The Laws of Sunday School Growth

The Laws of Sunday School Growth
Elmer Towns


People have used many gimmicks to build Sunday school attendance such as prizes, carnivals, and offering the world’s largest pizza, Popsicle, or banana split. But after people have tried a promotion that usually works once, they often return to the tried and proven laws of Sunday school growth. The laws of Sunday school growth are not new, they just seem to be new to those who have never seen them. Just as everything seems to run in cycles, the old laws have become new again, and Sunday school is returning to the basics. When followed, these Sunday school laws have always brought results. When these laws are ignored, Sunday school results are limited and partial. These laws of growth are not man-made. They are scriptural, in that the responsibility for evangelism, growth, and maturity of the local church is on the Christian and not just on the pastor or professional worker. If a Sunday school depends on the pastor for its growth, the outreach of the Sunday school will only be as large as the outreach of the pastor. If the Sunday school depends on every member for its growth, then the outreach is unlimited. These laws of growth reflect averages in Sunday school attendance over the years. They are proven by experience and will work in any Sunday school regardless of size, type, or clientele.

1. Enrollment increases in proportion to workers at a ratio of 10 to 1. Almost every Sunday school has 10 times as many students as teachers. Therefore the law necessitates at least 1 teacher for every 10 students in the Sunday school. Generally, when there is an over ratio of workers, it is because the workers are not adequately fulfilling their job as Sunday School teachers to reach, teach, win, and mature their students in the Word of God. In contrast, a church with unusual effort and hard work may lift this ratio for a while, but it is most difficult to maintain large classes for a period of more than a few months, unless there are extraneous circumstances or unusual pressure by the teacher. There are a few large classes in our Sunday Schools that are doing the job. But they are the exception rather than the rule. The large classes are usually built around a strong personality. Total Sunday school growth usually comes from new classes, not from old large classes. The first law of Sunday school growth would imply several principles.

A. Begin new classes. A Sunday school, by reducing its ratio of 10 to 1, will quite often grow. If the possibilities justify this expansion and if the new units work to reach their neighborhood, the class will soon be lifted to the 10 to 1 ratio, if the other laws of growth are applied. We grow by creating new units and conquering new territory.

B. Teacher training. We cannot create new classes without having trained workers to take over the new classes. Hence, it is necessary to start teacher-training classes to provide more workers. Most Sunday Schools think that the way to grow is to first get students and then provide the teachers. This is backward. The way to grow is to recruit new teachers and send them out to enlist new students. Hence, teacher training is important to the growth of a Sunday school.

C. Class average. The average for the entire Sunday school should be a ratio of 10 to 1. However, the individual class may vary. The average class size for preschoolers is about 5; for The average for the entire Sunday School should be a ratio of 10 to 1. However, the primaries, 7i for juniors, 9; for young people, 13. The average class enrollment for adults varies from 15 in churches with a more limited constituency to about 25 in churches with more people. Some churches have even more when there are many available adults. The average for all the Sunday school is still 10 to 1 when you add the Sunday school superintendent, the department superintendent, and other workers.


2. The building sets the pattern for educational growth. This law indicates the Sunday school takes the shape of the building. It is difficult to put a growing Sunday school into a small building. A Sunday school takes the shape of the building it occupies. A Sunday school that has 10 teaching centers will have difficulty growing beyond 100 in attendance (in keeping with our first rule that the enrollment increases in proportion to teachers at a ratio of 10 to 1). Growth demands new teaching centers with more space for the addition of classes. It is difficult for a Sunday school to grow beyond the capacity of the building. There is a high correlation between the square footage, available space, and the growth of a Sunday school. Time is needed to provide space. Extra classrooms should be on the preferred list for growth. If your church has come to the decision that it must provide more space to grow, then it is believed that one of the following plans must be adopted.

A. If your Sunday school is now constructed on a class basis, plan your space so that your Sunday School may be graded by departments.

B. If your Sunday school now has one department for each age-group, plan space for at least two departments for each age-group.

C. Then make plans to move toward a multiple department program.

3. Sunday school units usually reach maximum growth in a few months. Once a new class has been created, the new unit will reach an optimum limit. Then it is time, if the conditions are favorable, to create another new class. To think that a class will grow beyond the suggestions of the laws of growth, even though left over a number of years, is a false concept. Hence, the addition of new classes rather than the expansion of present classes is the way of growth. Fruit always comes through new growth, and Sunday school enthusiasm, energy, and outreach comes from new classes. Usually these new classes win more to Christ and provide more workers. New classes produce growth in a twofold manner. First, growth comes in the total number of new students and second, there is growth potential through providing more teachers for other classes.

4. Dividing classes by school grades provides the logical basis for adding new units. Grading a Sunday school means arranging classes for people of the same age or nearly the same age so as to localize needs. Teaching is meeting needs. Grading by ages offers several strengths to the Sunday school. Grading helps the teacher to meet individual needs. Grading locates responsibility for each period of life. Grading locates and overcomes neglected areas. Grading simplifies the teacher’s task. Grading makes the creation of needed classes easy. Grading anticipates a student’s advancement in life and provides a basis for promotion. Grading breaks down social and class lines. Grading prevents a class from enlisting easy prospects and neglecting needy students. Grading recognizes natural stages of life. Grading is scriptural because it meets the individual as and where he is and attempts to lift him to where he should be. Grading makes for Sunday school growth because it puts more teachers to work for Sunday school and Christ. Grading paves the way to promote the pupil and recognizes the natural laws of growth and progress. Promotions are a necessary factor in the normal growth of a Sunday school. Students are not lost because they are ashamed to remain with those much younger. They are placed with others their age and lessons are geared to their needs.

5. Enrollment and attendance increase in proportion to outreach. The other laws of Sunday school growth are useless without evangelism. Soul-winning is the practical application of spiritual concern for men. In a good outreach program, there is lay-centered evangelism. Attendance is increased in proportion to outreach. Statistics indicate that growth follows the number of contacts made with lost people. Recently, a survey indicated that when 8.6 contacts were made with each visitor, he was likely to return to the church and be “bonded” into fellowship with that church. These Sunday school laws are built on vision, progress, and planning ahead. If you believe attendance increases in proportion to workers at the ratio of 10 to 1, then you will employ vision, plan ahead, and provide Sunday school teachers and workers. If you believe attendance increases according to the building, then you will employ vision, plan ahead, and provide space for growth. If you believe that new classes will reach optimum size in a few months, you will continue to add new classes and become progressive in organizational growth. If you will keep the students you have, reach those in your area, and teach them all effectively, you will grade them by ages. If you have the vision to believe the above laws will work, you will evangelize the lost and build a Sunday school for the glory of God.

From: web site. September 2015.

The above article, “The Laws of Sunday School Growth” was written by Elmer Towns. The article was excerpted from:

The material is copyrighted and should not be reprinted under any other name or author. However, this material may be freely used for personal study or research purposes.

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.”