Sunday School class attendance is impacted by several factors. One is the amount of care for the needs of members. Another is the number of invitations to prospects. Yet others are efforts to deepen connections and relationships through participatory teaching methods, icebreakers, class fellowships and projects, and prayer. Another factor is life-changing encounters with God in His Word. Attraction and connection occur as a result.

Another often-overlooked factor in efforts to enlarge class attendance is increasing class enrollment. I have seen this in classes all over the country. Back in the 1950s, there was a clearer understanding of the value of enrollment and its impact on attendance. Today, few pastors, directors, or teachers lead class leaders and members to pursue increasing enrollment. The simple fact is that increasing class enrollment accompanied by prayer and care for those enrolled leads to increased class attendance.

How do we give enrollment more visibility as a significant factor in enlarging class attendance? What can we do to help classes focus on enrolling more people? What if we offered some incentives? What incentives could we offer that would motivate?

A great ideas is offered in an article on Baptist Press by David Francis who is the director of Sunday School for LifeWay Christian Resources. The article is entitled Counting Active Enrollment. In the article, David suggests counting your active enrollment and using it to motivate and encourage leaders through five steps:

  • Count the names of each member who attended at least once during the month.
  • Do not count the names of visitors (unless you enrolled them).
  • In adult groups, count the names of all associate/service members.
  • Report the results.
  • Reward the results.

Now, there are several ways to reward the results. You can display monthly results on a bulletin board and offer a party for all classes that increase enrollment. You can monthly recognize from the pulpit all classes which increase enrollment (helps the whole church to see the value of enrollment). You can print it monthly in your church newsletter or bulletin. You can conduct a contest between two balanced halves of the Sunday School which awards points for enrollment increase.

But one incentive for increasing class enrollment had not occurred to me until I read David’s article. He suggests as a reward this idea:

Some of you will be turned off by this idea, but I actually implemented it very successfully among adults. Each group had a fellowship budget that they…”earned”…based on their active enrollment….Every month, active enrollment is calculated as above. Then an amount is credited to the group’s fellowship fund — say, 10 cents for each active member and 20 cents for each associate/service member. Most groups saved up their funds to help with a big Christmas party, but they could spend the funds on other fellowship or ministry needs as well. You

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might imagine how anxious the leaders were to see their active enrollment figures each month. What’s more important was the increased attention to enrolling new members, contacting absentees and caring for associate/service members.

Do what you can to help your teachers and classes to understand the value of enrollment. Help them to set goals. Help them to track it and care for the people. I like David’s reminder at the end of the article, “You get what you measure — and reward.” So measure enrollment and reward your classes for doing good work!

Keep in mind that increasing enrollment and caring for those enrolled leads to expanded group life. Members are mobilized, new leaders are discovered, and connections are made. Make Sunday School richer, group life expanded, and Kingdom impact greater!

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Darryl Wilson has served as Director of the Sunday School Department for the Kentucky Baptist Convention since 1997. He served as Minister of Education in five churches in Kentucky and South Carolina. He is the author of The Sunday School Revolutionary!, a blog about life-changing Sunday School and small groups.

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  4. Training Sunday School Leaders is More than an Event
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