When a year of Sunday School work is over, it is time to evaluate. How did the year go? What progress did you make? What goals did you reach or exceed? On which goals did you struggle? What did you accomplish? What are areas needing improvement?
Previously I have recommended setting aside time for a Sunday School planning retreat in an entry entitled Giving Sunday School Direction Through a Planning Retreat. A planning retreat can be helpful for the entire Sunday School; for one age group within the Sunday School (such as children or youth); or even for one class or department. Prior to or just after the new Sunday School year beginning, it is helpful to draw aside for prayer, fellowship, team-building, evaluation, goal-setting, and planning.
Evaluation is important! It is important to give God thanks for what He has accomplished. It is important to celebrate progress. It is important to recognize the need for adjustment and change. It is important to recognize needs and challenges.
Josh Hunt has written an excellent article entitled How to Do a Year-End Evaluation. In the article, he mentions six great evaluation questions you should consider every year. The questions in all capitals are his. They are followed by my commentary:
1. WHAT IS THE LONG-TERM GROWTH HISTORY OF THE [SUNDAY SCHOOL]? This question should also be asked annually in every age group (preschool, children, youth, and adult). Each adult class will also want to track their progress. What are the numerical changes? How has Sunday School enrollment and attendance changed in the past year? over the last 5 years? 10 years? How have total number of classes changed each year? How have contacts increased?
2. WHAT IS THE HISTORICAL GROWTH PERCENTAGE? If your enrollment increased from 100 to 120, you divide the increase (20) by the previous year's enrollment (100). That means your enrollment increased 20/100 = 20% this year. Josh's article points out an important trend to notice. How is your percentage of growth changing from one year to the next? If the percentage is declining (for instance from 20% to only 15%), you need to be asking questions about why it is happening. (You may be increasing in attendance every year numerically, but if your percentage is declining every year this is an indication that your growth is slowing despite the numerical increases.)
3. WHERE IS THE GROWTH COMING FROM? Wow, this is a good question that many Sunday School leaders fail to stop to consider! Are you growing in preschoolers or senior adults? Is one class growing while all others are declining? Are new classes growing while all others are plateaued? Evaluate your statistics. Are you growing by transfer (from other churches) or by conversion and baptism? Are you growing by the addition of guests or only children of members?
4. WHAT IS THE MAGNET FACTOR? How many guests are in Sunday School each year? each month? each week? Considering the percentage change here could also be interesting. How are numbers and percentages changing over the year? 5 years? 10 years? How do worship guest numbers compare to Sunday School guest numbers? Where are the most guests being recorded (which age group or classes)? What is attracting the guests? Josh suggests a goal of at least 3 guests for every 100 attenders in Sunday School, but he suggests only counting in-town guests.
5. WHAT IS THE VELCRO FACTOR? How many guests are joining? Divide the new Sunday School member total by the guest total for the year. How and why is this changing over the years? Josh suggests a goal of 33% of guests enrolled in Sunday School. He is correct when he says, "The strategies to create visitors are entirely different from the strategies to get them to stick around." Watching these numbers and percentages can be helpful in realizing the need to adjust your strategies. Looking at this in each age group can also be helpful.
6. WHICH CLASSES ARE GROWING AND WHICH ARE DECLINING? Obviously, I have reflected classes in my previous comments. But individually tracking each of these areas by class can be helpful for teachers, class leaders, Sunday School directors, and pastors. Are new classes needed in declining areas? What can be done to emphasize a declining area to help that class or age group turn around decline?
When will you schedule your Sunday School leadership planning event/retreat? Do it soon! Pray. Connect. Evaluate. Plan. Be revolutionary!