3 mistakes churches make in Sunday School

Mistakes can be costly. Think about the last time you were in charge of a repair job around the house, cut corners, and had to go back and fix your mistake – costly, right? Thank goodness that most mistakes are not fatal – they are just mistakes – but they come with a price tag. Churches make mistakes in Sunday School all the time. While not fatal in most cases, there is a cost: lower levels of attendance, discouraged group leaders, frustrated guests. Here in no particular order are three mistakes that churches would be wise to avoid in their Sunday School ministries:

  1. Lack of training – The role of the Minister of Education is in decline. I recently called almost 100 churches, and less than 5 had a full-time staff member with that title, or something similar. I mention this because it’s related to the issue of the lack of training taking place in churches. Few churches are investing time and resources in the ongoing training of workers, and we wonder why Sunday Schools are in decline! The chart to the right shows the results of a survey of over 2500 churches in Georgia. There is a strong correlation between growth in Sunday School and the regularity of teacher training. If I were in local church ministry today, I’d make sure to have quarterly training, at least. Churches that did in the survey grew over 13% during a four-year period.
  2. Lack of adequate budgeting – I recently took a look at a church’s budget for curriculum, and the amount in the approved budget was $0. Sunday Schools not only need budgets for curriculum, but they also need budgets for new equipment, training, fellowship, and more. The education ministry budget of most churches is woefully small. Churches would be better off eliminating other line items and transferring those dollars to a Sunday School line item.
  3. Lack of emphasis – What is important to the pastor becomes important to the church. If Sunday School isn’t talked about from the pulpit, people will wrongly assume it’s not that big a deal. Savvy pastors take every opportunity they can to promote Sunday School and encourage families to attend. A friend of mine, Dr. Tod Tanner, just recently became pastor of a church in the Nashville area. I visited the church and heard Tod tell his members and guests that they needed to commit to attending a Sunday School class – that the church was not going to be built around him, the pastor, but around the small-group Bible teaching ministry called Sunday School. I love that! If pastor Tod keeps up that messaging, his people will come to own it and Sunday School will once again become important to the church.


  1. Is that regional or nationwide? Living in the DFW metroplex, I don’t recall anyone in recent years having a Minister of Education (which I was YEARS ago) or anyone having “Sunday School” and using that name. The emphasis is on Sunday “worship” and small groups which many are social groups with little Discipleship.

    • It’s nationwide, unfortunately, Ken. Churches will pay a heavy price and are already doing so because no one has the reigns…or the expertise and specialization any more. And you are right…the emphasis has shifted to worship/preaching and not so much on disciple-making

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