My friend, Josh Hunt, has recently become the pastor of a small church in New Mexico. The Sunday he and Missy joined, they had a 10% increase in Sunday School attendance from 19 to 21. Josh is a big believer in Sunday School. He is a great conference leader and has several great Sunday School books and resources including You Can Double Your Class in Two Years or Less. I look forward to seeing what God is going to do through him at his church and in his conferences!
In Josh's e-mail newsletter that he sent out today, he shared thoughts he had about starting his ministry at Salem Baptist Church. His thoughts are shared as steps. As I read them, I believe they can also be helpful for Sunday School ministry. Consider Josh's thoughts as applied to Sunday School. His steps are in all capitals followed by my commentary:
- STEP ONE: PRAY EVERY DAY SEEKING GOD'S LEADERSHIP AND GUIDANCE IN LEADING [SUNDAY SCHOOL]. I like what Josh said here: "It is not ultimately about my plan for Salem Baptist; it is about God's plan." So true! Let's not forget that about Sunday School. Seek Him. Seek His leadership. Avoid heading off in your own direction. Notice the words, "every day." Spend time with Him in prayer and Bible study every day. Expect Him to lead and follow where He goes!
- STEP TWO: LOVE THE PEOPLE. He loves them and so should we. Seek to share His compassion. Have love; do love. Show them. Lead them to show others. Get to know your leaders and members. Build relationships. Meet needs. Build trust. Spend time together. Brag on them. Affirm them. Encourage them. Love them!
- STEP THREE: DEVELOP A LIST OF PROSPECTS. Josh recently asked me if there was a better word for "prospects." I listed several alternatives, but not are satisfactory. Prospects are simply "prospective members." I recently wrote a blog post in which I encouraged classes to enroll a couple of prospects, love on them, and then invite them. We need to ratchet up our focus on prospects. Gather your classes and let them develop their list of people they are going to pray for, fellowship with, love on, and invite. Who are worship attenders not enrolled in Sunday School? Who are family members of Sunday School members who are not enrolled? Who are friends, neighbors, and others who are not enrolled. Too many of our classes have no list and are not growing as a result. Reach out and love them to Him!
- STEP FOUR: HAVE PARTIES AND EVENTS. Use the tools of fellowships, parties, and projects to develop and strengthen relationships. Help them to discover affinities with each other as members and prospects. Invite guests to your homes, class fellowships, class projects, worship, and Sunday School. Some will come to an activity away from church before they will come to church or Sunday School. Use fun to love them to Jesus!
- STEP FIVE: START NEW GROUPS. New groups grow faster. They reach more people. They train and release new leaders. They tend to be more evangelistic. New groups can help us to care for more of the sheep God claims (John 10:16). In other words, more classes can care for more people than less classes (and teachers) can. Provide enough space at or away from church. Avoid limiting the place or time that groups can meet. Pursue target groups with His love!
- STEP SIX: IMPROVE ALL WE DO. Have high expectations. Give your best to God. Start small. Do it right. Constantly evaluate. List en. Take time for a Sunday School retreat to evaluate, prioritize, set goals, make plans, and adjust. Gather together regularly for planning check-ups. Involve your leadership in the process to create ownership. Make assignments. Improve!
- STEP SEVEN: LEARN AS WE GO. When we stop learning, we stop growing and stop teaching and leading. Read. Think. Listen to others. Ask questions. Don't be afraid to try new things and stop to assess successes and failures. Even in failures we can learn. Challenge your Sunday School to read books or articles. Gather together for a time of training. Take some leaders to observe another Sunday School. Debrief what they learned. Most of all, listen to the still, small voice!
For more ideas about growing Sunday School, check out these blog posts:
- Five Dimensions of a Healthy Sunday School Class
- Steps for the Pastor’s Leadership of the Sunday School
- Sunday School Health Checkup, Part 1 and Sunday School Health Checkup, Part 2
- Sunday School Class TEAMS
- Growing Your Sunday School by Increasing Your Budget
- Balancing the Sunday School Aquarium, Part 1 and Balancing the Sunday School Aquarium, Part 2
- On the Spectrum from Growth to Plateau to Decline, Where Is Your Sunday School?
- Measures of Balanced Sunday School Progress
- Overcoming Sunday School Problems, Part 3
- Sunday School Growth Spiral
- Four Stumbling Blocks for Sunday School Growth, Part 2