Did you like “word problems” in school? Most people don’t. One of my favorites is from a nonsense greeting card:
“If a chicken and a half can lay an egg and a half in a day and a half, how long would it take a grasshopper with a wooden leg to kick all the seeds out of a dill pickle?”
Of course, you can’t solve that problem. With the right information, you can solve this one:
A church averages 150 people in the building during Sunday morning worship. The church is an average Southern Baptist congregation. How many of the 150 participate only in the worship service? How many in Sunday School? About how many classes are there? Five years from now, how many of each group will still be active?
In order to solve the various equations called for by this problem, you need the following data:
- On average, SBC churches report a Sunday School to Worship attendance ratio of 2:3 (67%).
- On average, SBC churches have a class to attendance ratio of 1:10. Every class does not have exactly 10, but—over time—the average is about ten people per class.
- In High Expectations, Thom Rainer reports the findings from a team of researchers who analyzed membership data from a sampling of churches to discover what happened to new members after 5 years in two categories. They found that members who attended Worship only, 16 percent were still around 5 years later. If they attended worship and Sunday School, 83 percent remained active.
So, let’s solve the word problem. How many of the 150 during worship also attended Sunday School? 150 times 67% equals 100. 100 people attended worship and Sunday School.
How many classes? 100 divided by 10 equals 10. So about 10 classes.
How many of the 100 who attended worship and Sunday School will still be active in 5 years? 100 times 83% equals 83.
How many of the 50 who only attend worship will still be around in 5 years? 50 times 16% equals 8. That’s not a typo. There will be eight. Did that sink in? Eight.
This is more than a word problem. It is a real problem. Fortunately, the problem can be solved! How? By getting worship attenders into Sunday School. Or—more likely—starting new groups. Bonus problem: How many classes are needed to involve the 50? Did you say 5? Good job!
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