10 Common Factors in Fast-growing Sunday School Churches

The information I’m about to share can change your church and your Bible teaching ministry. If you read this post, you’ll be informed and accountable, so proceed with caution!

The ten common factors in fast-growing Sunday School churches are derived from a survey of churches in the state of Georgia. The research was conducted by the Georgia Baptist Convention and published in the book Key Strategies for Healthy Sunday Schools. 

Without any further delay (and without any elaboration on my part as to the details of each of these 10 factors), here are the top 10 factors in fast-growing Sunday Schools. How does your church stack up? Could the absence of one or more of these be the reason why your Sunday School is stagnated?

The church I presently attend is only doing 5 of these ten factors, which accounts for the stagnation we’ve experienced. A church that I’m currently working with, however, is now doing 8 of the 10 factors, and is realizing growth year-over-year.

#1: 98% of these churches provide ongoing training for their Sunday School leaders.

#2: 96% of  these churches believe that the pastor’s support of the Sunday School is important or very important to the health of their church.

#3: 96% of these churches are overcoming space limitations.

#4: 91% of these churches practice “open enrollment.”

#5: 85% of these churches are using an evangelistic training process or method.

#6: 83% of these churches are creating new Bible study classes.

#7: 80% of these churches have a weekly visitation ministry.

#8: 78% of these churches have a prospect list.

#9: 78% of these churches have high standards for their leaders.

#10: 78% of these churches intentionally organize the Sunday School for growth.


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Spiritual leaders guard their speech

Mondays on the blog are about sharing an insight from a book on Sunday School, small groups, or general leadership. Today I have chosen to share a paragraph from the book Spiritual Leadership by Henry and Richard Blackaby. In this excerpt, the authors caution those of us who lead to be careful about the way we use (or accidentally misuse) our speech. It’s a great warning about the influence we have with our words:

Leaders should realize that even when they say things casually, their people may take them seriously. Such was the case with David. David was camped outside Bethlehem with his men while a Philistine garrison occupied Bethlehem. In an unguarded moment, David remarked wistfully, “If only someone would bring me water to drink from the well at the city gate of Bethlehem!” (2 Sam. 23:15). Immediately, three of his loyal men set out for the well. David’s friends fought their way through a contingent of Philistine soldiers until they reached the coveted water. When they returned with their prize, David was appalled at what he had done. By his selfish wish, three of his most loyal soldiers endangered their lives for something unnecessary. In that instance David was careless with his influence.

Those of us who lead groups have a stewardship of influence. Part of our influence comes through the way we use our words. Let’s agree to be extra careful and measure the words we say, especially when we say them in front of those we lead. David didn’t mean to endanger his men, but a few careless words almost proved disastrous.

In a day and age in which people casually place words in social media for the world to see, let’s be known as people who lead spiritually and carefully weigh the words we choose to use. As we craft responses to send by email, or as we engage in conversation, may the words of our mouths be pleasing to the Lord.


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10 Ways to Get People Involved in your Bible Study Group

Assimilation. Involvement. Connection. That’s the name of the game when it comes to group ministry. disciplemaking-isDr. Thom Rainer has discovered that unless people get connected, make friends, and find something meaningful to do, they’ll drop out by the end of their first year at a rate of about 80%. Eighty percent!

I recently read the book Disciplemaking Is… by Earley and Dempsey. The authors recommend 10 ways to help people get involved in a Bible study group, and as a group leader myself, I like their thinking. Because Mondays on the blog are about passing along a book excerpt, here in their own words are Early and Dempsey:

The Christian leader must be committed…to spending time with other brothers and sisters and sharing life together. Further, the Christian leader also seeks to involve as many people as possible in the functions of the group. We seek to share the load and the responsibilities (see Exodus 18) of leading God’s people. Here are some different ways to involve people in the life of the group:

  1. Leading the icebreaker portion of the group.
  2. Leading the group’s prayer time.
  3. Recording and keeping track of the group’s prayer requests and sending email updates.
  4. Sending cards and letters to absentees.
  5. Planning the group’s refreshment schedule.
  6. Planning the group’s fun activities.
  7. Planning the group’s outreach efforts and activities.
  8. Hosting the group.
  9. Leading the group discussion.
  10. Praying about starting a new group in the future.

One of the greatest benefits of this type of involvement in the group is that as they serve, people will begin to discover their spiritual gift(s) in a natural way. In addition, as we share out lives together, we also become aware that God has brought us together, not just to have fun and fellowship, but to labor in the harvest fields.

As you look at this list, what possibilities do you see to involve people in the life of your Bible study group? Let go of some of the tasks you’re doing yourself, get others involved, and watch God transform your group.

The Power of a Pause

One of my favorite Christian education books, Created to Learn, was written by Dr. Rick Yount. It contains over 600 pages created-to-learnof information for Christian educators, teachers, and leaders on Christian education psychology. Many schools use it as a textbook in Christian education courses.

