Sunday School Checkup: Are You Growing?

Wednesday 23rd July, 2008

The fact is that healthy organisms tend to grow and reproduce. That is true of healthy Sunday School classes, small groups, Sunday Schools, and churches. Yes, I understand that there can be impediments to growth even for healthy organisms. Nutrients can be in short supply. The environment can be hostile. Disease and sickness can interfere.

And the same can happen for classes, groups, Sunday Schools, and churches. In fact, I wrote a series dealing with some of those issues: Is the Size of Your Sunday School POT Keeping You Small, Part 1 and Is the Size of Your Sunday School POT Keeping You Small, Part 2. Space can be a limiting factor: worship space, educational space, acreage, parking, and so on. The disease of self-focus can kill growth just as conflict can. The lack of leadership, vision, or planning can be like missing nutrients.

But as I sit here writing, I am puzzling over some statistics about Kentucky Baptist churches (which I also realize are similar among Southern Baptist churches). I am looking at a report of average Sunday School attendance over the last five years. Some of it offers hope while other pieces are depressing. Let me share this chart (1,801 churches who reported statistics for 2002 to 2007) and some comments about it:

Church Type

# of Churches

% of Churches

Growing (by 2% or more/yr)

514

28.5%

Plateaued (between +/-2%)

457

25.4%

Declining (by 2% or less/yr)

830

46.1%

Over the years, I have heard conference speakers repeatedly say that only 20% of churches are growing. But there is a higher percentage in Kentucky than that who have grown (annually by at least 2%) over the last five years. That is at least one piece of good news. And if you include those who have had even an increase of 1 person in average Sunday School attendance (even if that is less than 2% annually) over the last five years, that number climbs to 665 churches or 36.9%. By that measurement, only 63.1% are plateaued or declining.

One final way of looking at these statistics is that there are 971 churches which are growing or plateued or 53.9% of the total. That's more than half! But if you look at these statistics in the pessimistic point of view of many church statisticians, there are 1,287 churches which are plateaued or declining or 71.5% of the total. Let me share one additional negative slant. If there were 665 churches who increased by at least one person over the last five years, that means there were 1,136 churches who did not increase by even one person over the last five years. Ouch!

Where is your Sunday School? Are you growing, plateaued, or declining? What are some of the reasons for this? What can you do to grow more? Ask for God's help. Call on others to join you in praying for Sunday School. Assess current reality. Identify needs, dreams, and priorities. Set goals and make plans. Carry out the plans you believe God has led you to make. Grow. Be revolutionary!

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