In Part 1, I mentioned that there are a number of issues that can be stumbling blocks which contribute toward plateaued or declining Sunday School attendance. In my work with three churches in three states, I discovered four stumbling blocks in common. It is possible that it is coincidental that they shared them, but I don’t think that is the case. In Part 1, I shared the first two stumbling blocks: poor records and no prospect files. In Part 2, I will share the final two stumbling blocks:
- NO GOALS. When Jesus gave us the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20), He did not tell us to “wait for them to come” and then make disciples of them. No, the verb at the beginning was Jesus’ expectation that we would be “going.” We are to pursue people with the love of Jesus. In the churches I mentioned in Part 1, they were more prepared to receive than they were to pursue–to go. Sunday School should be age graded in order to place the responsibility for each age group in the hands of one or more classes. Goals can often motivate us to do our best. And they can be affirming when we see progress toward our goals. There are many potential goals in order for a Sunday School to work toward growth. I have mentioned many in previous blog posts. Check out 5 Goals for Sunday School Growth This Year, Part 1, 5 Goals for Sunday School Growth This Year, Part 2, How LARGE Should We Make Our Sunday School Goals?, Set God-Sized Goals for Sunday School Growth, and What Is the Key to Unlock Sunday School Growth?. Four goals that each of the three churches needed to set were for Sunday School enrollment and attendance, ministry contacts, and new classes (see below). These goals help Sunday School to focus on people for whom Jesus died and to whom Jesus sent us to make disciples of them by baptizing them and teaching them to obey His commands. Goals must be a mindset and practice in order to overcoming this stumbling block!
- NO NEW CLASSES. In order to care for more sheep (people), more shepherds (teachers and workers) and more sheep pens (classes) are needed. When the body (church) stops producing new cells (disciples and classes), it stops growing and begins to die. But I can hear many say, “But our current classes have room for more people.” Okay, then why are they not already coming? New classes tend to grow faster and reach more new people than existing classes. In fact, I have often seen more existing classes receive overflow from new classes than I have without new classes. One key to starting new classes, is having a God-called leader ready. Every teacher in a revolutionary Sunday School realizes that a part of his/her responsibility is to train and release an apprentice teacher. Classes are started by a teacher who leaves his/her class in the care of a well-trained apprentice or by the well-trained apprentice. The teacher or apprentice start the new class with a seed group of 1-5 people from that class or other classes. Look at your community. Look in your church. Are there gaps in age groups in the Sunday School for which a new classes could reach people present in your community? Is there an affinity group that could be reached? A growing Sunday School must be on the constant lookout for new teachers, new groups, and new spaces in which to meet. For more ideas about starting new classes, check out Nine Actions for Starting New Sunday School Classes, Part 1, Nine Actions for Starting New Sunday School Classes, Part 2, Nine Actions for Starting New Sunday School Classes, Part 3, What to Name a New Adult Sunday School Class?, Is It Time to Start a New Sunday School Class?, Sunday School New Birth Stories, Biblical Images for Starting New Classes/Groups, and Launch New Sunday School Classes on Special Occasions Like Father’s Day. Again, this is both a mindset and a practice issue which must be addressed in order to overcome this stumbling block!
How are you doing in these two areas? Does one need some attention in order to remove it as a stumbling block? What can you do this month to address this issue? What is the first step? Who needs to be involved? Go back to the two issues in Part 1 (poor records and no prospect files). Which of these four stumbling blocks should be your priority for action? Evaluate your Sunday School growth. What are the challenges and barriers you face? Pray. Work to remove them. Grow. Be revolutionary!