Chapter 13 is titled “Provoking The Desire to Learn,” and in it Dr. Yount writes about the importance of the pause – the time a teacher slows things down after a learner provides an answer. Dr. Yount says the following:

Having generally structured the class time and specifically solicited responses from students, teachers now react to student responses. How teachers react influences the climate of the classroom….As mentioned above, Q&A sessions can take on an oppressive feeling if the pace of questions is too fast. By pausing briefly after students respond, teachers slow down the session pace. Such pauses encourage others to consider the question and respond. Gage and Beliner call this after-response pause “Wait Time II.” Achievement increases as teachers slow down.

In a game of baseball, the pitcher controls the pace of the game. He can throw pitches rapidly, or he can spend time going through rituals that slow down the pace of the game. As teachers, we can learn to control the pace in our Bible study groups by pausing, making eye contact with group members, nodding, or asking another clarifying question of the person who responded to our question in the first place. The pace is ours to set, and pausing is effective because it helps others consider the question and respond.


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Does Sunday School have a future?

Today’s blog post comes from a friend’s book, Missionary Sunday School. It’s one of my favorite booksmss-cover in a series of books he’s written. Why is it one of my faves? It gets to the heart of what Sunday School is about. It takes a look at where and how Sunday School originated. And it continues to challenge me as a group leader today. In this excerpt, LifeWay’s Director of Sunday School, David Francis, asks the question, “Does Sunday School have a future?”  Straight from his book, here is what David says about that:

Does Sunday School have a future? Once in a while, you hear people say that Sunday School had its turn and it’s time to move on to something new and innovative. I’m not against new and innovative. I think we should use the tools God gives us to reach the world for Christ…What disturbs me are the words better or more effective are usually left out of that discussion. When Sunday School is done right, with excellence and with a missionary purpose, it continues to be a proven and effective way of reaching the lost in our communities, involving them in service, and mobilizing the local church for ministry…I see it time and time again: Sunday School works and works well….if the leaders are willing to do the work. It is not easy , but nothing worth doing ever is.

Sunday School’s future is brighter in some churches than in others. There is a growing number of churches that have rediscovered the importance of training Sunday School leaders, and are making significant changes in their budgets and calendars to make Sunday School a top priority again.

My conviction is very much like David’s – Sunday School works IF you work Sunday School!

To get your free digital copy of the book Missionary Sunday School, just click here and download it at your convenience!

Book Excerpt: Transformational Groups

Today’s blog post is an excerpt from a book written by my boss, Dr. Eric Geiger. Transformational Groups He and Dr. Ed Stetzer co-authored Transformational Groups, which helps us to gain insights into the dynamics that cause groups to grow as they seek to become healthy places for people to study and connect. In this excerpt, Eric and Ed help us understand the need for people to connect relationally by using an airplane illustration, one with which we can all identify. They say:

When we fly on an airplane, we are associated with the people surrounding us. We are on the same flight scheduled to land at the same airport. We experience the same bumps, the same views, and the same food. We arrive at the same gate, at the same time, peruse the same magazine in the seat pocket in front of us, listen to the same announcements, and are greeted by the same flight attendants. But despite having the same experience and being next to one another, we are typically not in community with those around us. We associate, but we don’t participate…We fear many churches are like an airplane. Everyone is headed to the same place and filled with people who associate but who don’t participate…The staff may experience community with one another and may be, therefore, oblivious to the lack of community among attenders. If you are a church leader, don’t settle for mere association. Preach and plan for participation. Don’t be content to lead an airplane-ride church. A church like this has a lot of passengers, but few are transformed. This requires community.

In my experience the groups in which people can connect and form community are smaller, newer, and discussion-centered. How are your groups doing in connecting people in a community of believers who help them experience spiritual transformation? Would you say your groups ministry is one of association or participation?


Best Rooms for Kids

Today’s blog post is an excerpt from my friend David Francis’ latest book, One Hundred. He and co-One Hundredauthor Michael Kelley wrote the book with the smaller church in mind. Smaller churches are important in kingdom work. Smaller churches are more prevalent than mega-churches. Smaller churches may be making disciples in ways that larger churches are not.

In the book One Hundred, David Francis addresses the topic of education space for kids. What he says is true – they need the best space the church has to offer. Here are his thoughts about providing great space for kids:

I seldom talk with a church leader who is satisfied with the number of young families his or her church is reaching. Here is a simple axiom: If you want to reach families with kids, you’ve got to devote the best rooms to kids. Bright rooms. Clean rooms. Well equipped rooms. With well equipped leaders. Nothing makes a more positive first impression with a parent than workers who have arrived early, set the room up with appropriate activities that invite kids to learn, turned on a music CD, and then kneel to greet a new child on his or her eye level and express how glad they are to see them. These are simple acts that make a world of difference to newcomers. Do you have great expectations that new families – with kids – will come to your church every week? Then get ready for them!

Here are a few other ways to make sure that your kids rooms are the best they can be:

  1. Place young adult rooms in proximity to the younger children’s rooms. Parents will be more relaxed when the place they meet for Bible study is close to the place their kids are located.
  2. Regularly evaluate the toys and equipment in your kids rooms. Toys need to be tossed out periodically and replaced with new ones.  Also, make certain that equipment is appropriate in size for the age group using each room.
  3. Don’t forget how rooms smell! Clean, bright, well-equipped rooms are great, but if unwanted smells have crept into the carpet or other areas, it’s time to give the room a floor-to-ceiling cleaning.