When the Bible says, "Be sure you know the condition of your flocks, give careful attention to your herds." Proverbs 27:23 (NIV) I don't think it is talking only about sheep. If we are to serve our Lord well, we do well to know the condition of whatever he has entrusted to our care, whether it is a family or a business or a small group or a Sunday School class or a local church.
This article will help you to conduct a year-end evaluation of your Sunday School so that you can know well the condition of your flock. It is also an open letter to those who will be joining me in Memphis for the first-ever Double Your Church Conference. I'd like to ask you to put together a PowerPoint presentation based on this kind of information. Feel free to be creative and adapt what you see here. These are the instructions for how to prepare your presentation for the group. If you are a Southern Baptist church, you can go to http://sbds.lifeway.com and much of this information is already compiled. You will need a password, which I think you can get from your Association. I would arrange the presentation as the answers to a series of questions:
1. What is the long-term growth history of the church?
I believe that obedience to the Great Commission, under normal circumstances, results in growth that you can plot on a graph. I'd like to see a graph that looks like this:
2. What is the historical growth percentage?
Although the graph above looks pretty impressive, it we look a little closer, we will discover a disturbing trend.
This trend is due in part to the explosive early growth of a new church. New churches nearly always grow better than established ones and it is increasingly difficult to maintain that level of growth over the long haul. To its credit, this church has launched a number of churches as well. In order to double a church every five years or less, the benchmark goal is 15%, which this church has averaged until recently. There could be a number of reasons for this decline in percentage growth. External issues in the population in the area are a factor. Being able to continue to provide space is also a critical issue.
3. Where is the growth coming from?
Is it through conversions and baptisms, or is it though transfer growth? The following graph will help clarify this. This graph shows baptism as a percentage of attendance.
The national average on this is 10%. I have known some churches that were growing by 15% a year, yet they were only baptizing 5% of their Sunday School attendance each year. Baptizing 15% of your Sunday School attendance is a worthy goal for a doubling church.
If we are not seeing the growth we want to see, we want to know why. Is it that we don't have enough visitors? Or, are the visitors we do have not sticking around? The next two graphs spell this out.
4. What is the magnet factor?
The magnet factor deals with how many visitors a church has. If we had this information over a long period of time, the graph would look something like this:
Since many churches do not track this, you might want to just spot check it for about a month. Figure out how many people visit in a given month and divide by the number of weeks in the month. Then, create a graph that looks like this:
The goal is 3%. For every 100 people who attend on Sunday morning, we want 3 of them to be first time guests. I would count everyone who visits, whether in worship or Sunday School. I would count preschoolers as well as adults. I only count in-town visitors, and, I only count them once. This is first-time visitors.
5. What is the Velcro factor?
The Velcro factor has to do with how sticky the church is. It is the ratio of the number of people joining to the number of people visiting. If we knew these numbers over time, the graph would look like this:
More likely, we don't have real good records of this over time, so the graph looks like this:
The goal here is 33%. The bottom line on this Velcro/ Magnet deal is this. The strategies to create visitors are entirely different from the strategies to get them to stick around. If we want to create more visitors, do things like direct mail. If we want to improve the Velcro factor, do things like giving Friday nights to Jesus. I served as interim pastor of a church in El Paso for a time and we tracked this in our staff. We had a 75% Velcro factor, yet were still only growing by 5% a year. The reason? Very few visitors. A high percentage of a small number is still a small number. In that case we needed to attract more visitors. In most cases, however, this is not the issue. In most churches the issue is the Velcro factor, NOT the magnet factor. Which is it in your church? Know well the condition of your flock. I have talked to churches that had 100 visitors a week who thought the need of the hour was to get more visitors.
At the Double Your Church Conference, we will brainstorm strategies to improve in both of these areas, but it is helpful to know where we need to improve. "Know well the condition of your flock."
6. Which classes are growing and which are declining?
Growth is normally pretty uneven from one class to the next.
This chart show immediately that Married Adult 1 is doing great, whereas Married Adult 3 is not doing so well. It attracts attendance for a given period compared to the previous period on a class by class basis. This should give you some ideas where improvement is needed.
For those of you coming to the Double Your Church Conference, we would also like to see a few more things that would be helpful for us as we brainstorm together ways to get your church doubling:
I'd like you to close with this slide:
Most of the agenda for this three day conference will be brainstorming about your church and what we can do to get it doubling every five years or less.
If you have not yet signed up for the Memphis Double Your Church Conference, there is still room, although, participation will be limited to 20.
Whether or not you come with us to Memphis, I want to invite you to do some year-end evaluation. Know well the condition of your flock.