Changing Sunday School Measurements, Part 1

Saturday 3rd May, 2008

There has been much discussion lately about the Southern Baptist Convention took, the Annual Church Profile. The ACP is a form that all Southern Baptist churches are asked to complete annually in the fall. It asks for contact information, leadership information, and statistical information. LifeWay Christian Resources has been charged with the responsibility of collecting this data from state conventions who collect the information from associations who collect the information from churches.

There has been interest in changing the ACP over the years, but it is difficult to do so for many reasons. First, if you change it, then statistics won't continue to compare to past statistics. Second, state conventions have been allowed to have a say in the data they are collecting meaning that it already varies somewhat from state to state. And there are more people involved in any effort to make the change. Third, there is a natural territorial concern about individual programs. WMU wants to know how they are doing. The music ministry wants to know the same. This makes it hard to leave current measurements out.

But the need for change is becoming greater than some of these concerns. The ACP needs to change for lots of reasons, but they can be boiled down to three. First, fewer churches are completing the ACP, and many believe that is due to its length. For a voluntary task to require so much time is a lot to expect. Second, the way churches are doing ministry has changed over the years. For instance, some churches offering small groups don't feel that it is appropriate to report them in the categories of Sunday School or other Bible study (two ACP categories).

Third, with the decline in so many SBC statistical categories, there is a need to change what is being measured. Why is that the case? I like an article written by Josh Hunt. The title explains the answer: Whatever Gets Measured Gets Done. It is essential that we keep score, but there are measurements that are essential to address long before being worried about the final score.

For instance, my youngest son plays high school baseball. In baseball there are many statistics collected: at bats, plate appearances, hits, strike outs, runs, runs batted in, batting average, slugging percentage, stolen bases, base on balls (walks), on base percentage, errors, etc. And the statistics are equally comprehensive for pitchers. Addressing each of these areas can prepare individual players to become a team that wins. Because these statistics are measured, attention can be given in areas to help players make changes that lead to improvement.

Likewise, changes in Sunday School measurements are needed. Andy Anderson developed a great system in his Growth Spiral back in the '80s and '90s. But most Sunday Schools have given up (long ago) counting areas suggested by Anderson, such as enrollment, contacts, workers, training, units, and more (for more information, check out Sunday School Growth Spiral). Most churches have simplified reports of progress merely to counting heads (attendance) in Sunday School and worship. And therein lies the problem. Because essential contributing efforts toward Sunday School success are not measured, they don't get done.

What are some of those essential contributing efforts that need to be measured? Though I have already left several hints, that question will be addressed in Part 2. In the meantime, consider wha t the necessary actions are that lead toward what you want accomplished throug h Sunday School. Work to make Sunday School great. Be revolutionary!

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