A Story of Success in Sunday School

Vince Lombardi is famous for saying, “Gentlemen, this is a football.” He loved to use that phrase each year at the opening day of football practice. He also went on to say that football is nothing more than blocking and tackling. He was a strong advocate in sticking to the basics to win games. It worked out pretty good for him. He has a Superbowl trophy named after him.

In my experience, sticking to the basics and doing good fundamentals in Sunday School (insert the name of your church’s Bible teaching ministry here!) still works. As I and others have said many times before: “Sunday School works, IF you work Sunday School.”

The Story of Fair Haven Baptist Church

Fair Haven Baptist
Fair Haven Baptist Church

In February 2017, Dr. Tod Tanner arrived to pastor this church in Shelbyville, TN. At that time, Sunday School attendance was in the low 200s. The church had been without a pastor for a few years. There was a lot of work to be done.

Dr. Tanner invited me to come to the church and do several training events in 2017. In January of 2018, I began serving on staff in a part-time role. My primary focus? Grow the Sunday School as I had at several previous churches where I’d served as Education Minister.

Before I go on to tell you about Fair Haven, let me first assure you that I realize the growth taking place is not all because of me! I’m not that arrogant. I am reminded that the Scripture says, “The horse is prepared for the day of battle, but the victory belongs to the Lord” (Proverbs 21:31). This means that there is a combination of human effort and divine effort. We are in partnership with God, seeking to join Him in His work and the things He is already doing all around us.

Fair Haven’s “Blocking and Tackling”

Tod Tanner
Dr. Tod Tanner

Dr. Tanner and I are leading the church to use Flake’s Formula to grow the Sunday School. If you are not familiar with Arthur Flake and his famous formula for growing Sunday School, click here to read a blog post I wrote about it in the past. It’s a simple 5-step process for growing a Sunday School. I’ve used it several times and had success every time.

Here are some of the things that we are doing/have done that fall into the category of “blocking and tackling”:

  • We conducted an extensive demographic survey of the town. Once we understood who the people are, and those who are moving here, we knew what our possibilities are for growth.
  • We conducted an extensive space survey to determine how to best utilize the education space available to us. This included measuring every room, determining the average attendance of each class, comparing that to 80% of capacity, and identifying groups that needed to divide in order to be healthier (some groups were just too large).
  • We relocated classes to maximize the use of the classrooms.
  • We began quarterly training for all teachers (we have our second event of 2018 this coming Sunday!).
  • The staff has been trained in how to properly enlist leaders.
  • The staff is reading books on Sunday School ministry.
  • We’ve started several new groups.
  • A new Sunday School Council has been formed to provide guidance and leadership to the Sunday School.
  • A new members’ class has been created (50 people have attended it since beginning this in February 2018). During the class, people are strongly encouraged to join a Sunday School class.
  • The church has located a company that can provide modular buildings to expand the adult Sunday School and allow the kids Sunday School to take over all the education space inside the main building.
  • Pastor Tod talks about Sunday School from the pulpit and encourages people to be in a Bible study group.

What’s Happening Now?

  • The Sunday School has experienced 5 days of attendance in excess of 250 people (all since March 18).
  • The Sunday School, once running in the low 200s, had a high attendance day of 279 recently. We expect to break the 300 barrier in Fall 2018.
  • 90% of the teachers are attending quarterly training.
  • We are considering the rental of modular buildings to expand the Sunday School. A church-wide family meeting is scheduled on June 13 for us to come together and decide what is best for the church.
  • We have a plan to grow the Sunday School to over 400 people within the next 18-24 months, if that long, by enlisting 300 new members in Bible study groups.

Be Encouraged!

Why share the story of Fair Haven? Because I want you to be encouraged that Sunday School works IF you work Sunday School! Don’t be discouraged if your teaching ministry hasn’t grown the way you want it to – it can. And we are not doing anything radical – just good old “blocking and tackling.” We ares sticking to the basics, and we are enjoying God’s favor as we watch Him continue to send us new people to disciple.

Share this post with your pastor and/or staff leaders. I believe the best days for Sunday School are ahead of us.


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  1. Rather encouraging if I say so myself. It is great to be a part of a church that is growing and pushing back darkness. I still can’t believe that He is allowing us to serve Him together again.


    Tod Tanner, Ed.D. Pastor Fair Haven Baptist Church

    (931) 680-9803 2726 Highway 231 N Shelbyville TN 37160


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