Each year millions of people turn to their primary care physicians with a complaint about a pain. They look to their doctor to provide a sound diagnosis. An examination is performed, a diagnosis is reached, and treatment is begun.
Are there ways to diagnose whether or not you have a healthy Sunday School? I believe the answer is yes. Here are some diagnostic questions that will give you an indication as to whether or not your church’s Sunday School is in good shape:
- Is there a lack of growth? Healthy things grow – that’s a fact of life. A healthy Sunday School will grow and reach new people. Look at your average attendance for the past 5 years and see if there is a trend. There’s no such thing as a Sunday School that has reached a plateau. Sunday School is either growing or declining; it’s thriving or it’s dying – those are the only two options.
- Is there a lack of guests? Sunday School is supposed to be an open group ministry of the church. New people should to be able to easily determine the right group to attend. How many visitors does your Sunday School have each week? Chart that out, too, just like you would the overall growth of the Sunday School. If you starve something, it will eventually die. Sunday Schools are starved when groups are not fed a steady stream of prospective members. Groups need one prospect for every group member in attendance. A group of 15 people needs a pool of 15 prospects it is regularly reaching out to in an effort to draw them into the life of the group.
- Is there a lack of funds? Important ministries of the church receive funding. It doesn’t take long to determine what ministries of the church are important – simply follow the money trail. My guess is your church spends money on the student ministry, kids’ ministry, senior adult ministry, and the worship ministry to a greater degree than the Sunday School ministry. I hope I’m wrong about that, but experience shows that too many churches don’t adequately fund their Sunday School ministry, so it lacks training dollars, money for new classroom equipment, and perhaps it doesn’t even have enough money to adequately furnish group leaders and members with the curriculum they need. People spend money on what’s important. Just look at your church’s budget for Sunday School and compare that to other ministries it supports. I sure hope I’m wrong on this one.
- Is there a lack of evangelism.? Unhealthy Sunday Schools turn inward and focus on educating the members. Healthy Sunday Schools keep their attention turned outward and continue to reach people who are far from God. Is your Sunday School keeping the baptismal waters stirred? In all age groups? Is there an emphasis on using each Bible study session to tie it to the gospel, or has the Sunday School settled for having “history lessons” taught in its groups? The focus of groups will be either outward or inward.
- Is there a lack of new groups? New groups are an indication of the health of your church’s Sunday School. It is an accepted fact that established groups who have been together for longer than 24 months have most likely reached their maximum size. Plus, those groups make it hard for new people to connect because of deeply entrenched relationships among the group members. If your church isn’t starting new groups, it won’t stay healthy for very long. A lack of new groups is a good indicator that your Sunday School is not healthy.
Based on these 5 diagnostic questions, how would you say your Sunday School is doing? Is it healthy or not? If you have a concern, why not speak to your pastor – there’s no doubt he wants your church to have a healthy groups ministry and would be open to new ways to increase its health and vibrancy.