How To Make Your Sunday School (or any Organization) Grow

How can you make your organization grow?


Almost 100 years ago (c. 1920) Arthur Flake (with excellent taste in tweed) became the first director of what is today called LifeWay.

He understood the “nuts-n-bolts” of how to grow an organization, and the organization that he focused on was Sunday School.

He was a laymen, and he understood that it is with “the people” not with “the ministers” as hired-guns that the real power for growth resides in a church.

The idea of Sunday School had been around for more than 100-years, but Flake saw the potential for this organization to be more than a place to keep kids out of trouble and transform it into the growth engine of the church.

This is the start of what caused the Southern Baptist Convention to become the powerhouse of growth and Sunday School that it became in the middle of last century, and continues to be even today (and will be again if we get back to these basics of organizational growth).

Here is Flake’s strategy summarized, though it was never put into bullet points in any one place (it probably :

  • Know the possibilities. What is your next step? Where can you go? Look at the resources you have (space, people, time, etc…) and assess the potential of your organization in the short-term, mid-term, and long-term. It will be exciting and motivating!
  • Enlarge the organization. Based on your assessment of your organization of where they could go, you create the space to fill in the “next step.” Do you have 10 Sunday School classes meeting? Add one or two more. Are you “full” start another Sunday School hour. Create the space that can be filled with people.
  • Enlist and train the workers. Once the growth space is provided, every class needs a Teacher (that’s the minimum), but as you train the teachers, they can recruit Outreach leaders, Care leaders, and other people to help with administrative tasks. I highly recommend “Six Core Values of Sunday School” and “Sunday School in HD” (as well as related products, DVDs, CDs, etc…) for this training.
  • Provide space and resources. A leader cannot do the work for each class, but you can provide the resources. Equip each class with curriculum and helps, a room, chairs, name tags, roll sheets, and a way to track their people. It’s really important, though, that each class see their class as their own ministry. The leader (Sunday School Director, Education Pastor, Etc.) does not do the work, he/she provides the resources and training for the work to be done.
  • GO after the people! If a class does not actively seek people to fill their class, they are not doing the work of (Flake’s) Sunday School. When a class gets to a “comfortable size” they need to be split, when they fill 80% of the capacity of a room, they need to divide, when there is no one to lead the class, they need to dissolve. Active growing classes do not happen by accident, and growing ministries come from new and growing classes.

I know these principles would translate to franchises, territories, plant locations, etc. but what I know best is Sunday School. I am constantly approached by people who want to run their class in a “new way” or suggest that “traditional Sunday School” just doesn’t work anymore. I’ll grant that many church’s Sunday School programs are not working, but it’s because they are not working them. In more than 16 years of ministry now, I have never seen a Sunday School class, who followed Flake’s formula, fail… not one time.

On the other hand, I’ve seen many classes, who do not think “traditional Sunday School” works anymore, fizzle and either plateau or stop meeting altogether. 

If you want your class to grow, follow the formula. Reach People, Teach People, and Love People (i.e. Ministry). Also, get the resources you need to educate yourself, the books above, as well as another book I recommend “You Can Double Your Class in Two Years or Less” (study guide here) by Josh Hunt.

Sunday School works, when you work it. When you don’t, like anything else, it doesn’t.

About John Harris

I don't know half of you half as well as I should like; and I like less than half of you half as well as you deserve.
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One Response to How To Make Your Sunday School (or any Organization) Grow

  1. Coral Stiles says:

    Let’s get goin’! Even we non-teachers can benefit from these resources. I only clicked on the links to get an overview and check out the prices, but found the spirit leading me to make these purchases. By the way, I like the way you lead us into this topic. Wish I would have known about these resources when I was facilitating the class I’m part of now.

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