How to give a Sunday School Report

Reporting is not the most important thing. It is not as important as prayer or preparation or giving Friday nights to Jesus, but it is still important. One of the myths of church growth is the idea that there is a secret to church growth. There is one secret--one silver bullet and if you get this right all will be well. Some say the secret is prayer. Some say it is good preaching. Some say it is a certain style of music. Some say it is the Sunday School. Truth is, it is everything. You have to do everything pretty well to get your church to grow. Good reporting is part of the mix.

It is the same in most any arena in life. Suppose you wanted to win the Olympics in snow skiing. What is THE key? THE key is understanding there is no key. You have to train well, practice hard, have good coaching, have good genetics, have good equipment and and so forth to win the race.

Giving a Sunday School Report is not as important as prayer or preparation, but it is hard for me to imagine leading a doubling group movement without it.

Reporting helps us with the reality principle. To make progress in any arena you have to have a system that puts you in touch with reality. It is hard to imagine loosing weight without getting on the scales every day. It is hard to imagine getting out of debt without looking at some kind of financial report. It is hard to imagine leading a doubling group movement in your church without regular and accurate reporting.

The Bible says to know well the condition of your flock. There is more to this than reporting, but reporting is part of it. It always pleases me when I ask a pastor or Minister of Education, "How does your attendance this year compare with last year or five years ago?" and they are able to say, "This year we are up by 11%. Over five years we are up by 65%" This is someone who knows well the condition of his flock.

What goes into a good Sunday School Report?

The key to a good report is simplicity. The nemesis of a good report is clutter. The single fact that you want to pull out of the numbers answers this question:

How does attendance this month compare
with this same month a year ago?

The answer to this question is framed in terms of a percentage. This is the single number that we need to extract. It is likely going to be a number between one and twenty. Hopefully, it is a positive number. The formula for calculating this number is to take this year's average divided by last year average and subtract 1. Here is an example:

Last year's average:     100
This year's average:     111

This year/last year:     1.11

Percentage growth:    11%

I would display this information in terms of a graph. If you can get it, it is useful to have this information in terms of the last five to ten years. Obviously this is a bit of trouble setting up the first time, but is a snap after that. (If you are not familiar with the basics of how to use a spreadsheet like Excel, get someone to show you. It makes this all really easy.) We want to present a graph every month that looks like this:

This displays raw numbers. It is helpful, but what is really helpful is the percentage growth or decline. That looks like this:

With this chart you can see at a glance that this April was 11% above last year. The last chart I would do in this section is a year to date. Months can fluctuate some so it is helpful to see the big picture of how this year is stacking up with last year. To compare apples to apples, you want to compare this year's year to date with the same period last year, not with last year's overall average.

How not to report

This kind of reporting stands in contrast with most reporting that I see. Most reporting has full sheet of paper, usually front and back with little bitty numbers--6 point type that you can barely read. The whole page is covered with numbers. The back is covered with numbers. Yet, I can't find the answer to these questions:

  • Is the Sunday School growing?
  • Is my class growing?

Individual classes: the real key

When you look at a group picture that includes you, who do you look at? You, right?

The above chart let's us know how the overall Sunday School is doing, but it does not tell us how the individual classes are doing. One way to solve this would to make individual charts like the ones above for every class. This would be an enormous amount of work, and would not be all that helpful. Particularly in kids classes, the information would be almost useless, because you are comparing this year's sixth grader class to last year's class. There are, of course, ways around that, but there is a simpler and better way.

The idea is to create a graph that compares last month's attendance, class by class, with some period of time in the past. You could compare it with the previous month, when I was a Minister of Education, I compared it with last semester. The resulting graph looks like this:

Using this chart, you can see at a glace that Adult 4 us up by 10% and Adult 1 is down by 10%. This is not that significant, unless you are the leader of Adult 1. I promise when the leader of Adult 1 looks at this, it is going to get him asking some questions--questions he needs to be asking and questions he wasn't asking before he looked at this report. That is what good reporting does, it changes our behavior. It makes us ask questions. It helps us to do better.

People have a natural inclination to want to win. They want to do well. Problem is in many Sunday Schools no one defines the win. The win is doubling. The kind of chart above gives us a month-by-month feedback as to how we are doing.

Get some guys out on a basketball court shooting hoops, messing around and measure the energy. Then divide them into teams and someone says these magic words: let's keep score. Measure the energy again. Everything changed because someone is keeping score. Scorekeeping does that for us. We all want to win. We just need someone to keep score.

Know well the condition of your flock. Part of what that means is to do good reporting.