I was the pastor of several churches in the Midwest during college and in my early days of ministry. Sometimes those churches grew and multiplied and there were years when we declined. Of course, I fondly remember the years when we were growing and our Sunday School expanded. It was a little like a roller coaster ride with ups and downs and it always came back around.
Classes cycled through their life and sometimes we found a class declining to the point it was absorbed into another class or just ceased meeting. But when we deliberately started classes, we always gained in enrollment and attendance.
I found a single adult class was always a good place to start. There were always single adults in every community and usually the church was expecting them to go into a “young adult” class–full of married couples. Most singles would respond when I would offer to group them into a singles class. Sometimes these classes dissipated on me due to a highly mobile community of singles who moved around often. But every time we started a new class we grew our Sunday School (in 3 of the 5 churches I pastored in those years.
So when a class comes to the end of it’s life cycle, do you close it and consider it a failure? Not necessarily. Always be on the lookout for new opportunities with age groups or affinity groups or key leaders who will draw a class to themselves. Know that some classes will go on seemingly forever and some will be short lived.
Churches go through life cycles as well. Robert Dale, author of “To Dream Again” (Broadman Press, 1981) illustrated the “bell curve” of a church life cycle from dream to growth to plateau to decline and death. His solution was to “re-dream” the dream periodically. Plant new ministries, new classes, set new goals and see new people brought into the organization.
Extreme Sunday Schools start new things…new groups in particular. What are you dreaming about in your next life cycle?