Sunday School is an untapped powerhouse of every church. Jumpstart yours with these proven principles.
A Pastor asked me to give him some ideas about reenergizing a stagnant Sunday School program and increasing its attendance. What a great question! As I was meditating on the answer, I sensed that I should write an article about it to help others with the same question.
Also, the article would be a good reminder of the principles we teach to our own Sunday School workers at Curtis Corner Baptist Church.
I believe in the Sunday School ministry. When done correctly, it will strengthen and invigorate your entire church. Here are ten proven principles that will supercharge your Sunday School program.
1. Make Sunday School the preeminent ministry.
Sunday School should be the most important ministry in the Church. It has been used of God like no other ministry since its inception. It has a unique structure that can still be used to change the world. A correctly organized Sunday School program will enhance your church in every way. It will increase the potential of even the smallest church to win souls and train disciples.
2. Declare the Sunday School a soul winning ministry.
Every Sunday School worker should be involved in reaching people. Place a requirement of soul winning and visitation on every worker. This proclamation will lower the number of workers initially, but it will help you exponentially in the long run.
Don’t allow the Sunday School to be separate from the Great Commission. Every worker should be involved in outreach at least once a month. Every visitor to Sunday School should get the Gospel. Don’t let anyone slip through the cracks.
While Sunday School is a discipleship (Bible Teaching) ministry, don’t allow the workers to feel like they specialize in discipleship while others specialize in evangelism. No. The Sunday School is a soul winning ministry. We are all to seek the lost.
3. Organize your church through the Sunday School.
Organize your Sunday School by age and/or grade. Here are a few examples:
- Nursery – Birth to 3 years
- Pre-primary – 4 & 5 year olds
- Primary – 1st – 3rd grade
- Junior – 4th – 6th grades
- Jr. High – 7th – 9th grades
- High School – 10th – 12th grades
- College & Career
- Young Married Couples
- Married Couples
- Single Moms
- Seasoned Saints
- Auditorium Class – for anyone else
These divisions can be grouped or further divided by grade, gender, etc. based on size and number of teachers. Every church will be different. The Lord will give you wisdom. Use what works for your church.
If you have a properly segmented class system, then you have already organized the membership. Just use that existing organization to accomplish the church mission.
Do you need to provide meals? Use a class. Do you have a job that needs to be done around the church? Use a class. Do you have a project to do? Use a class.
If you have a small church with only one adult class, you can choose some “class captains” to be in charge of the age groups or life stages mentioned. By using this “Class Captain” system, you can still pay attention to each group within the one class. Also, this gives any new person joining your Sunday School a connection point within the class.
4. Preach a message on Sunday Morning about the importance of Sunday School.
Once a year, preach an entire message in the Sunday morning service about the importance of Sunday School. Remind them of these essential truths.
Sunday School is for everyone. It’s not just for children. It is for adults as well.
Sunday School will help the entire family grow in grace. Parents and children learning the Bible at the same time will make the family much stronger spiritually.
Sunday School will help you be like Christ faster than if you don’t come. Isn’t that the goal of every serious Christian? If you are coming to church anyway, get here a little earlier and be blessed.
Sunday School will strengthen the entire church. Your personal attendance matters to the whole assembly.
5. Mention Sunday School each week from the pulpit.
Sunday School is a big deal. The pastor should be creative in keeping it in the forefront of people’s minds. Here are some different ideas you can use to mention Sunday School weekly:
- Illustrate – Use a sermon illustration that includes Sunday School.
- Emphasize – Include it in any list of important ministries or Christian duties in your sermons.
- Praise – Give a praise of someone who came to Sunday School or something good that happened in Sunday School.
- Pray – Include Sunday School in your Wednesday night bulletin. Ask for different prayer requests regarding it.
- Promote – Honor those that are faithful to Sunday School.
6. Add an occasional blurb to the Church Bulletin.
The weekly church bulletin is one of the most underutilized tools in most churches. If you are going to use a weekly bulletin, make it work for you. It is a powerful tool to reinforce Bible teaching and ministry philosophy.
Here is an example of what we put in our bulletin from time to time.
Isn’t Sunday School Just For Children?
Every serious Christian knows that Bible Study is not optional but essential; you will never be a disciple of Jesus Christ without it! Bible Study and discipleship are what our Sunday School is all about. Of course, we have Sunday School classes for children, but our Adult class is our best-attended class. Sunday School is a wonderful place to find good friends and godly fellowship. It is a place to feel at home. In our Adult Class, we choose important topics and study the Bible to learn what our Father would have us do and how we should do it. We do not embarrass anyone by requiring them to read or speak, all participation is voluntary. There is a time of question and answer after most lessons. If you are a serious Christian striving to be a disciple of Jesus Christ, Sunday School is for you.
