160907connect-chalkboardWhy do most Tennessee Baptist churches have more people in worship each Sunday than in Sunday school?

When I checked last, the average Tennessee Baptist church had approximately 75 percent of their worship attendance in a small group or in Sunday school. My assumption was that the double-digit churches would have a higher percentage but, to my surprise, they averaged around 75 percent as well.

Lifeway Research conducted a survey of worship participants. In this research, they learned that, compared to worshippers who just attended worship, people who also were involved in a small group or a Sunday school class:

  1. Read the Bible and pray more regularly
  2. Confess sins more frequently
  3. Share the gospel more freely
  4. Give more generously
  5. Serve more often

Those are five great motives to develop a strategy to connect worship attenders to a Sunday school class or small group!

One of our larger Tennessee Baptist churches is averaging around 750 in worship with approximately 500 in Sunday school. The pastor has asked me to help him devise a strategy to close this gap, so that 80 percent of the Sunday morning worship is involved in a group.

Here are four essential actions I am considering:

1. Start 10 new Sunday school classes in six months. Most of the current classrooms are relatively full on Sunday morning. The church must start some new groups. The first step will be to enlist 10 apprentice teachers. These apprentice teachers will be placed with an existing class that agrees to sponsor their new group. During the six months, the teachers will have an opportunity to mentor these leaders, the apprentices will be given an opportunity to teach on a monthly basis and training will be provided. The pastor will prepare the soil from the pulpit and in six months, we launch these new groups.

2. Tell the story of lives of being changed. Stories need to be gleaned and shared about how lives are being changed as a result of studying God’s Word, building relationships with fellow Christians and classes getting outside the walls of the church.

3. Promote class activities and mission projects in worship. The existing classes already have fellowships in order to build relationships among its members. Each class has been challenged to conduct at least one mission project in the community this year. Utilize these to encourage worship attenders to get connected. For example, promote that there will be a fellowship for adults with elementary-age children on a Friday night. Children are welcome. Does it really matter that the event is sponsored by the Sunday school class? At the event, it will be really easy for the teacher to ask, “Have you been coming to a Sunday School Class?”

4. Prior to worship, encourage every Sunday school member to ask two questions of people they see: (1) How long have you been attending this church? It really doesn’t matter if they have been attending for 20 years or this is the first day, the conversation has been started. (2) Have you gotten connected to a Bible study class? If not, invite them to your class or get them connected to the appropriate teacher for their age group.

What are some of your thoughts? I would love to hear them.

Mark Miller is a Sunday School Specialist with the Tennessee Baptist Convention. To connect with Mark about these and other ideas, email him at mmiller@tnbaptist.org.


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