What a great question! For me it assumes several things. It assumes you desire to be obedient to our Lord's Great Commision (Matthew 28:19-20). It assumes you (plural, I hope) want to grow. I will assume you have spent time in prayer and want to honor God by the goals you set. (If you have not prayed at length, don't set goals until you do so!) It assumes by saying "we" and "our" that you realize that the goals belong to more than just you (singular). "Large" gives a sense of expectancy and stretching. "Goals" helps me assume you realize that one goal (such as attendance) alone cannot be accomplished without goals and work in support areas.
But for the purpose of thinking about this question, let's focus on one goal (and some supporting goals and work). Let's focus on attendance. So how large should we make our Sunday School attendance goal for the coming year? Having made the above mentioned assumptions including that the group has spent time in prayer, share what God has laid upon your hearts. In my experience, when a group has honestly prayed about the same thing, answers to questions like this will quickly become apparent. If there is no quick answer, it may be that the group needs to pray some more.
One way I have seen this done, is asking classes to pray for a period of time before setting a goal. A good reminder for classes/individuals when they are praying is to pray for a God-sized goal which if accomplished will be obvious that God has been at work and not man. Then, the teacher asks the youth and adult attenders to share goals until consensus is reached. (Consensus is not a vote, it is agreement by everyone that they will help the class pursue the goal.) Preschool and children's teachers/workers set goals for their classes. Then, the Sunday School director or secretary collects all the goals and adds them together (by age groups in larger churches).
Allow me to ask some additional questions as you consider the size of your goals:
- Have you asked some prayer warriors in the church to pray with you (separate from the planning team)?
- What opportunities for "ownership" of the goals have you given Sunday School members and leaders?
- If your goal is for average attendance for the year, do you realize that a 10% increase means you may have to have 20% increase at the end of the year to average out a slow, steady beginning?
- When you are calculating an increase in attendance or enrollment, did you remember to figure in what it will take to realize a net increase (above normal drops and transfers)? In many churches, increases are challenging because of the high number of losses due to death, job transfer, or church changes.
- If a goal seems impossibly large, have you broken it down by age group? by class? by quarter? Example: If a church set a goal to increase attendance by 20 people per week by the end of the year, they should work for a goal of enrolling a net of 40 more people by the end of the year. That could be 8 for preschool, 8 for children, 8 for youth, and 16 for adults. Then even that goal could be 4 per quarter for adults. When you look at goals like that, they can be God-sized but not as overwhelming.
- What other goals are needed in order to support an attendance goal, such as enrollment, contacts, new classes, new teachers, new rooms, training, planning meetings, etc.?
What other questions would you suggest to a pastor, Sunday School director, or teacher in setting large Sunday School goals? We serve a serve a big God! Seek His leadership. Trust Him to help you. Step out in faith. Work hard for Him. Give Him your best efforts! Set big goals. For suggestions, check out 5 Goals for Sunday School Growth This Year. Be revolutionary!