Rules of thumb are not laws, but they are standards which have proven reliable. There are several rules of thumb that apply to Sunday School. During this series, I will share these reliable standards one at a time. In Part 1, we will examine a rule of thumb from page 108 of the McIntosh and Arn book, What Every Pastor Should Know: 101 Indispensable Rules of Thumb for Leading Your Church.:
One of every five [Sunday School] classes should have been started within the last two years.
There are several reasons this is true. First, you cannot care for more people with fewer classes and fewer Sunday School teachers and workers. In order to use the tool of the Sunday School to help the church carry out the Great Commission, new classes are needed regularly in order to reach, teach, and care for new people.
Second, combining classes (without starting new ones) results in less care and lower attendance (see research McIntosh and Arn share on page 109). I have tracked this result in many churches during my ministry. Combining classes means we have fewer teachers and workers leading class members to do outreach and member ministry.
Third, newer classes tend to appeal more to newer people. Growth depends on more classes, spaces, and teachers and workers to care for more people. There are two sub rules of thumb:
- Newer classes tend to grow faster and reach newer people better.
- Adding new leaders to assist teachers in existing classes will often lead to class growth–but often at a reduced rate of growth than that of newer classes.
Allow me to illustrate this rule of thumb negatively and positively. NEGATIVE: What would happen to the human body when no new cells are created? Death. This is also true of the church body. POSITIVE: What would happen in 10 years to the Sunday School averaging 100 in attendance who adds a new class for every five every two years?
- Year 0: 10 classes, 200 enrolled/100 attending
- Year 2: 12 classes, 240 enrolled/120 attending
- Year 4: 14 classes, 280 enrolled/140 attending
- Year 6: 17 classes, 340 enrolled/170 attending
- Year 8: 20 classes, 400 enrolled/200 attending
- Year 10: 24 classes, 480 enrolled/240 attending
In only 8 years, the Sunday School has doubled. How did it happen? Classes doubled. Teachers and workers doubled leading to increased outreach and member care. New members were added (enrolled). More enrolled people were cared for and attended.
Want your Sunday School to help your church carry out the Great Commission to “make disciples of all nations?” Then start at least one new class for every five classes every two years. Keep reaching new people by launching new leaders and new classes. Reach out. Start new groups. Make disciples. Be revolutionary!