Traits Of A Growing Sunday School
By Rodney L. Pry, P.S.S.S.A. Executive Director
As you look at the Sunday schools of Pennsylvania, you realize that there is, indeed, a great difference in the “health” of these schools. Unfortunately, the condition of the majority of the Sunday schools would fall somewhere between “fair” and “critical.” Most of them are holding their own or seeing only slight growth or decline.
But, there are also many outstanding Sunday schools in the state. These “good” to “excellent” condition schools have exciting, vibrant, growing programs that are making a real, positive impact on the church, their members and the community.
As you look at these growing schools, there are several things that you see that they all have in common. Here are a few of my observations.
They place high emphasis on spiritual commitment and growth. Most are a part of churches that are very evangelistic and place a great importance on outreach, witnessing and discipleship. Only when we have truly placed Jesus Christ in the number one place in our lives will we truly want to learn more about Him, His Word and His will for our lives.
The Bible is central to their teaching efforts. Realizing the value of the Bible as the Christian’s “handbook for life” is essential for both the teachers and the members of every Sunday school. Whatever the curriculum, each lesson must be based on the Bible and help each student apply a biblical teaching to their lives.
Young families are a key to their growth. In most Sunday schools young adults (age 21 to 35) make up less than 10% of those in attendance. Successful Sunday schools, however, have made the members of this age a top priority. They realize that these are the people that make up the young families of the community. They have the children who should be in Sunday school to learn about Jesus Christ, the Bible and the basics of morality and the Christian faith. To experience continued growth, a Sunday school must meet the needs of young adults and their families.
They place a great emphasis on children’s ministry. Statistics show that over 90% of all adult Christians came to Jesus Christ by the time they were 13 years of age. Successful Sunday schools realize that if the children of their community are not won to the Lord and brought into the church and Sunday school at an early age, the odds of successfully reaching them goes down rapidly as they get older. Biblical teaching and application is the foundation of making life decisions. Children should be regularly presented with the plan of salvation and invited to accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. Teachers, parents and others must be actively involved in identifying and recruiting children from the community to be a part of their Sunday school. And, the children themselves should also be taught how to witness to their friends about Jesus and the value of Sunday school.
They create new Sunday school classes. They know that it is hard to get new people into existing classes. Persons within these groups tend to become very close and supportive, but are often unconsciously resistant to including new members. Therefore, if it is going to grow, the Sunday school must create new classes.
They provide fellowship and service opportunities. One hour on Sunday morning is not enough for persons to really get to know one another. Therefore, successful schools provide a variety of opportunities for fellowship and service for classes, families and the entire congregation on a regular basis throughout the year. Getting to know persons who do not attend Sunday school is also a great opportunity to involve these persons in Sunday school and other church programs.