Keys To Sunday School Growth


By: Rev. B.M. Elms


1. Gathering data and analyzing the Sunday School in a variety of different ways is important to understanding how Sunday Schools grow or don’t grow.

A. A doctor wouldn’t think of putting a sick patient in the hospital and not gather any data on his condition.

B. No, they will monitor the patients temperature, blood pressure, food intake, and his actions until a sufficient amount of data accumulates so that he can prescribe a remedy.

C. So the Sunday School must be analyzed to be able to see how it can become healthy and strong.


II. Growth Diagnostic Manual for the Sunday School by Charles Arn of the Church Growth Institute.

A. Show some samples of our church and classes. (Put on transparencies)



I. The church in Acts grew primarily through relationship between friends, family, servants and neighbors.

A. This seems to be the Apostle Paul’s strategy for establishing churches.

1. Found responsive people and converted them.

2. Then using the new converts “webs of relationships” reached out to win them.

3. The Gospel spread through the webs of family, friends and associates.


II. “OIKOS” – Greek word for “household”.

A. Oikos Evangelism refers to a strategy using webs of friends and relatives as the prime source of prospects for Sunday School and church growth.


B. The New Testament shows that “Oikos Evangelism” was common among the early church.

1. Jesus promoted this philosophy.

a. In Luke 8:39, Jesus told the delivered demoniac to return to his house and describe the great things that had happened to him.

b. In Luke 19:9, Zacchaeus was told that salvation had come to his house.

c. John 4:52 tells how after the Centurion’s son was healed, his entire household believed.


2. The book of Acts continues this principle.

a. In Acts 10 we read how Cornelius, who feared God with all his  household, had a vision, sect for Peter, and when Peter arrived, gathered his close friends together. After Peter talked with them they all received the Holy Ghost.

b. In Acts 18:8, Luke describes how Crispus, the leader of the synagogue at Corinth, believed in the Lord with all his household.


3. I Cor. 1:16 records how the Apostle Paul baptized the household of Stephanas.


C. In addition to these direct references to the “Oikos” of believers there are other numerous references to the “web principle.”

1. Andrew brought his brother to Jesus (John 1:40,41)

2. Philip brings his friend Nathaniel to Jesus (John 1:44,45)

3. After Jesus called Matthew, the tax collector, soon he was dining with other tax collectors.

4. When Jesus forgave the sinful woman, other sinful women were brought to Him. (Luke 7:37 – 8:3)


D. When our message of salvation is demonstrated by friends and family who are known and trusted who are “their kind of people”, barriers are removed and receptivity to the Gospel increases tremendously.


III. The Importance of Webs Today.

Webs of:
common kinship – the larger family
common community – friends, neighbors
common interests – associates, work relationships, recreation


A. 8 reasons why “Oikos Evangelism” should be the major part in outreach in any Sunday School.

1. It is the natural way churches and Sunday Schools grow.

2. It is the most cost-effective way to reach new people.

3. It is the most fruitful way to win new people.

4. It provides a constantly enlarging source of contacts.

5. It brings the greatest satisfaction to members.

6. It results in the most effective assimilation of new members.

7. It tends to win entire families.

8. It used existing relationships.


B. A study made by the “Institute for American Church Growth” confirms the “Oikos” strategy of outreach also.

1. In this particular study 10,000 lay members were asked the question, “What was responsible for your coming to Christ and this church?”

2. Various responses were given such as “a special need”. Some “walked in”. Others said the “pastor” and a few listed the Sunday School.

3. This transparency shows the results of why they are now Christians and members of the church.

4. Does these percentages mean we should do away with the Sunday School? No!

a. Although the Sunday School was not the primary reason for coming, it more often is the place of first contact with the church. They probably came as a result of the influence of a friend or relative.


C. How webs work today.

1. I have a web from my church that started by inviting one girl to attend Sunday School. (Show transparency.)


IV. Strategy for Growth.

A. Design Sunday School Strategy around webs of growth.

1. Webs are social ties between people.

2. They are close blood ties, family and relatives.

3. They are relationships with people at work, school or play.

4. They are friendship ties and common interest ties.


B. Now can we identify the unreached people in the webs of present members?

1. Each church should ask their members to turn tn on a card the names of ten contacts who fit one sf the categories listed above.

a. You will notice that new converts will easily list eight or ten contacts while older Christians may stop at four.


2. A church of 50 should easily come up with 250 contacts and more. A church of 200 should get over 1000 contacts.


C. What do you do with your prospect list?

1. This should certainly become a mailing list or added to for any church flyers regarding functions, revivals, letter from pastor.

