Foundational Pillars of a Sunday School that Grows, Part 1

Sunday 10th October, 2010

Nearly four years ago, I wrote a blog post entitled Sunday School Growth Spiral. In that post, I shared elements from Andy Anderson's book, The Growth Spiral. Andy served for seventeen years as church growth consultant for the Baptist Sunday School Board (now called LifeWay Christian Resources). During that time, he put together a proven step-by-step system that has helped pastors and church leaders to evaluate, predict, and prepare for church growth through effective, balanced, intentional Sunday School work. In fact, he offered an Eagle Award to those who achieved healthy, significant growth.

As a refresher, I want to review the elements of Andy's Growth Spiral system one at a time. Here are the elements: spiral goals, enrollment, prospects, teaching units, workers, workers meeting attendance, training, space, contacts, outreachers, Sunday School attendance, worship attendance, offerings, and baptisms. In Part 1, I want to review spiral goals in my own words. While Andy's book is out of print, you can still find them for sale online. The book is worth adding to your Sunday School library for all the practical ideas that run throughout the book!

Just to set his work into context, Andy referred to enrollment and prospects as quantity goals. He referred to teaching units, workers, workers meeting attendance, and training as quality goals. He referred to space, contacts, and outreachers as outreach/ministry goals. And he referred to Sunday School attendance, worship attendance, offerings, and baptisms as projection goals.

Now, who in the world has ever heard of a spiral goal? Goals, yes. Spiral goal, no. But consider this. What if the inside rung of spiral had your current statistics for each of the goals, the next rung of the spiral had goals for the first quarter, the next rung had goals for the second quarter, the next rung had goals for the third quarter, and the outside rung had goals for the fourth quarter (a year from now).

On the inside of the spiral you wrote current reality--a quantitative report of how you are doing in each of the goal areas. Then next you wrote your God-sized goals for a year from now, including working toward healthy, balanced work on each of the goals--even making up for currently weak areas. An example of making up for a weak area, may be setting up a system to count contacts. Your current reality may be 0 contacts reported. And your goal for contacts is to equal your enrollment. So if enrollment is 100 and you are starting with 0, then you need to encourage, training, and develop a system for counting them in order to be balanced and healthy in your growth. Go HERE to view the Growth Spiral chart online. For a flattened version of the spiral in rows and columns, check out the Growth Plan Chart version.

Here is the point of a spiral goal: divide an annual goal into four parts, and it can be less intimidating. Divide all the goals for healthy Sunday School work into four parts, and you can grow steadily and recognize easily when you need to make adjustments to your plan. If you need more units, you can start more. If you need more training, you can provide more. Furthermore, if you divide quarterly goals into four age groups (adults, youth, children, and preschool), it can help you plan for healthy growth for every age group. I like what I said in my original post: "The goals could then be bite-sized rather than elephant-sized."

Prayerful goal-setting and pursuit usually produces positive results. Today, I see very few Sunday Schools set goals, and even fewer Sunday Schools establish a balanced set of goals. I want to encourage you to take up the growth spiral challenge. Pray. Evaluate. Set goals. Provide the support system for the goals to be effective. Watch what God does through you. Be revolutionary!

For more ideas about setting goals, check out these blog posts:

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