How to Plan a Sunday School Contest & Get Results

Saul S. Shephman



While Sunday School Superintendent at Life Tabernacle in Houston, Texas, we won many, many people to our church with contests. This method of  evangelism was used two or three times a year because they were so effective. Our church was averaging about 100 when we started having contests. But after each one, we would usually keep from 25 to 50 new people.

But you know, the larger churches seem to outgrow church contests. They worked so well, I wonder why they are discontinued. I have a feeling they would be just as effective today as back then . . . and perhaps more so! Let me share a few secrets about making them work for you!

Why Does a Contest Work!

* Competition. If we keep our spirits and attitudes right and will not allow rivalry to interfere, competition is very healthy. It sharpens our wits and gets us going when nothing else will! We compete in games; we
competed with other men to win our wives; we compete with fellow employees to gain a promotion. So why not compete with each other to win souls for Jesus!

* Motivation. A good contest motivates some of us to bring people to church that would never have done so otherwise. It gets us out of the rut of coming to church with no one but our own family. It is especially effective for bringing backsliders back to church.

* Excitement. Nothing makes a congregation more excited or enthusiastic than an old-fashioned contest.

How Do You Plan a Contest?

It’s really very easy and simple.

* Choose a captain for each team.

* Divide the church equally by families or single adults or draw names among each age group, such as: children, youth, single adults, and married adults.

* Decide on a time limit for the contest.

* Give each group of contestants a name, such as “Reds” and “Blues”. We have buttons already printed with matching buttons for visitors if you wish to purchase them. These buttons create excitement themselves!

* Decide on a point system, such as 5 points for bringing a visitor, 2 points for each team member present, etc. Giving points for regulars keeps them coming, too!

* Provide a visual for the progress of the two sides, such as a thermometer for the reds and one for the blues.

* Install a Sunday School register board in a conspicuous place (not necessarily the sanctuary, but perhaps the lobby or a hallway). Keep everyone informed about the total attendance. (Have we removed them from
our churches because we were embarrassed about our small attendance and growth year after year?)

* Allow each captain five minutes or so each Sunday morning to encourage his team and to find how many visitors have come for their side. Fill in the thermometer while everyone watches.

* Decide what the losers must do for the winners. They may want to furnish a fish fry or some type cook-out. This would be a great time of fellowship and acquainting all the newcomers with the church family.

* Be sure to send a special letter of invitation to all who attended your church during the contest!

* Your church may wish to challenge a neighboring congregation of similar size. The losers could treat the winners with some type social and allow children and youth to fellowship with others.

Plan For the Spiritual Harvest

Obviously, your visitors will be present on Sunday mornings. So plan ahead to make each of them special.

* Be prepared to meet the spiritual, emotional, and physical needs of those who attend. People are hurting in our world today. What home has not been visited by grief in some form-divorce, sickness, terminal illness, drug or alcohol abuse, death, child abuse, financial loss, teenage rebellion, etc. Point them to Jesus Christ, the Mender of broken marriages and broken lives. Show them the way to true happiness and the benefits of becoming a part of your church family.

* Expose them to beautiful, uplifting, joyful worship that will introduce them to Jesus Christ and satisfy the longing of their souls. Make their first contact with God an occasion that brings a healing touch to their
troubled minds.

* Provide counselling for those with deep emotional needs and problems. Rather than harsh, doctrinal sermons, think of their pressing needs. Remember that Jesus came to heal broken hearts and set captives free. He healed the sick, then taught them. As we show mercy, love, and friendship, we will have ample opportunity to lead them to salvation.

* Use Search for Truth or Light for Living welcome cards each week so visitors may know about the free Home Bible Studies and ask for one.

* Once you have a hook in their jaw, they will be ready for Home Bible Studies. Then you can teach them how to be saved and how to please the Lord.

* Remember that backsliders will be attending your church during the contest. Shower them with love and concern. Let them know that you are so glad to have them back in church. Treat them as the father did his prodigal son. Refrain from condemning or judging their past failures and mistakes. Give them hope that God is merciful and wants to forgive. And so do we.

* Train altar workers and prayer warriors to prepare for a great harvest. As the anointed preaching of the Word goes forth, souls will be drawn to Christ. Take advantage of every opportunity to set men free from the oppression of Satan and bring them to a full understanding of God’s Will for their lives.


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