Triple Sunday Schools, It Can Be Done


By: Bill Tharp


Amazing. The coach never lost his cool. As I watched his Little League ball team practice, I thought, He’ll never teach them anything. They strike out all the time and drop fly balls one after another. It’s hopeless. They won’t win a game.

The coach never gave up. His contagious enthusiasm never wavered. When a player made a mistake, the coach ran quickly to his side and repeated in a calm, strong voice these reassuring words: You can do it. Watch me. It’s not hard. I’ll show you.”

So it is with building and maintaining three Sunday Schools. Other ministers of education have said by their example: “You can do it. Watch me. I’ll show you.” I watched and I learned.


Our Church’s Story

I began a new education ministry at a suburban Memphis church in March 1990. I discovered the Sunday, School had remained stagnant for a number of years. It consisted of 50 teaching units, 80 workers, an average attendance of 635, and an enrollment of 1,365.

The potential for Sunday School growth was bright and promising; however, a lack of space hindered this growth. I immediately began to stress two important growth principles: enrolling new members and contacting inactive members and prospects.

God began to bless in unbelievably miraculous ways. Sunday School workers an$ members began to reach out to people. In July 1990, we began dual Sunday Schools that contained 82 teaching units, 146 workers, an average attendance of 754, and an enrollment of 1,565.

Instead of resting on its laurels, our ministerial staff asked God to continue blessing us. Enrollment was still a top priority. We enrolled 900 new members from July 1990–July 1991. We started a third Sunday School in March 1991. Our three fully graded Sunday Schools, which meet at 8:30, 9:45, and 11, contain 105 units, 200 workers, an average attendance of 950, and an enrollment of 2,150.


Building and Maintaining Triple Sunday Schools from our church experience,

From our church experience, I would like to share the following practical suggestions for building and maintaining triple Sunday Schools.


1. Enlist workers to serve in only one Sunday School.–Ask God to provide the workers. He will do it, according to His Word (see Matt. 9:37-38). I’ve tried and proved this wonderful promise many times.

Don’t be tempted to ask workers to serve more than one school. The typical worker will have difficulty serving two consecutive hours. A tired worker runs the risk of dropping out.

I follow this rule of thumb: one job for one person; however, I must commend the large number of workers who staff multiple schools. Each division has a list of substitute teachers. A young women’s teacher in the
first school may easily substitute for a teacher of this age group in the second school.

2. Provide a weekly time of fellowship for all workers.–Being a leader is often a lonely task. The situation may be complicated further when a worker doesn’t fellowship with other workers. For example, Children’s Division teachers in the first Sunday School rarely see those in the third school. Feelings of isolation of ten creep in and team spirit fades.

The weekly leadership meeting solves this problem. All of our Sunday School division workers meet on Wednesday nights. Celebration and enthusiasm fill the air. Part of the program is strictly motivational. Successful Sunday School classes and workers Are spotlighted. Workers leave the meeting with a feeling of unity and team spirit.

3. Ask the best teachers to serve in the least-popular Sunday School hour.–A good teacher is a drawing card. His reputation attracts people no matter when he teaches. The 11 o’clock class is our least popular. Most people will choose the earlier time when given the option. Therefore, some of our best teachers volunteered to teach this hour. Not surprisingly, some took entire classes with them. Remember to praise the workers and members who support the least popular time.

4. Assign propects to the smallest Sunday School.–How do you assign prospects in a triple Sunday School structure?

Some prospects are easy to assign. If a prospect visits the first school, he likely will be assigned to that school. What does one do about worship-hour visitors who are prospects for Bible study? The smallest school is probably the best place to assign them. Our third school is the smallest. Remember, the best teachers have been placed in this school. Consequently, I know the teacher or outreach leader will contact these prospects quickly. The prospects, in turn, will be pleased with the quality of teaching.

5. Remind teachers that no space is the private property of one group or class.–This point is aimed mainly at adult classes. One classroom probably will be used three consecutive hours in triple schools. A tendency for a teacher to make the room his or her own naturally may emerge. Personal items such as posters unrelated to the lesson, knickknacks, and cushions may start to appear.

Teachers who decorate rooms in such a way forget about others’ needs. When a teacher is first enlisted and assigned a room, remind her that other teachers also will use the room. Handle any problems with this arrangement at this time. Don’t decorate a classroom unless the other teachers agree to it. Tell the teacher the room will be hers only temporarily and that she probably will be assigned another room next year.

6. Show appreciation to workers.–The myriad of details involved in maintaining multiple schools may cause us to lose sight of important issues. Workers teach, reach, and minister. God uses them to build Sunday Schools. Remember those facts.

Don’t use grandiose schemes or expensive gifts to show appreciation. Concentrate on subtle gestures. Call a worker by name. Send a birthday card. Smile. Be enthusiastic and friendly. Express gratitude for a job
well-done. Write thank you letters. Make complimentAry phone calls. Give encouragement. Brag on a teacher in front of his class. You’ll be amazed at how effective teachers view your leadership when you show genuine appreciation.


7. Stress the basics.–Take no shortcuts in building great triple Sunday Schools. It involves hard work, which has only just begun when the structure is in place and teachers are enlisted. You must continually
stress the basics of good Sunday School work, such as contacting and enrolling people and creating new classes. For example:

* Be a model for good Sunday School work.
* Stress the basics when you’re in front of a group of workers.
* Publish the classes’ number of contacts, new members, and attendance.
Such actions foster accountability.

Remember the coach at the beginning of this article? His team won all but one game and captured the league championship. I can still hear his calm, strong voice encouraging those 11- and 12-year-old boys: “You can do it. It’s not hard.”

Triple those Sunday Schools. You can do it. It’s not hard.


(The above material appeared in the July/Aug./Sept. 1992 issue of the Growing Churches Magazine.)

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