When I am asked why people choose a class, I immediately think of some research reported by Elmer Towns in 154 Steps to Revitalize Your Sunday School and Keep Your Church Growing. While the book is more than twenty years old, the majority of the 154 steps are still relevant and needed by Sunday School today.
So what are the reasons people choose a Sunday School class? I will share Towns’ three responses in all capitals followed by my commentary:
- THEY ARE LOOKING FOR FRIENDS. Many researchers have shown that 80-85% of people who show up at our churches and Sunday Schools do so because they were invited. Make friends in the community. Invite them to class. Invite them to class fellowships and projects. Connect with them over meals. Do more than be friendly in class. Make friends. Set up greeters and care group leaders to encourage intentional relationship-development and care (see A Simple Two-Part System for Getting Sunday School Class Ministry Done, Part 3).
- THEY ARE LOOKING FOR HELP. Sunday School offers help through study of God’s Word and hope through a relationship with Jesus. This reason is mostly about the need of a person. It is important that lessons connect with real life needs and issues rather than serve as an academic exercise. Share with the class in one memorable sentence how next week’s lesson relates to life. Encourage the class to invite a guest for this important lesson.
- THEY ARE INTERESTED IN THE TOPIC, TEACHER PERSONALITY, OR PRIMARY TEACHING METHOD. Simply guessing, the first two reasons probably represent 90% of the reason why people choose a class. This reason (really three smaller ones) probably combine for 10% (2-4% each). Topic has less to do with need and more to do with interest. Hitting it off quickly with the teacher (due to personality) will happen with some and not with others (we are all different). Some prefer participatory teaching methods while others prefer a good lecture. So this reason for choosing a class is more about personal preferences than the first two.
Why do people choose to attend and join your class? If you have never considered the question, begin asking your guests and new members. It will be worth the effort. Use every opportunity you have to “make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19-20) through your Sunday School class. Be friends. Be helpful. Connect through topic, personality, and method. Be intentional. Make disciples. Be revolutionary!