Great Ideas for Sunday School Growth



Ideas for Growth

Analyzing Your Sunday School to Make It Grow  How many times have you asked yourself, “What does it
take to grow a Sunday School?” If you are worth your “salt” at all, you are constantly asking yourself this question and looking for an answer.

Every church and Sunday School is in a (1) growth, (2) maintenance or (3) decay status. There are certain percentages and ratios that are indicators to help the leadership decide which of the above states their Sunday School, department, or class is in. The following becomes a guideline to move from a maintenance or decay status toward a growth status.

Let us start with the basics in analyzing where your Sunday School is and then seek to discover the weak areas that need strengthening or special help.

If your average attendance in youth and adults has dropped below 50 percent in attendance and 70 percent in the Preschool and Children’s areas, you probably have problems in one or more of four areas of emphasis. These four areas have strong influence in having a successful growing Sunday School.
The four areas are :

1. Visitation

2. Training

3. Organization

4. Space

Visitation: What kind of a visitation program do you have – weekly or “weakly”? Is there a variety or choice for making contacts or is there door knocking only? Are other opportunities of contacting available, such as telephone, cards, and C. C. C.? Is contacting encouraged seven days a week, anytime of the day? A growth status would be indicated by having every teaching unit represented in visitation each week. Less than this indicates a maintenance or decay status.

There are three types of visits or contacts. (1) Contacting absentees is maintenance. (2) Contacting prospects is growth. (3) Soul-winning is growth. These types of emphases will vary from week to week. The variety of visitation has been discussed in an earlier chapter.

Training: When was your last study course to improve the level of teaching? January Bible Study or a Vacation Bible School study course does not count. We mean an age-group study-“working,” “understanding,” “teaching,” “reaching,” or books of comparable emphasis. The latest books in my
denomination are the “Basic” Sunday School books. If you are providing two or fewer such type study courses for each age group a year, you are probably in a maintenance or decay status. If you are providing three or more a year you are in a growth status.

Organization : Are your classes and departments within their proper enrollment size! When an Adult class has fifteen to twenty on roll it is probably in a growth status. Twenty-one to twenty-five indicates a maintenance status, and twenty-six or larger a decay status. Other age-group classes and departments
have maximum enrollment sizes. See age-group division books for these formulas. There are other factors that have influence on the above : space , class organization , teaching quality, so on. More about pupil/worker ratio later.

How well are the departments and classes organized for outreach? Does each department of the Sunday School have an outreach leader? Does each Adult class have an outreach leader? Is there a group leader to encourage attendance for every five to eight people enrolled in each Adult class? Five to six members in a group indicates growth ; seven to eight indicates maintenance ; above eight indicates decay.

Are the leaders trained in what is expected? Are they  given an opportunity to function and report each week? An excellent book to use to train outreach leaders is training Outreach leaders for the Sunday School, written by T. Frank Smith.

Space: Does each department and class have adequate space for growth? It takes ten to twelve square feet of floor  space for each person in attendance in a department or classroom for youth and adults. It takes twenty-five to thirty square feet of floor space for preschoolers and children in their departments. You may have the best trained workers, the best department and class organization, the best visitation program,
but if you have inadequate space, you cannot succeed in increasing attendance.

Double whatever the maximum floor footage allows in attendance. This will tell you what your effective maximum enrollment can be for the class, department, and total Sunday School.

Remember: The building (space) in a large measure controls the program. A space analysis will let you know where (age groups) you can have growth. It will let you know when you need to add (build), acquire, or adjust the present space to continue to grow. Twelve to fifteen more square feet per person in attendance allows for growth; ten to eleven indicates a maintenance status; fewer than ten promotes decay. People will not attend as often when each is allowed less than ten square feet of floor space-except for funerals and Christmas programs. They will endure being crowded for a short period or a one-time only situation. No one, however, likes to be in an overcrowded classroom for an hour. People will grade themselves by not attending.

Now that you know the general guidelines for analyzing your Sunday School, where would you say your weak spots are? Where would you say your needs for emphasis ought to be in the whole Sunday School and in each department: visitation, training, organization, or space?

Departments and classes will differ one from another as to needs and sometimes from the whole Sunday School. The above method allows you and your leadership to pinpoint the specific and immediate needs, thus deciding on priorities.

Raising the Attendance
The attendance of a Sunday School will always be a fairly fixed percentage of the enrollment. One rarely ever hits 100 percent of the enrollment. Nor can it be maintained for any length of time. therefore, to increase the attendance, one must increase the enrollment. It is that simple. There is a direct relationship between the attendance and enrollment. When enrollment goes up, so does attendance. When enrollment goes down, so does attendance. You can rant and rave about being more perfect in attendance, but you can get only so much out of people. What we need to do is go out and get more people to increase the enrollment.