2. Visitation could be organized to call on them.

3. Some churches have developed a “Caring System”.

4. “Caring Units”.


D. Utilize new converts.

1. New converts open doors for growth which established members cannot open.

2. This transparency shows what occurs in every church.

a. The circle represents the church.

b. The pyramid represents the world.

c. The person at the bottom of the pyramid represents a person in the world and outside of the church.

d. When a person gets saved he still has a number of contacts and friends in the world.

e. As time passes the new convert will have fewer and fewer contacts in the world and more and more contacts in the church.


3. The story of Mary illustrates how a new convert can use their influence: Mary, a 28 year old, flaming red haired, divorcee cocktail waitress. When Mary got saved the first thing she did was call on her boss and say, “I quit.” Her job was incompatible with her salvation so she quit. Prior to her baptism, Mary sent out engraved invitations to
all the “old crowd” to come and see her baptized. That night the first seven rows of the church were full. (They had to be first time visitors)

Following her baptism, Mary had a reception in her home for her old and new friends. During the evening, Mary gave her testimony and her pastor told her friends how they too could be saved according to the
scriptures. In the following 6 months after her baptism Mary was instrumental in bringing 10 of her friends to Christ. The 2nd 6 months she brought five more to the Lord and after that she didn’t bring anyone during her second year. She had run out of contacts:


V. Assimilation – Incorporating new people into the life and fellowship of the Sunday School and church.

A. Several research studies support the fact that peoples participation in Sunday School depends on the existence of relationships.


B. One study compared 50 new members who were still active six months after joining with 50 new members who dropped out after six Months.

1. The new members who stayed and were incorporated had made seven or more new friends in the church and Sunday School.

2. Those who dropped out had made less than two.


C. Those who dropped out were asked two important questions:
1. Why they dropped out of Sunday School?
2. What would most influence their choice of a new church home?


D. The answers most regularly given were:

1. Did not feel part of the group.
2. Friendliness of the people.


E. The Sunday School is ideally suited for building new friendships and a sense of belonging:


F. In most churches about 99% of the Jobs are done by 20% of the members.

1. This means that about 80% of our people have no designated role or function.
2. Those who eventually leave out the “back door” or our churches will come almost entirely from this group.


G. A church with a high number of roles to be filled by the laity assimilate a much greater percentage of new members than the church that offers only a few opportunities for participation.


H. We church leaders that want to assimilate new members need to create new roles and then look for new people to fill them.


I. A study was made among 48 churches to find out the ratio of jobs in proportion to membership.

1. In rapidly growing church 55-jobs per 100 members.

2. In medium growing church – 43 per 100 members

3. In low growth rate churches – 27 per 100 members.


J. What kinds of Jobs can our Sunday Schools provide?

1. In individual classes:

a. Serve on committees – planning, Social, evangelism, special project, incorporation.
b. Regular duties – announcements, taking attendance, class officer, greeter, mission director.


K. The Sunday School through its class structure provides for monitoring of members and accountability.

1. Many churches are developing a current file of information on each new member.

a. These files are regularly checked, Sunday School attendance reviewed, and stewardship observed.
b. This allows a check of each new member in the incorporation process.


VI. Training for Effective Witness.

A. Three basic truths on which the Sunday School should train its members.

1. Studying the Bible will enable members to know God’s will for their lives, for their church and for their world.
2. The Sunday School should train and equip its members to do the work of the church.
3. The Sunday School should train Christians to win others to Jesus and help make the church grow.


B. Jesus commanded us to go and make “disciples” of all the peoples of the earth.

1. The Holy Ghost was given to us primarily to empower us to be witnesses. Acts 1:8.
2. In the United States live approximately 60 million people who claim to be Christians.
3. This leaves over 160 million who have no Christian faith. What a harvest field!
4. If the church you’re in is not growing then you are not accomplishing God’s will.


C. Christians are often fearful to witness.

1. They say things like: “l feel awkward,” “I’d much rather the pastor do it,” “I was not taught how to do it,” or “I wouldn’t know what to say.”

2. This might be a great idea for a special Sunday School class called, “Effective Christian Witness.”

3. The study of the book of Acts ought to be a regular part of every Sunday School curriculum.

4. Other topics for Sunday School classes to study might be:

a. Methods of evangelism

b. How to share your faith

c. Spiritual gifts

d. Strategies, tactics, and tools for growth

e. Outreach training

f. Building bridges to unreached people in the community.


D. Our churches will begin to grow as we see the laity mobilized for evangelism.

1. Knocking doors, teaching home Bible studies, feeling responsible to nurture new converts.


(The above material was from a Christian Educators Seminar prepared by the above author.)

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