New groups are desperately needed. In Part 1 of this three-part series, I shared three major challenges I see with which Sunday School has the potential for addressing: maintenance focus, poor span of care, and leadership shortage. In Part 1, I addressed the first challenge, maintenance focus. In Part 2, I will focus on the challenge of poor span of care.
Over the years, many of our churches have stopped expecting teachers of adults to enlist anyone to assist them with their work. At one time, many teachers were being surrounded by caregivers in roles of secretary, outreach leader, care group leaders, and more. Sometimes those leaders included a prayer leader, a fellowship leaders, a substitute teacher, a class president, or other leaders. These leaders could care for more people.
You see, one shepherd can only care for so many sheep. In the same way, one Sunday School teacher can only care well for so many people. Over the years as people stepped down from these positions, for many reasons teachers did not replace these leaders. As a result, there were fewer people to care for people. As a result, attendance declined. Many churches failed to understand that there is a relational law at play here:
Attendance will tend to decline to the level of care provided.
As I studied Sunday School work as a Minister of Education and as a Sunday School missionary, I recognized a span of care issue. When I divided the Sunday School attendance of any church by 5, I could frequently calculate the number of teachers and Sunday School workers. If the number of workers was less than one-fifth, they were likely declining in attendance. If workers exceeded one -fifth, they were often increasing in attendance. Thus, I discovered another relational law:
Sunday School caregivers can only care well for about five people.
What does that mean for you? Bottom line, when a teacher attempts to do the work of the class ALONE, they can often only care well for about five weeks. That means that he or she will usually grow a class down to the level of his or her ability. In other words, a teacher caring ALONE for ten people will often see a decline in attendance.
But when a teacher surrounds himself/herself with an outreach leader and a member care leader, often the class of ten will begin to see an increase of attendance. That team’s span of care potential is 3 (caregivers) x 5 (span of care) =15 people. With the addition of these two workers holding up the arms of the teacher so he/she can win the care battle, the war can be won. These class leaders help the class focus on teaching/discipleship, outreach, and member care. They don’t do all the work alone. As a result, the relationships and care are richer and more meaningful.
In addition, when a new class is started with three leaders, this class has the potential for enlarging the span of care for the entire Sunday School. One class with 3 leaders can now care well for 15 additional people. Three classes each with 3 leaders has the potential care for 45 additional people.
Since we have been commanded to carry out the Great Commission to “make disciples of all nations,” we need more people helping us to care for more people. We just cannot do it with fewer people. How can we add more people to our caregiving? We need to do so in two ways:
- personal enlistment of caregivers (outreach leaders and member care leaders) in our adult and youth classes and
- starting new classes with a care team of three (teacher, outreach leader, and member care leader).
When we do so in BOTH ways, we build span of care strength in our current classes while expanding the reach and care of our Sunday School by adding new classes. This begins with prayer. The way you enlist and train these leaders will be the focus of Part 3 of this series which addresses the church leadership shortage.
Prayerfully evaluate your Sunday School. Where are more leaders needed? How can you help your teachers to take steps to add outreach and member care leaders? What do you need to do to start one more new class? Start now! Make disciples. Be revolutionary!