Initial Reflections on Sunday School Survey Results, Part 1

Thursday 27th January, 2011

I recently mailed 1,440 surveys to Kentucky Baptist churches. Along with those I mailed, I emailed the survey to several friends and contacts in other states. From these efforts, I received 357 completed surveys. The Kentucky surveys were mailed to churches whose Sunday School attendance had increased or decreased by more than 10% from the statistical years of 2003 to 2008. I did not mail to those in the middle (which would be considered plateaued). Here is a table of responses:

Surveys Received 122 197 38

GROWING, DECLINING, AND NONKENTUCKY. My goal was to discover what I could about the differences between growing and declining Sunday Schools. I also asked a question about attendance change (Question 49) for a couple of reasons. First, I realized that much can happen in two years (end of statistics chosen) that can change whether Sunday School is growing or declining: a new pastor, goals, conflict, new classes, and more. Second, I wanted to include some nonKentucky churches in the survey for whom I would have no statistical data. Here is a table of Question 49 responses/percentages (My average Sunday School attendance is...):

Question 49
Less than last year 17/13.9% 40/20.3% 8/21.1%
Same as last year 43/35.2% 72/36.5% 10/26.3%
Little more than last year 46/37.7% 65/33.0% 17/44.7%
Lot more than last year 12/9.8% 7/3.6% 3/7.9%

Of those who grew from 2003 to 2008, nearly half reported that they grew a little more than last year or a lot more than last year. But I was pleasantly surprised that more than one third of Sunday Schools who declined from 2003 to 2008 reported that they grew a little more than last year or a lot more than last year. Interestingly, the nonKentucky churches had a higher percentage of growing Sunday School responses: 52.6%. One final comment about this table: when data from the growing and declining categories based on statistics from 2003 to 2008 were inconclusive, I looked at Question 49 responses for more information. When reporting these numbers, the table will show header categories of Less, Same, and More (combining little more and lot more).

SURVEY RESULTS. Later, I will categorize survey questions to report results. For now, I will simply share notable differences which were reported in sequential order (questions were intentionally randomized in generating the survey). To simplify reporting, I will share percentages. One overall comment: the difference between a growing and a declining Sunday School has to do with more than one factor. It should be noted that many columns of percentages will not total 100% due to blank responses. Before each table, I will share the survey statement along with a terse comment.

Question 3 Statement: My Sunday School works hard to apprentice and train new teachers and workers so new classes can be started. Comment: Growing Sunday Schools are slightly more likely (61.5% versus 52.8%) to indicate agreement with the statement. Even declining Sunday Schools need to start classes at times.

Question 3 Growing Declining NonKY
Not true 38.5% 45.2% 28.9%
Somewhat true 50.8% 44.7% 60.1%
Definitely true 10.7% 8.1% 10.5%

Question 5 Statement: My Sunday School has challenged classes to invite more people through a high attendance emphasis. Comment: Growing Sunday Schools are more likely (72.0% to 58.5%) to have had a recent high attendance emphasis.

Question 5 Less Same More
Can't remember last time 9.2% 18.4% 15.3%
More than 5 years ago 9.2% 2.4% 4.0%
2-4 years ago 23.1% 28.0% 8.7%
In last year 58.5% 51.2% 72.0%

Question 6 Statement: We prepare a budget to provide strategic support for our Sunday School plans, and... Comment: Declining Sunday Schools are more likely to budget less than is needed.

Question 6 Growing Declining NonKY
Much too little was budgeted 8.2% 7.1% 18.4%
A little less than needed was budgeted 3.3% 11.2% 15.8%
The right amount was budgeted 77.0% 65.5% 63.2%
Too much was budgeted 2.5% 4.1% 0.0%

In Part 2 of this series, I will share survey results about (1) annual goal-setting, evaluation, and planning; (2) organizing for care; (3) prospect list; (4) fellowship activities; and (5) setting goals. In the meantime, reflect on these results. What can you learn from the data to lead your Sunday School to be in a growth posture? Pray. Evaluate. Identify needs and priorities. Set goals and make plans to grow. Be revolutionary!

For more ideas about teacher/worker training, high attendance, and budgeting, check out these blog posts:

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