Andy Anderson Versus Wile E. Coyote

Friday 29th September, 2006

Are you still a child at heart? Do you watch cartoons? Have you ever seen Wile E. Coyote chasing the Road Runner? There are many lessons we can learn about church work from the Road Runner show.

If you've watched Wile E. Coyote, you realize that he is considered a super genius, but he has not wisdom. He builds all kinds of contraptions to help him capture the Road Runner, but they always fail or backfire. One of my favorite activities in which Wile participates is bridge building. In more than one episode, he builds a plank bridge off the side of a cliff to get to the other side. He nails one plank on the side of the cliff. Then he nails a plank to the end of that plank, and then another and another.

Even when he does not remove previous nails in order to have enough nails to keep the bridge-building going, his bridges always fall. The laws of physics catch up to him. Bridges without support cannot withstand weight. In the same way, I would not get on a roller coaster if the supports under the first hill had collapsed.

This observation is also true of Sunday School. Sunday School that is only trying to maintain or survive often collapses the structure. Classes are combined when teachers are absent or resign. Classrooms are filled with items no longer in use. There are no teacher covenants or expectations. No new teachers are trained. No new classes are started. People are removed from Sunday School rolls when they have not regularly attended. Contacts are made only when necessary and in declining numbers. In other words, Sunday School structure collapses sending attendance into decline.

I heard a true story of a church that had about 200 enrolled/100 attending Sunday School. The director looked at the records and noticed that 50 of those enrolled had not attended in the past six months. So he took them off the roll in order to increase the percentage present. But three months later, he was shocked when he noticed that he now was averaging 75 in attendance (half of the newly reduced enrollment). When we pray and care for fewer people, fewer attend. The law of enrollment tells us that when enrollment increases, attendance increases. When enrollment declines, attendance drops.

Well, what does Wile E. Coyote have to do with Andy Anderson? In 1993, Andy wrote a book called, The Growth Spiral, based upon his Sunday School research over a number of years as church growth consultant for LifeWay (then known as the Baptist Sunday School Board). In the book, Andy shares a step-by-step method for calculating and predicting growth potential in the church through addressing structural elements of the Sunday School.

In the Growth Spiral, goals are set for enrollment, prospects, units, workers, worker meeting attendance, training, space, contacts, and outreachers. As a result, you can predict Sunday School and worship attendance, offerings, and baptisms. I have used the Growth Spiral in a couple of churches and seen it work. Balanced preparation and structural work are needed for growth. Pull out the structure, and like Wile E. Coyote's plank bridges, Sunday School attendance will collapse.

Which best describes your Sunday School: Andy Anderson or Wile E. Coyote? Pray. Set goals. Put structure for growth in place. Be revolutionary.

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