Is Sunday School Making a Comeback in 2019? Part-1

I must admit that I never thought I would write a blog with that title. NEVER. And yet…here I am.

For many years from the late 1990’s to say a year or so ago, the pundits, church “leaders’, seminarians, and most of the church consultants…including yours truly…were convinced that Sunday School was like your “Father’s Oldsmobile”…irrelevant. That is how church used to be done.  That worked good for our parents, but modern culture does not support or embrace it (so we said).

During this time churches all across the country said that the solution was “Small Groups” so scads of churches jumped on the Cell Group, Home Group, Small Group, Covenant Group, etc. model. Then we saw a trend toward calling Sunday School by names such a Grow Groups, Discipleship Group, Community Groups and the like.  They were still basically Sunday Morning educational classes.

When a church called us and said – “We are thinking of building a new building on a new site, how big should we build for?” (and we have been asked this question more times than I can count), we would respond with a question, “Do you have Sunday AM adult education.” That one question could swing the tide of space requirements by at least 50% (increased SF needs) and in some cases even more.  Not just that but the amount of parking required if you have more than one service and even more than one Sunday Adult Education would increase.

I am not ready to say we were wrong over the last 15-20 years…but I have a sense that things are changing (The Only Thing That Is Constant Is Change – Heraclitus). Allow me to elaborate.

Our team has developed a master plan process called an Intentional Workshop. The first step in our process is to gather information on attendance trends for that local church. From that data we develop what is referred to as a Program Study. This study looks at current attendance, considers how a church would “like” to do ministry in the future, past trends and a growth factor…usually 100%..with ratios of how many square feet is needed per person per space and function. It is a combination of art and science.

That provides the needed/desired amount of square footage to meet ministry objectives.  That, in turn, is compared to the existing square footage of the campus and the variance is the delta of potential net new space to be added. That is then extrapolated and run through a series of financial calculations and projections to determine a possible cost for the project.  This is then compared to the financial capability of the church.

OK….that is likely too deep in the weeds.  Sorry.

To my point.  We have had numerous clients over the past 24 months that are making us sit up and take note.  Here are the trends we have seen:

  1. All have an active Sunday School/AM Adult Education.
  2. All have educational attendance that is in the 80-90% of the largest AM Worship Service.
  3. Sunday School is embraced by all age groups…and particularly with the families with children.

This fascinates me. What does this mean?  Does it mean that every modern church that has worship space and only enough education for Preschool and Children up to 5th grade are going to rush out and buy Sunday School Curriculum?  Does it mean that all churches need to add 50% more space to accommodate what could be an insurgence of Sunday AM education offerings?

We will continue this conversation next time.


3 comments on “Is Sunday School Making a Comeback in 2019? Part-1

  1. Tim,
    I am really interested in your article and research. Actually, I am working on a research for a DMin course on Small Groups verses Sunday School Classes within Christian Churches. I am especially interested in Churches of Christ and/or Christian Church/Church of Christ research or articles. Do you have any suggested researches for me?
    Roger Hendricks

  2. Being in the ministry for 47 years, I have been an advocate for small groups for over 40 years. I have some great mentors: Leon Kilbreth-Mr Sunday School; Dr. Andy Anderson-author, “The Growth Spiral, still the greatest book ever written on growing a Biblical and balanced Church-side note, it took me 2 years to completely understand the concept and importance of Enrollment; and Dr. Harry Piland-president of the old Sunday School Board of the Southern Baptist Convention.

    As founder and President of Helping Pastors and Churches grow, I have developed an online university that will begin in November and the first course is 13 R,s A Church Needs To Grow and one of the 13 is “Reviving the Most Important Number in the Church-True Small Group Enrollment”. As I have worked with Churches over the years, I have found no Church that has true Small Group Enrollment–sad.

    Thanks for the great blog. Keep up the work for His Kingdom.

    Robert Cates

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