The average attendances in Sunday School (SS) and Worship have, in the last few years, reached an artificial ceiling with SS ranging in the mid to upper 300’s and worship ranging in the mid to upper 500’s. The ratio of SS attenders to worship attenders has consistently been around 65%.
The most current noticeable and impactful trend has occurred during the summer months of 2018 with both SS and worship trending higher than previous years. Other trends show that late fall and mid-to-late spring experience higher attendance than at other times of the year.
With the addition of adult Sunday School classes and the reorganization of youth and children departments, class space needs continue to challenge the urgency to start new classes. At the same time, both morning worship services have seen increases in attendance, most significantly in the 10:45 a.m. service. The church staff has prayerfully and thoughtfully – and with the assistance of tangible, professional counsel – considered options for adding classes and increasing worship attendance.
Sunday School, worship, opportunity, challenges, space limitations, urgency
5 Fundamental Principles for Leadership – outlined by Don Witzel, consultant, April 30, 2018, KFBC
- STRUCTURE: Focus & Framework
The framework we’re building needs to be as strong as our focus. What do we know and what do we need to know? The enemy of structure is the path of least resistance.
- VALUE: Cost & Reward
The life blood of the church is volunteers. What is the cost? For leaders, there’s power in the specifics of verbal rewards (contrasted with financial reward).
- ACTIVITY: Proactive & Reactive
Instead of putting out fires, take away the matches before change is made. As for change:
▪ Do it in bites, give ownership.
▪ Do it in time, give a “runway.”
▪ Communicate, times 3.
- MOTIVATION: Urgency & Complacency
Drive up urgency. Drive down complacency.
- COMMUNICATION: Understand & Communicate
Powerful leadership ability consists in asking good questions: who, what, when, where, why, how, huh?
Statistics for last 10 years (Sunday School attendance and enrollment) 1
Average SS Attendance:
2008 – 323
2009 – 305
2010 – 292
2011 – 303
2012 – 358
2013 – 333
2014 – 283
2015 – 336
2016 – 363
2017 – 353
2018 – 341 (YTD 8/23/18)
Average SS Enrollment:
2008 – 954
2009 – 968
2010 – 951
2011 – 810
2012 – 757
2013 – 886
2014 – 615
2015 – 1065
2016 – 1065
2017 – 1277
2018 – 1193 (YTD 8/23/18)
The mean attendance for these 11 years is 326. About 34% of the mean enrollment (958) attended Sunday School. The median attendance is 333. There is no mode. The range of these years is 80.
To date, (year 2018 only), the ratio of Sunday School attendance to worship attendance is about 65%. Factoring out April, the month when Easter raised worship attendance (but did not affect Sunday School attendance), the ratio is about 66%.
In a June 7, 2016 article, David Francis notes, “On average, SBC churches report a Sunday School to Worship attendance ratio of 2:3 (67%).” Further, “On average, SBC churches have a class to attendance ratio of 1:10. Every class does not have exactly 10, but—over time—the average is about ten people per class.” 2
In High Expectations, Thom Rainer reports the findings from a team of researchers who analyzed membership data from a sampling of churches to discover what happened to new members after 5 years in two categories. They found that of members who attended worship only, 16% were still around 5 years later. If they attended worship and Sunday School, 83% remained active. 3
1 The Sunday School enrollment process has changed over the years. Roll clean-up was completed in 2015 for those who no longer attend, nonmembers, and non-residents. In 2016, we ceased practice of dually enrolling individuals in SS classes (dual enrollees were placed into just one class). Persons who class-shop are currently counted as a member/visitor of the class they visit.
2 David Francis. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://www.sundayschoolleader.com/author/david-francis/.
3 Rainer, T.S. (1999). High expectations: The remarkable secret for keeping people in your church. Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman.
Discussion of Strategy
What are the constraints or challenges in changing worship and/or Sunday School times?
What are the advantages or opportunities in making a change to the worship and/or Sunday School schedule?
What is the best way to schedule worship and Sunday School to accommodate individuals and families to attend in consecutive time frames?
Discussion of these questions by staff and other church leaders has resulted in the conception of the following potential Sunday morning worship and Sunday School schedule:
- 8 a.m. – Worship a
- 9:30 a.m. – Worship b and SS a
- 11 a.m. – Worship c and SS b
Three worship services (a, b, & c) features:
- 8 a.m. worship would be limited to fewer praise team members; concluding time and gap should be keenly observed.
- 9:30 a.m. worship would utilize full praise team; concluding time and gap should be keenly observed.
- 11 a.m. worship would utilize full praise team; concluding time would not be a factor.
- The associate pastor for worship should be present in all three worship services. Other associates would need to be present at specific, if not regular, times. (The director for children’s ministry should be available as needed for Children’s Worship during the 11 a.m. corporate worship time.)
Two Sunday Schools (a & b) features:
- 9:30 a.m. Sunday School would serve as the main, full SS time for all age groups.
- 11 a.m. Sunday School would have many classrooms available for use to accommodate:
▪ existing adult class(es) to move to the new time
▪ new adult class(es) to meet (this would possibly draw
some members from existing classes)
- The associate pastor for education should be available in the main 9:30 a.m. SS time, and possibly at least at the beginning of the 11 a.m. SS time.
- The director of children should be available in the main 9:30 a.m. SS time.
Ideally, individuals and families should be provided consecutive time frames for worship-then-Sunday School or Sunday School-then-worship.
Current adult class leaders should be tasked with securing a consensus from their classes on when to meet for Bible study in Sunday School (9:30 a.m. or 11 a.m.). Time frame for doing this should be a two week process. Results and any subsequent moving or relocation details should be shared with the staff.
In the event of no consensus from adult classes to move to a new time and/or class, THREE new adult classes should be started at the 11 a.m. SS time, one targeting young adults, another targeting middle adults, and a third targeting older adults.
With or without consensus, the associate pastor of education should start at least one new adult class in the 11 a.m. SS time (location TBD).
Options for commencing include:
- Sunday, October 7 (challenges/advantages?)
- Sunday, November 4 (challenges/advantages?)
- Sunday, January 6 (challenges/advantages?)
- Sunday, February 3 (challenges/advantages?)
- Sunday, May 5 (challenges/advantages?)
The following details should be coordinated and prepared in making a change to a new worship and Sunday School schedule:
- Initiation of an assimilation ministry
- Basic Training classes
- Handling responses during the invitation time
- Ushers for receiving offerings
- Enlisting new adult class teachers
- Communicating need to church family
- Church approval (in business meeting)