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Steve Parr: Research on assimilation and Sunday School

Further research has revealed that participation in Sunday school makes a dramatic difference in the assimilation of a new believer (see figure 1.1). The survey questioned people who had received Christ as Savior five years earlier. Of those who immediately became active in Sunday school, 83 percent were still active five years later. By contrast, only 16 percent were still active if they did not become active in Sunday school immediately after becoming a believer. What a dramatic difference! Commenting on these findings, the researchers concluded: "With this type of data, one might expect churches to give high priority to getting new members involved in a small group immediately. We certainly found the formerly unchurched to have an enthusiastic view of small groups, particularly Sunday school.... The picture is clear: the formerly unchurched `stick to' a church when they get involved in a small group. Let us pray that more churches will learn this lesson"'

Figure 1.1. New Believer Assimilation Rate Source: Data from Thom S. Rainer, Surprising Insights from the Unchurched and Proven Ways to Reach Them (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2008), 118-20.

The principles that affect the growth of a Sunday school are not necessarily geographical. You can find churches in every region of North America that have growing Sunday school ministries. You can find them in rural, suburban, and urban areas. Following research that affirmed this perspective, Rainer quoted a pastor who, in his own pastorates, observed, "The bottom line is that basic Sunday school principles worked in a blue-collar Florida church, a California yuppie church, and a Bible-belt middle-class Texas church. Sunday school works if it is worked right:'' The principles also can be effective cross-denominationally. He goes on to say: "In our study of 576 effective evangelistic churches, we found the Sunday school to be one of the most important factors in the churches' success. Since all of these churches were Southern Baptist, I expected that the Sunday school factor was something unique to the denomination.... But when I tested the survey against nearly five hundred non-Southern Baptist churches, I was surprised to find little to no statistical differences, except in worship styles.

Steve Parr. Sunday School That Really Works: A Strategy for Connecting Congregations and Communities (pp. 18-20). Kindle Edition.

Steve Parr is speaking as part of the All Star Sunday School Training Team. To attend an event, or host an event. see http://allstarsundayschool.com/