It is common for a Sunday School to look different than its community. Frequently churches are composed of a higher percentage of females and a higher average age than is present in community demographics. The racial mix of the church may also differ from the community mix.
This is common for a couple of reasons. Frequently, the church family and Sunday School slowed down or stopped inviting new people. Then, aging took over. While the community was having children, the church family was graying. Sometimes young adults and family have moved away from the church. No new classes for young adults were planned.
A second reason for church and community demographics differing is the focus or target for their ministry and outreach efforts. Some churches pursue an age group that is in short supply in the community. For instance, a community may be filled with senior adults, but the church is targeting young adults. Or a community may be filled with one race while the church is composed and pursuing another.
What can Sunday School leaders do to begin to address this? Consider these four simple suggestions:
- PRAYER. Gather your Sunday School leaders. Pray about this situation. Pray for the community. Pray for God’s leadership. Pray for inroads of ministry and care for missing age groups. Pray for God’s compassion to go beyond your habits and comfort in caring for people and their eternal destiny.
- AWARENESS. Look around the church. How are you doing? What is the average age and distribution in your Sunday School? Does your Sunday School look like the community? Are gaps present? Share what you find with Sunday School leaders, members, and the church as a whole. Call them to prayer.
- STUDY. Look around the community. Who is there? What is their age? What is the racial composition? Are there large groups not represented in the church? Want a free demographics report of your community? You can request it from the Center for Missional Research of the North American Mission Board in a section entitled Demographics Reports. Or contact your state convention office. Share results with everyone.
- ACTION. Do something. Lead Sunday School leaders, members, and classes individually to target and care for missing age groups. Plan events, studies, and ministry which focus on the group. Go where they are–some may not initially come to the church building! Be real. Be helpful.
You don’t have to ask if God wants you to care for your community. Our Lord has already commanded it in His Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20). So begin praying. Look around the church. Study your community. Then do something. Reach your community. Be revolutionary!