We can easily make a case for the value of Sunday School helping the church carry out all five purposes: evangelism, discipleship, fellowship, ministry, and worship. Worship would be included not because of a worship service following Sunday School. Worship would be included because when we open God’s Word, He speaks. And that is an open invitation to worship.
I can also make a case for fellowship due to the relationships and the importance of assimilation. But for this post, I am including fellowship as a natural part of ministry. We cannot effectively minister to people and care for their needs without a relationship. I am going to assume fellowship in order to narrow the focus of this conversation.
Here is the equation for this blog post:
Sunday School Growth = Evangelism + Ministry + Discipleship
EVANGELISM. Growing Sunday School cannot exist when any one of these ingredients is missing. Many Sunday Schools are trying to operate without evangelism. They are not focused on reaching out to new people. They are not prepared when new people show up. They do not follow up. They may care about each other. They may minister to one another’s needs. But they don’t really care whether new people come to class or not. They don’t care enough about lost people to invite them to Sunday School or Jesus.
MINISTRY. Growing Sunday School cannot exist without ministry. We may be inviting new people all the time. We may have guests show up every Sunday. But if we are not ministering to the needs of members, they won’t stay connected. We will miss some of the prospects if we fail to reach out in their times of stress and need. Our caring connects. But when our back door (people leaving) is as big or bigger than our front door (new people), we cannot grow.
DISCIPLESHIP. Finally, growing Sunday School cannot exist without discipleship. If the group is inviting and ministering but is not teaching God’s Word, the group is nothing more than a social club. If the group is reaching out and meeting needs but not “making disciples,” then the members are not personally growing. We are to equip the saints for works of service (Ephesians 4:11-12). Even if the numbers for the Sunday School are increasing but the lives are not becoming more like Jesus, the Sunday School is unbalanced in its growth and is likely destined to decline.
How is your Sunday School doing on this equation? If you had to identify one area in which your Sunday School is weakest, which would it be? What needs to be done to shore up that weakness? What steps can you take this month to begin to address that area? Sunday School growth equals evangelism, ministry, AND discipleship. Pray. Evaluate. Address. Grow. Make disciples. For more ideas about growing your Sunday School, check out these blog posts:
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.