On the Spectrum from Growth to Plateau to Decline, Where Is Your Sunday School?

Sunday 11th January, 2009

Some of the results from my recent survey have not surprised me, like the percentage of growing, plateaued, and declining Sunday Schools. By the way, I will continue to accept new responses to the Sunday School Practices survey through the end of the month of January. If you have not completed the survey, please press the link or cut and paste this web address into your browser: http://www.surveygizmo.com/s/77440/sunday-school-practices (now closed).

The survey has 37 multiple-choice questions and should take only 5-10 minutes to complete. All responses are anonymous. The survey focuses on the respondent's understanding of what is happening in Sunday School. At the end of the survey, you will be redirected back here. To see some of my very early observations from the survey, check out this post: Very Preliminary Results from the Sunday School Practices Survey (now closed).

Anyway, responses about Sunday School growth, plateau, and decline were a little different from numbers I presented in another blog post entitled Growing Versus Declining Sunday School Attendance from back in 2007, I reported the following distribution of growing, plateaued, and declining Sunday Schools in reporting Kentucky Baptist Convention churches over a five year period:

  • plateaued, 20.9%
  • declining, 49.4%
  • growing, 29.7%.
Persons responding to the Sunday School Practices survey (now closed) reported in the following percentages to this statement "I believe the total attendance of all classes in my Sunday School is..." in the survey:
  • about the same as last year, 36.6%
  • less than last year, 34.2%
  • more than last year, 29.2%.
Some quick, obvious differences between the two sets of statistics are that (1) survey responses were value judgments ("I believe") rather than based upon statistics; (2) survey responses are based upon one year rather than a five year period; and (3) while growing churches are similar in number, declining numbers were reported as almost 15% higher than the survey. It should be noted that the survey is open to all churches, and there have been responses from a number of Sunday School leaders in other denominations besides Southern Baptist.

What can leaders do to lead a declining or plateaued Sunday School to begin growing? What can leaders do to continue and even increase the rate of growth in a growing Sunday School? In many ways, this blog is about those very questions. My answers are going to be quick, general, and overly simplistic but true nonetheless:

  • begin to pray as never before for God's leadership to reach more people;
  • lead others to join you in praying and planning for growth;
  • evaluate, determine needs and priorities, set goals, and make plans to reach the goals;
  • raise expectations through communicating goals, testimonies, greeters, name tags, and more;
  • train new leaders/apprentices (as well as existing leaders) and set them loose;
  • start new classes;
  • organize classes for growth and ministry; and
  • address growth hurdles such as parking, classroom space, worship space, bathrooms, records, etc.

Where is your Sunday School on the spectrum from growth to plateau to decline? Jesus said in John 10:16, "I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen." Join Jesus in seeking people who are not involved in Sunday School. Commit to begin to move toward growth or even greater growth in the year that is ahead. Where do you need to start? Pray. Enlist others. Set goals. Multiply leaders and classes. Address hurdles. Plan to grow. Be revolutionary!

For more ideas about stumbling blocks to growth, check out these blog posts:

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