How do you increase the enrollment? The open enrollment concept is one way to do it quickly. This open enrollment concept states that a person can be enrolled anytime, anywhere, as long as he agrees. The prospective “enrollee” therefore does not have to be within the “four walls” of the Sunday School
class to be enrolled. He does not have to attend three Sundays before he is asked to enroll. He can be enrolled anywhere, anytime when he agrees.

With the above concept in mind, the following is a list of the ways the Sunday School enrollment can be increased by using the open enrollment concept. This list is by no means all the ways enrollment can take place. There are others that you will develop on your own as you put these into practice. Pick out several from the list you know will be accepted immediately by your congregation and concentrate on them for several months. After these have been proven successful and established, pick several more. You will see the enrollment increase. Also, the attendance will increase. When the Sunday School attendance
increases, so will the offerings, worship attendance , and baptisms.

A way to use the following form effectively is to go through the list crossing out those methods that absolutely would not be applicable in your area or situation. Delete them from the list. A word of caution-don’t delete too many.

Make a number of copies, distribute them to your workers, asking them to check the five methods they feel would be the most effective ways of enrolling people. Have them return the forms. Make a composite tally sheet of the number of people who thought the statement had a strong possibility of increasing enrollment. This way the Sunday School workers will identify the top five that have priority. However, this does not
eliminate those ideas that some people thought were valid. All ideas could be used by someone. If people have input and choose a method, they in a sense commit themselves to that method.

Twenty – five Ways to Grow (using an open enrollment philosophy)

Check the ones you can do NOW

1. Have pastor and staff members carry enrollment cards as visits are made (to newcomers, church visitors, hospitals, and other pastoral ministries).

2 . Inform new church members they are enrolled in Sunday School], Church Training, Brotherhood, or Baptist Women.

3. Place enrollment cards in pew racks. (a) Invite people to fill out the card and place it in the offering plate. (b) Suggest that members take cards with them and enrol] people through the week.

4. Clip an enrollment card to each prospect slip sent out for visitation.

5. Monthly or quarterly, go door-to-door in specific selected areas (Mini-action) .

6. A month prior to each revival, have a major thrust to enroll people.

7. Clip enrollment cards to the front of each class record book.

8. Have “Greeters” carry enrollment cards and enroll people as they come through the church door.

9. On special “choir” programs, VBS parents’ nights, high attendance times, and revivals, call attention to the enrollment cards in the pew.

10. Give several enrollment cards to new Sunday School and/or church members and urge them to enroll friends and family members.

11 . Have the pastor enclose a return addressed enrollment card in his letter to Sunday visitors.

12. Have Cradle Roll visitors carry enrollment cards and enroll parents in the homes.

13. Use the VBS Transfer Plan (pupils).

14. Conduct parents’ visitation following VBS to enroll them.

15. Have bus ministry workers enroll parents of children coming on the bus.

16. Conduct a direct mail program, a three- or four-letter campaign about Bible study. Enclose a self-addressed enrollment card in the final two letters to : (a) newcomers and prospects; (b) church members not in Sunday School (quarterly) .

17. Use the Adult Start-A-Class plan.

18. Stand at the back of the auditorium and enroll early comers to the worship hour.

19. Have the pastor call church visitors and enroll them over the phone Sunday afternoon.

20. Give enrollment cards to all visitors of weekday activities.

21. Give enrollment cards to apartment dwellers and ask them to enroll persons in their apartment house or complex.

22. Have college students take enrollment cards and visit in the dormitories or at BSU events and enroll students.

23. On the “first” visit of a person to a class or department, present an enrollment card instead of a visitor slip.

24. Have people who fill out visitor slips in the worship hour  write the words, “enroll me” across the top of visitor slip.

25. Conduct a direct mail campaign to the unenrolled parents of children in your Sunday School to ask them to use the enclosed enrollment card to join an Adult Sunday School class.

How to Enroll People in Bible Study by Telephone  Reasons for enlisting by phone: Using the telephone to
enroll people is faster than other methods. It allows people who have physical limitations to perform a ministry in the church. Telephones can make contact with people who are reluctant to come to the door. Telephoning can gather information in a short period of time. Telephone contacts can be made in the evening when most people are home. Telephoning is great for public relations. Telephoning lets people in the community know of your church and location. Telephoning says someone is interested.

Enlist the Telephoners
These are the people who are going to do the calling of the prospects. They can be any age, youth through senior adults. It is best that youth call youth and adults call adults when assignment of the prospect cards is given.

