Steve Parr: Practical steps if your class is not growing
Except from Steve's new book released recently:
Do not apologize for wanting to grow
You will find that not everyone wants the church or your group to grow. Many of them are well meaning and do not understand that growth is not about larger numbers or about getting bigger. Growth is about people coming into a relationship with Christ and the church taking responsibility to assist them in their spiritual growth. Numbers increase as more people come into a relationship with Christ. Some members and maybe even some friends may try to make you feel some sense of guilt about wanting to grow. Always remember that Satan does not want the church or your group to grow either. Seek to obey God rather than to please man.
You have a responsibility for leading your class to be obedient to the Great Commission. Every group that does so will be blessed to see family, friends, and community members come into a relationship with Christ. Your group may not experience it every week or every month but God will bless you to be a part of the process of people trusting Christ if you are obedient. Any guilt that a leader may feel for wanting their group or church to grow is not coming from God. He is daily bringing people into a relationship with Himself according to Acts 2:47. He will let any leader or group who desires to be a part of His plan of reconciling sinners to Himself. Pray that the Lord will let you grow!
Apart from Christ you can do nothing
You will discover moving forward some of the practical strategies and principles for leading your class to grow. They are time tested and proven by churches and groups that experience growth in their Sunday school ministries. However, application of the tools will not bear fruit without the work and the power of Christ in your life and the life of the group. The anointing of God on your ministry is not a principle but is essential and foundational. How are you doing in your personal relationship with Christ? Are you growing personally? Are you spending time daily with the Father? Are you filled with the Holy Spirit?
Volumes have been written and opinions are plentiful as to the reasons for the lack of growth and even the decline of churches and Sunday schools in recent years. However, you may have noticed that not every church or every group has stopped growing. Perhaps you are passionate and growing personally and yet not experiencing growth in your group. If that is the case then some of the more practical tools may help you in moving forward. Be absolutely sure that you are seeking the power of God in your life and in your leadership first and foremost. God cannot use you if you are an empty vessel. Fill your life and heart with Christ by emptying yourself through repentance and filling yourself by spending as much energy as possible in prayer, worship, and the study of God’s word.
It takes a team
A team of leaders can obviously accomplish more than an individual. Multiple leaders enable you to multiply the number of hours invested in ministry, the number of contacts with the unchurched, the amount of ministry that can be done for the members, and maximizes the quality of ministry by utilizing the giftedness and passions of others. A team of six leaders can accomplish much more than an individual. You should give immediate attention to enlisting those that are attending to take on a specific role of leadership and ministry in partnership with you to strengthen and grow the group. A larger group will obviously need a larger number of leaders.
Do as Jesus exemplified in His enlistment of the apostles. Pray about who in your group is best equipped to help provide leadership and directly ask for their help. Remind those enlisted that you will work with them and that the ministry is a team effort. The time you invest is multiplied by many hours of service for each person that you bring on board. Consider who might help in the following areas: Who can assist you with organizational and administrative tasks? Who can assist you with keeping the group focused on outreach and evangelism? Who can assist you with planning fellowships that reach out to the unchurched and bring the group closer together? Who can assist with maintaining regular contact with all of the members?
You will note that there are not titles and no flow chart. You choose titles for these roles based on your context and begin enlisting one by one in the recommended order as you see them presented. You can follow by having each of those leaders in turn enlist teams to assist them. The roles you see are not the only possibilities. Simply ask what it is that your class needs to be more effective and enlist members to focus on and lead those areas.
Numbers that matter
You may recall from the introduction that every paragraph could be a chapter and every chapter could be a book. The numbers that you are about to consider all affect the ability of your group to grow. You can find more details about implementation of the following principles throughout this book as well as in Sunday School That Really Works.
1. You need to intentionally increase the enrollment. The average attendance will never exceed the enrollment and will ordinarily be between 40-60%. You will discover that the larger the enrollment pool the larger the attendance potential.
2. You need to intentionally increase the number of contacts made each week to members and prospects. The number of contacts affects the week to week attendance as much as anything else. Compare a group that extended twenty invitations and called every member absent last week to a group that invited one person and did not call those who missed. Which group is most likely to have strong attendance next week?
3. You need to increase the number of leaders serving in the class. More leaders enable you to accomplish more in your leadership.
4. You need to increase the number of prospects that your group has identified. Prospects are non-attending members, recent guests, and unchurched friends who are of the same life stage of your group that are not enrolled or attending any other Bible study. The more people your group is praying for and inviting to fellowships and Bible study, the more the attendance can grow.
5. You need to be involved in increasing the number of classes or groups in your church. Twenty groups can reach and minister to more people than three groups. Sunday schools do not grow without increasing the number of classes. That means that you will have to cooperate and participate in helping your church create and launch new classes and groups in the future.