A number of years ago, Ken Hemphill wrote a great book entitled The Bonsai Theory of Church Growth. I would recommend all pastors, staff, Sunday School leaders, teachers, and church leaders who are interested in growth to read the book. Anyway, one of the principles of the book is that you must keep the pot small to keep a bonsai small. In a similar way, many churches keep the church and Sunday School small because they keep the organization and facilities small.
Let’s me give an overview of what will be examined this month:
ORGANIZATION. In order to organize to grow, we must add classes and leaders beyond the minimum. We must think beyond current enrollment and attendance. We must increase our prayer, care, contacts, and work.
For instance, for growth weekly contacts ideally should equal twice enrollment. Every member (and absentee) should be contacted along wtih all class prospects (should equal enrollment). How can this happen? The class should have care group leaders who lead their care groups to contact these two groups (members and prospects) weekly.
But too many classes underenlist care group leaders. They try to give 5 members (including absentees) and 5 prospects to every care group leader. Making contacts with 10 people weekly can be overwhelming, and care and contacts tend to suffer. Better to enlist more leaders and make the load lighter by only assigning 3 members and 3 prospects.
SPACE. When any space approaches 80% of capacity, attendance growth tends to slow and stop. Also when a preschool classroom gets full, it will often impact young adult and even senior adult (who tend to care for 20% of preschoolers). Preschoolers who are most active need 25-35 square foot per person. Children need 20-25. And teens and adults need 12-15.
Move classes to rooms of appropriate size. Start new classes when a group has reached 80% of capacity. Watch hallways, bathrooms, and parking lots. Don’t allow space to limit your ability to reach people and “make disciples of all nations” (Matthew 28:19-20).
Both space and organization impact reaching and teaching. Stop and assess your Sunday School. What is your current status? What can you do to avoid having a bonsai Sunday School? How can you enlarge your space and organization this month? Watch for other helpful blog posts this month about this important issue!
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.