The number of the cards can range anywhere from twenty to twenty-five cards per telephoner. This is approximately one hour of work.

Special Note: All conversations over the telephone are basically the same. However, there is a recognizable difference in each conversation according to the type of prospect being called. Each conversation must be used specifically with the type in the list it is identified with. The third statement in the telephone conversation is different in each list and is marked with an asterisk.

If, after the four basic statements are made, a person says yes to the question, “Can I enroll you?” the caller then fills out an enrollment card for the person he is speaking with. Generally when you enroll one member of a prospective family you can enroll the entire family on the one call. Thus the next question after the enrollment card is filled out is, “Can I enroll other members of the family?” If , instead , the person
says no to the question, “Can I enroll you?:’ the telephone says politely, “Thank you for your time. Come visit us at (name of church) sometime. We would like to have you. Good-bye.”

List #1 – Instant Prospects: Morning Worship Service  Place a 3″ x 5″ card in the back of the pews. During the announcement period of the morning worship service ask the  people in the congregation to take one of the cards.

Now that they have the cards in hand, ask them to write the name of one person they know who is not in Bible study anywhere on Sunday morning. That person may be a friend, neighbor, co-worker, schoolmate, relative, or the person himself sitting in the congregation , waiting to be asked.

This process was discussed in detail earlier under the subject “Instant Prospect.”

The person doing the calling would say:

1. “Hello, I’m (name of caller).”

2. “I’m from (name of church).”

3. “Your friend (name of person who gave the information) gave us your name and said you were not attending Sunday School Bible Study anywhere. ”

4. “Could I enroll you in Sunday School Bible Study with your good friend, (name of person giving information), right now over the telephone?”

List #2 – Church Members Not Enrolled in Bible Study  To prepare this list one would take the church roll and compare it with the Sunday School Adult roll. Names that do not appear on the Sunday School roll are prospects and should be listed with their phone numbers.

This is a list the pastor uses to enroll people in a pastor’s class. However, all churches do not have a pastor’s
class or several other Bible teaching programs listed below. Therefore, the telephoners could enroll people in one of the areas of Bible teaching their church does provide. Listed below are nine areas of Bible teaching a church could provide.

A person can be enrolled for Bible study in at least one of the following areas:

1. Pastor’s class

2. Regular Sunday School class or department

3. Home-bond ministry (for those physically unable to attend)

4. Cradle Roll (newborn babies in the community)

5. Sunday workers’ class (usually held on Wednesday night)

6. Special Education (for retarded)

7. Language class

8. Class for the deaf

9. Students away (college students or professionals out of town)

If there is a need for a class not offered by your church, consider starting one at once. Most of the enrollment will be in one of the first three areas.

The person doing the telephoning would say the following:

1. “Hello. I’m (name telephoner).”

2. “I’m from (name of church).”

3. “You are a member of the church but not enrolled in a Sunday School Bible study class. ”

4. “Could I enroll you in a Sunday School Bible study class right now over the telephone?”

If the person says he is an invalid, shut-in, or mentions some other similar circumstance, ask to enroll him in the Home-bond ministry.

He may say he can’t come because he works on Sunday. Ask to enroll him in the Sunday workers’ class that meets on Wednesday night.

Look at the nine possible alternatives to lead a person to be enrolled in one of these areas.

List #3 – Unenrolled Parents of Children and Youth in Your Sunday School

The way you discover parents not enrolled in Bible study is to list the names of all children in Preschool, Children, and Youth departments. Compare this list with the adults who are enrolled in Adult Sunday School Bible study classes. If a parent’s name is not on an Adult Sunday School class list, add it to a list of these parents with their phone numbers.

The person doing the telephoning would say the following: 1. “Hello. I’m (name of the telephoner).”

2. “I’m from (name of church).”

3. “Your child is enrolled in our Sunday School. We see you are not enrolled in a Sunday School Bible study class. We have excellent Bible study at our church.”

4. “Could we enroll you in a Sunday School Bible study class, right now over the telephone?”

List #4 – Sunday Visitors in the Worship Service or Sunday School for the Past Six Months

Make a list of the visitors who gave an address in your town or community. Put the phone number along with the name. The person doing the telephoning would say the following:

1. “Hello. I’m (name of the telephoner).”

2. “I’m from (name of church).”

3. “You visited our church recently, and we were glad to have you. We have excellent Bible study classes on Sunday morning. ”

4. “Could I enroll you in a Sunday School Bible study class, right now over the telephone?”

