As state Sunday School Director, I have been in hundreds of churches over the last thirteen years. I have met hundreds of pastors, Sunday School directors, ministers of education, teachers, and others. When I preach or lead a conference after worship, I arrive in time to attend Sunday School. That means I have been in hundreds of adult Sunday School classes.
I have seen it all. Some classes are great. The welcome, the relationships, and the lesson are all excellent. Sometimes the welcome is missing. (Greeters would help a lot!) Sometimes the class arrives late and forgets to speak to guests, but you can tell they love each other. Sometimes the lesson is squeezed between waiting for members to arrive, fellowship time, announcements/prayer, and worship–making the lesson rushed and/or short.
When I talk to teachers, directors, and pastors, most of them tell me they want to grow. (Though some are honest and tell me they are happy with those already there.) When I ask about a prospect list, eyes tend to glaze over. Either they have never had one or it has been years. In my experience, far too few classes have active prospect lists anymore. They are MIA: missing in action!
The class without a prospect list does not really want to grow. Without a target for prayer, care, and reaching, there is no focus or direction. There is no ownership. At most there is a vague hope that someone might show up.
A prospect list is list of people in the assigned age group of the class who are not enrolled in Sunday School anywhere. These are friends, relatives, associates, and neighbors. Some are church members not enrolled in Sunday School. Some are family members of Sunday School members.
For a class to grow numerically, a class needs guests and new members. There are very few situations where guests show up constantly without any need for prayer, care, or invitation. This is where a prospect list comes in handy as a way to encourage and assign contacts to be made with the prospects. These contacts may be emails, cards, calls, or visits. They may include an invitation to a home or restaurant for a meal, a ball game, a class fellowship or project, or to class. But not all will be invitations. Some will be for relationship-building, care, and prayer.
Contacts with each prospect may be made by one or multiple class members. Sometimes the first contact will lead a prospect to say yes to an invitation. But for many, it will take many contacts and invitations. But without a prospect list, contact may never be made, care never expressed, and an invitation never extended. Since involvement in a Sunday School class is effective in leading many to faith in Jesus Christ (about 1 out of 2 or 3 over twelve months), that makes a prospect list all the more important.
When a prospect list has been MIA, start building it back slowly and intentionally. Ask for a list of church members not enrolled in Sunday School. The next month, ask class members and others to share the names of family members (of the age of the class) who are not enrolled in Sunday School. Then the next month, ask for a list of friends not enrolled, then neighbors. And don’t forget associates–those at work, school, play, in clubs, and along life’s paths (like servers, cashiers, etc).
Work on the list until the number of prospects exceeds the number of persons on the class roll. When prospects join your class, make a special effort to seek more names and begin the process of prayer, care, and invitation all over again. Build your list. Reach out. Grow. Be revolutionary!