High Expectations: The Remarkable Secret of Keeping People in Your Church

High Expectations: The Remarkable Secret of Keeping People in Your Church
Thom S. Rainer


Author Thom Rainer writes, “After nearly a decade of researching two thousand churches of different sizes, locations, and denominations, I cannot say that I am surprised that Sunday school was rated so highly as an assimilation tool. My surprise in this study, however, was the intensity by which the church leaders expressed their belief that Sunday school is the chief assimilation approach.”

In an earlier book, Rainer studied churches that successfully reach out and bring unsaved people to membership in the family of God. He noted that many churches that have many new converts still do not grow in size. In High Expectations, Rainer surveyed 287 churches that report many conversions and grow as a result. These churches have closed the backdoor so people who come to Christ remain in the church and minister to others. By reporting the results of a survey completed by the churches, Rainer shows the key differences between highly evangelistic churches who keep converts and those who don’t.

Key Elements to Keeping People

The pastors of churches that keep members rank the top 5 key elements in retention as:

1. Sunday school (4.9 on a scale of 5)
2. Expository sermons (4.4)
3. A.M. worship (4.21)
4. Youth ministries (4.16)
5. Children’s ministries (4.1)

“In the 1980s I had become a ‘Sunday School skeptic,’” Rainer confesses. “Though I did not try to dismantle the Sunday Schools in the churches I pastored, I certainly was not a leader in making the organization stronger and more evangelistic. If anything, the Sunday Schools of my churches suffered from pastoral neglect.

“I was not alone in my sentiments. Many of my peers were like me, enamored with some of the latest methodologies and innovations to help a church grow. Sunday school just seemed a bit old fashioned compared to the ‘cutting-edge’ information we were receiving from a plethora of sources. Indeed I had my doubts that Sunday school would be a viable growth and assimilation tool in the twenty-first century…

“Over the course of two years, I made contact with nearly two hundred different churches…What I discovered both disturbed me and convicted me. In almost every church, I heard pastors and leaders talk about the role of Sunday School for their evangelistic growth and assimilation…Almost all the leaders said that their sustained growth would have been impossible without the Sunday School.”

This article “High Expectations: The Remarkable Secret of Keeping People in Your Church” by Thom S. Rainer was excerpted from: www.churchtoday.org web site. August 2009. It may be used for study & research purposes only.

This article may not be written by an Apostolic author, but it contains many excellent principles and concepts that can be adapted to most churches. As the old saying goes “Eat the meat. Throw away the bones.”