enrollment and prospects and the care that comes from increased teaching units, workers, workers meeting attendance, and training as well as increased space, contacts, and outreachers.
In some ways, I can boil down growth in Sunday School attendance to two actions: (1) increase Sunday School enrollment and (2) care for those you enroll. When we get lazy with either of these, growth will slow or stop. But all of Andy’s other goals go into making up these two goals. Let’s look at these two goals one at a time.
INCREASE ENROLLMENT. In order to increase enrollment, you must pray for, reach out to, care for, and invite prospects. But even that is not enough. Sunday School will not grow until some of those prospects agree to add their names to the class prayer-fellowship-ministry list. Reaching out to prospects is most consistently done with the help of a prospect list of friends, relatives, associates and neighbors who are not enrolled in Sunday School that equals the number of members on the class roll. These may also be church members not yet enrolled.
In addition, new teaching units tend to reach new people faster and to be more evangelistic. In order to staff these new units, more spaces and teachers are needed. And teachers and workers need regular reminders of the importance of doing this work through workers meetings and training. In addition, reaching these prospects also requires contacts and outreachers. So growth in Sunday School attendance requires enrolling new people. Keeping the prospect list up-to-date is vitally important.
CARE FOR MEMBERS. On the other hand, if the back door of the Sunday School is open and people leave as fast or faster than you are enrolling new people, then it is impossible to increase Sunday School attendance. Care must be taken of members. Care closes the back door. Contact must be made with absentees. Members should be organized to pray with, contact, care for, and fellowship with each other. Care groups are one effective way to organize to do so (see A Simple Two-Part System for Getting Sunday School Class Ministry Done, Part 3).
Increasing teaching units, workers, workers meeting attendance, and training will result in greater quality of care for members. The span of care will be reduced along with understanding and accountability to do the job of care. Also as members find places of service within the class, they will tend to be more committed, satisfied, and faithful. Is is essential that all persons enrolled be cared for whether they are active or inactive in class attendance. The only acceptable reasons to drop people from a class roll is if they die, join another church, or move out the ministry reach of the church.
Today we tend to try to simplify everything. Sometimes this is due to laziness and busyness. But neither of these actions can be neglected without serious consequences. Too many Sunday Schools today are neglecting them both. Increase enrollment. Pray for, reach out to, care for, invite, and enroll new people. And then care for members. Pray. Meet needs. Build relationships. Plan to grow! Be revolutionary!
While The Growth Spiral, is out of print, you can still find used copies for sale online. The book is worth adding to your Sunday School library for all the practical ideas that run throughout the book!