Using Sunday School Enrollment to Grow, Part 2

Tuesday 25th September, 2007

In yesterday's blog entry, I mentioned that there are several key variables that impact the ability of the Sunday School to grow: prayer, God's leadership; pastor and Sunday School leadership; goals; new units; space; unity; leader enlistment and development; assimilation; and outreach. In addition to these, I added the issue of enrollment.

After sharing some of my thoughts about the importance of enrollment, I shared information that is from a couple of my friends in Georgia. In a paper entitled 101 Tips for Sunday School Leaders, Steve Parr and Tim Smith of the Georgia Baptist Convention offer eleven tips about Sunday School enrollment. In my last blog entry, I shared the first six of their tips listed below without commentary. This time, I will share their final five tips which are in all capitals followed by my commentary:
1. AN INCORRECT DEFINITION AND APPLICATION OF ENROLLMENT (see 2 and 3) CAN BECOME A BARRIER TO SUNDAY SCHOOL GROWTH.
2. WRONG DEFINITION: ENROLLMENT IS A LIST OF PEOPLE THAT ATTEND THE CLASS.
3. WRONG APPLICATION: ATTEND THREE TIMES IN A ROW TO BE ENROLLED. IF A PERSON MISSES THREE TIMES THEY ARE DROPPED.
4. EFFECTIVE SUNDAY SCHOOLS PRACTICE OPEN ENROLLMENT: ANYONE CAN BE ENROLLED ANYWHERE AT ANY TIME AS LONG AS THEY AGREE.
5. RIGHT DEFINITION: ENROLLMENT IS A LIST OF PEOPLE THAT WE COMMIT TO MINISTER TO.
6. RIGHT APPLICATION: NO ONE IS REMOVED UNLESS THEY DIE, MOVE AWAY FROM THE AREA, JOIN ANOTHER CHURCH, OR REQUEST TO BE REMOVED. THEY ARE REMOVED WHEN THEY CAN NO LONGER BE MINISTERED TO.
7. ENROLLMENT SHOULD BE EQUAL TO OR GREATER THAN THE CHURCH'S RESIDENT MEMBERSHIP. The idea here is that every resident church member should be enrolled in Sunday School. With Thom Rainer's research that shows that only 13% of new church members will still be in the church in five years if they do not become active in Sunday School, this is important! If it is impossible to enroll all church members in the past who did not join Sunday School, make it your policy or practice for the future. In order to grow and be cared for, they need the benefits that Sunday School has to offer.
8. NEW MEMBERS OF THE CHURCH ARE AUTOMATICALLY ENROLLED WHEN THEY JOIN. Determine what you expect of new members. Expect them to join and participate actively in Sunday School. Expect them to complete a new member class. Expect them to discover their gifts and find a place of service. Expect them to tithe. More people are interested in being a part of something that matters. High expectations are more attractive than none or low ones. When a person joins your church, ask them what class they are already in or which one they would like to join.
9. SOMEONE MAY SAY, “OPEN ENROLLMENT WILL HURT OUR PERCENTAGES!” BUT THE REAL ISSUE IS PEOPLE NOT PERCENTAGES. Wow! This is so true. I have heard a focus on percentages so many times. And it has a strong negative impact on enrollment. Focus on percentages leads to four things: removal of irregular attenders, hesitancy to enroll new people until they have proven themselves, ceasing of ministry to those not enrolled, and decreasing attendance. But the bottom line is absentees and prospects whom God has entrusted to us who do not receive the ministry and care they need.
10. ANDY ANDERSON SAID, “YOU CANNOT SHRINK TO GREATNESS.” Andy was often a master of simple, powerful statements. How many of us would say to God, I want you to trust me to do less for you in the future? Yet many of us want to care for people by doing less and less. We sure don't want any more people to have to call or train or enlist to serve! No, more people means we ha v e the privilege of caring for more people, but we will also have more people that can share in the care. We have more people who can lead, visit, contact, minister, and serve.
11. ATTENDANCE SHOULD BE 40-60% OF ENROLLMENT. LESS THAN 40% INDICATES DEFICIENCY IN CARE, CONTACTS, MINISTRY, AND/OR ASSIMILATION. MORE THAN 60% INDICATES DEFICIENCY IN OUTREACH, EVANGELISM, VISITATION, AND/OR PROSPECT DISCOVERY. A whole blog entry could be written on this point alone. If your attendance drops below 40%, attention to members has been low. Provide a caring structure and process (like care groups) that raises the level of attention. When a person misses one week, contact them lovingly. When needs are identified, mobilize the class to respond. Each individual class needs to pay attention to this percentage and respond accordingly. If your attendance exceeds 60% of enrollment, there are likely problems with your enrollment policy/plan, visitor assimilation efforts, and outreach plan. The class and Sunday School as a whole may need to consider goals for contacts, guests, and new members.

What do you think about this list? How you could put into place an enrollment policy and procedure in your Sunday School. Who should you talk with first? What would be your first step? How would you communicate the information? What goals should you set to stretch your Sunday School to implement this enrollment practice change? Enroll new people this year! Be revolutionary!

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