II Timothy 2:15 “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.”
7. Use a reward system in the Sunday School Classes.
People respond to rewards.
Don’t get me started on the whole “bribing kids” debate. Bribing is an incentive to get someone to do wrong. Rewards are an incentive to get people to do right. After all, God didn’t just save us from Hell, but He promised us Heaven.
If you attack a church for positive reinforcement of spirituality, you better never give your own kids a treat for doing well either.
This reward system can be elaborate or simple. In its purest form, you assign points for desired behavior.
- On time to class
- Bring your Bible
- Say the memory verse
Let them know the reward for gaining a certain amount of points in a designated time. It’s that simple.
You can have special incentives for your adult classes as well. For example, you can give a beautiful family Bible to those that attend the adult Sunday School for 7 out of 8 weeks during a campaign.
These reward programs work on the Bus routes too. At the very least, every bus should have a “Faithful Box” full of dollar store prizes on a front seat. Every child that comes three weeks in a row can pick a prize. They will love it, and it will help your attendance.
8. Require the Teachers to visit their students.
It will kill your Sunday School if the teachers think their only job is to teach! They will study and be in class each week, but they will complain that no one is bringing in new kids. (I hear you groaning “Amen” right now.)
It is every teacher’s job to build the Sunday School class. The bus ministry and other people will help, but they must take responsibility for the class.
THIS IS THE LARGEST FAILURE OF THE MODERN SUNDAY SCHOOL.
Yes, I know ALL CAPS is annoying, but I need you to understand that last statement.
If you have an older Sunday School teacher that has been faithful for years but has trouble going out, give him or her a younger Assistant Teacher who understands this imperative to help.
Let every new Sunday School teacher you recruit know that soul winning and visitation is expected. Trust me. You can continue to suffer for years and do it someday, or you can make the change now. Learn from my mistake. Don’t wait.
There are three types of visits that each Sunday School teacher must add to their schedule.
- New students – Every new student should get a visit from the Sunday School teacher. Even if the pastor will visit the parents or they came on a bus, the teacher should visit. The Sunday School teacher is another point of contact for the child and family. The more people you have connected to someone who attends, the greater your chance of keeping them in church.
- Absentees – The most important visit you can make is the person who missed for the first time last Sunday. Don’t wait for them to miss two weeks in a row. Catch them before they slip away.
- Regular students – Every student should get a home visit once per quarter. I mean every student. This includes the pastor’s and deacon’s children. Let every student know you love them. Put feet to your words. They will remember you coming to their home. Convincing them that you love them will help them to listen and behave better in class too.
A Sunday School worker is more than a teacher or babysitter. They should be life-changers. They will be with pastoral encouragement and God’s power.
9. Plan two campaigns per year and one special Sunday a month.
These programs are very helpful to the church. They will break up the monotony of the schedule. They will force you to push hard for specific periods of time without wearing everyone out constantly. They will encourage the entire church to focus on the great commission together.
For our church, a 6-8 week Spring program (April & May) and a four week Fall Program (October) works best. We coordinate the special days with our Morning Service, Sunday School, and Bus Ministry. Sometimes they all enjoy the same event, and sometimes they have a separate emphasis, but they are planned in harmony.
The Spring and Fall are abundant times of spiritual reaping. Don’t be a sluggard during the harvest.
Plan a special day or event each Sunday during the program. This can be as big as a carnival or as small as a pencil giveaway. These events don’t have to cost a lot of money. Be creative.
While each campaign would include all of these elements, you can focus on a primary goal for each program:
- Soul Winning Attendance
- Sunday School
- Number of Homes Visited
- Number of tracts, door hangers, or packets passed out
Have a special Sunday for the Sunday School once a month between the big pushes. This will give the ministry a shot in the arm regularly.
These seasonal programs will become the high points in your church calendar if planned and executed correctly. Your members will look forward to them, and God will bless you with fruit.
10. Recruit teachers constantly and be ready to split classes.
This point could be its own article. I won’t take the time to elaborate but will make the following recommendations.
The teachers are the ones who are doing the most learning. Therefore, the more teachers you have preparing to teach, the greater the discipleship taking place.
Always, be looking for people who can be trained to teach. Invite them to your weekly “Sunday School Teacher and Worker Meeting.” (If you don’t have one of those, you should start one asap.) Have them learn the material and be prepared to substitute when necessary.
If you have enough workers, each class can have an “Assistant Teacher.” You should have two adults per class anyway for safety and liability purposes.
Keep the class size small. Be ready to split classes that get too big. I know most of us don’t have enough room, but you might be surprised where you can put a Sunday School class for an hour a week!
While this small class mentality requires creativity by the pastor and commitment by the workers, it will give you a broad foundation from which your entire church can grow.