A practice that a church can use is to register every visitor for whatever activity is being held at the church.
Examples are Sunday worship service, Wednesday prayer series and activities, Easter and Christmas cantatas, VBS commencement, recreation activities, and any other special activities or occasions your church may be having. This gives you added prospects for the above list.

List #5 – Present Prospect File

Make a list of all prospects with their telephone number. The person doing the telephoning would say the following

1. “Hello. I’m (name of telephoner).”

2. “I’m from (name of church).”

3. “We understand you are not attending a Sunday School Bible study class anywhere. We have an excellent Bible study on Sunday morning.”

4. “Could I enroll you in a Sunday School Bible study class right now over the telephone?”

List #6 – Newcomers to Town

The utility companies (telephone, gas, electric, and water) and real estate brokers have a list of families who have moved to a new address.

Make a list of the names of these families with the phone numbers.

The person doing the telephoning would say the following:

1. “Hello. I’m (name of the telephoner).”

2. “I’m from (name of the church).”

3. “We understand you people have just moved to that address. We are happy to have you in our community. We have an excellent Sunday School Bible study class on Sunday morning.”

4. “Could I enroll you in a Bible study class, right now over the telephone?”

List #7 – Cross-Reference Telephoning

To make this list you must have access to a cross-reference telephone book. In the cross-reference phone
book you can find your section of town by streets. A cross-reference will give you the streets and house numbers with the names of the people who live at that address in your church community.

A Special Note: Because of the time between when the information was gathered for the cross-reference book and the time you use it, the information may be approximately 80 percent accurate. A new cross-reference book is anywhere from six to twelve months old the day it is delivered to you. Don’t be
discouraged. It is a way to find prospects.

The person doing the telephoning would say the following:

1. “Hello. I’m (name of the telephoner).”

2. “I’m from (name of the church).”

3. “We see you are living in our church community. Are you attending a Sunday School Bible study class anywhere? If not, we have an excellent Bible study class on Sunday morning.”

4. Could I enroll you in a Sunday School Bible study right now over the telephone?

List #8 – Apartment-Complex Residents

A suggestion : Mail a promotional piece about your church to all the apartment complex residents before you call to indicate someone will be calling soon.

The telephoner would say:

1. “Hello. I’m (name of the telephoner).”

2. “I’m from (name of the church).”

3. “Did you receive a letter telling about our church? Are you in a Sunday School Bible study class on Sunday morning?”

4. “Could I enroll you in a Sunday School Bible study class right now over the telephone?”

List #9 –
Encourage all members to make a list of their own relatives, neighbors, friends, and persons with whom they work, and turn this information into the church office. This process is similar to list #1.

Using any or all of the above will add people to your Sunday School roll. Additional specialized lists can be thought of and added.

Remember, “Ye have not, because ye ask not” (James 4:2b). Start asking!

How to Enroll People by Mail
Much can be done by mail. If this were not true most businesses would be out of business. They are very dependant on the mails.

Churches also can do much to reach people by mail.  Following are samples of four letters that can be used
to reach people. The same sample response card can be used with each letter.

The way to make something good better is to change it to fit your church and the way you would say it. Therefore, write the sample content so it sounds like you. Remember the pastor is the most powerful person of promotion, so these letters should come from his desk.

Sample Letter 1
To Church Members Not Enrolled In Sunday School

Dear (Name of Church Member) :

According to our record you are a church member but not a member of the Sunday School Bible teaching hour.

In 2 Timothy 2: 15 the Bible says to “study to show thyself approved unto God. . . . ”

There are many other Scriptures that indicate we are to gather for fellowship, Bible study, and spiritual growth.

We believe the born again Christian can and will want to do this for God’s glory. We believe this can be done by joining the Sunday School.

There are a number of areas a born again church member can join in Bible study.

On the enclosed card are a number of options a church member can choose from to be a part of the Sunday School Bible teaching program.

We want you to “grow in the grace and knowledge of the Lord Jesus Christ.”

Please indicate your choice and return the card.

Your pastor,
(Pastor’s name)


Sample Letter 2
To Unenrolled Parents of Enrolled Children

Dear (Person’s Name):
We are delighted to have your child in Sunday School Bible Study. We believe you are doing a great thing in
encouraging your child to study God’s Word. The Scripture says, “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.”

We believe you can strengthen the training greatly by being enrolled in a Sunday School Bible class, too. This could be very meaningful. In Timothy chapter 4 we find the words, “Be thou an example.”

In our Sunday School Bible study program we have a place for everyone.

Enclosed is a mail-back card for you to indicate your choice of where you would like to be enrolled. Return the card so we can get your study material to you.

Prayerfully yours,


Sample Letter 3
To Visitors At Church Services and Sunday School

Dear (Name of Visitor):

We were glad to have you in our services.

We want you to be more than a visitor. We want you to be a member of our Sunday School Bible teaching program.

Enclosed is a mail-back card for you to indicate in which part of the Sunday School Bible teaching program you would like to be enrolled. Please return the card so we can get your Bible study material to you.

We believe everyone should be in some type of Bible study. See you Sunday in Sunday School Bible teaching hour.

Yours for Bible study,


Sample Letter 4
To Prospects

Dear (Name of Prospect) :

We understand you are not enrolled in Sunday School Bible study anywhere.

We believe everyone should be in Bible study somewhere.

We want you to be enrolled with us.

There is a place for you.

Enclosed is a mail-back card with a number of choices for you to choose.

Please indicate and return the card so we can get your study material to you.

We will be looking forward to seeing you Sunday.

Prayerfully yours,


Sample Copy
Mail-Back Card

Please check one of the, following places you would like to be enrolled in Sunday School Bible study.

1. Regular Sunday School

2. Pastor’s Class

3. Home-bond Ministry (those who are shut-ins)

4.” Cradle Roll (for newborn babies or expectant mothers)

5. Special] Education (class for the retarded)

6. Sunday Workers (those who work on Sunday morning; class meets Wednesday night)

7. Language Class (ethnic groups)

8. Deaf Class

9. Students Away (college or professionals out of town) Return the mail-back card or call the church office to notify us of your preference.

Special Note: The mail-back card will have to be adapted to the areas of Bible study you offer in your church.


Other Types of Letters That Build a Church

1. Letters to potential parents (Cradle Roll prospects)

2. Letters to masses in a community to find prospects

3. Follow-up letter to respondents of the letter above

4. Letters to enroll all shut-in

5. Letters to youth (student body of high schools)

6. Letters to ethnic groups (for a new ethnic class)

7. Letters to parents of children with special education needs (retarded)

8. Letters to members asking for leads to prospects

9. Letters for Sunday School visitation

10. Letters for High Attendance Days or other special days

11 . Letters for stewardship commitment

12. Letters for potential workers

13. Letters to potential bus riders

14. Letters to the faithful (appreciation)

15. Letters to apartment complex dwellers

16. Letters to those in a hospital

17. Letters to those in jail

18. Letters to the newcomer to town

19. Letters for those who have a crisis (source newspaper)

20. Letters to bereaved families (source: newspaper)

You will] think of others as you become more involved in direct mail ministries.



Quarterly Enrollment Activities

To make a Sunday School and church grow, there is a constant need to work on increasing the enrollment. Listed below are ways to increase the enrollment.

ACTION: Once a year, canvass several days to enroll new people and find new prospects from a given area of your community.

MINI-ACTION: Once a quarter or twice a year, canvass on one day only, either Saturday afternoon or Sunday morning.

SATURDAY MORNING TEAM VISITATION: Visit church members not enrolled in Sunday School], or visit visitors to the church service not yet enrolled.

VBS TRANSFER PLANS: Visit or telephone within three days after Vacation Bible School is over.

REVIVAL CONTACTS: Follow-up done within thirty days of the revival.

NINE WAYS TO ENROLL BY TELEPHONE: (Details in previous section) .

CLASS/DEPARTMENT GOALS : Establish outreach goals by class or department.

ONE-FOR-ONE: Personal goals given to outreach leaders and teachers.

FELLOWSHIP BIBLE CLASS TRANSFERS: Enlist members of home Bible study classes for church classes.

CHURCH MEMBERSHIP HUNT: Enroll church members not presently enrolled in Sunday School.

PROSPECT ANALYSIS AND ASSIGNMENT: (Member/Prospect match-up) .

NEIGHBORHOOD OUTREACH TEAMS: Organize outreach teams by neighborhood.

INTERNAL CENSUS: Once a year, unenrolled parents of children enrolled in Sunday School; church members not enrolled.

WEEKDAY SUNDAY SCHOOL: Have Sunday School during the week for those people who work on Sunday.

ENROLLMENT IN SUNDAY SERVICES: Have enrollment cards in the pews.


SPECIAL EDUCATION EMPHASIS: Once a year in September
LANGUAGE GROUP EMPHASIS: Once a year in September
DEAF MINISTRY EMPHASIS : Once a year in September
BUS MINISTRY: Enroll families of bus children in Sunday School at least once a quarter.

SHORT TERM: Outreach Task Force to visit all persons listed on prospect forms.

BABY HUNT: Spring and fall emphasis.

HOME-BOND HUNT: Emphasis twice a year-winter and summer.

WEEKLY CHURCH VISITATION: Visit weekly for enrollment.