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Downward Trends for Church & Sunday School: What to Do

Posted: 4/2/19 at 12:00pm. Post by Tony Brooks.

“Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.” (Matthew 9:38 NIV)

Over 80% of North American churches are in decline or on a plateau. Each year approximately 3,500 churches die in North America. (“Fast Facts for Busy Pastors on Church Revitalization & Renewal,” January 2018 by www.RenovateConference.org)

67%:  The average percentage of worship attenders who also participate in Sunday School on an average Sunday in SBC churches. On a typical weekend, about 6 million people will be at church during worship and 4 million will come before or stay after worship for Sunday School. Smaller churches often have a much higher ratio. But 2:3 is the average.” (100:Charting a Course Past 100 in Sunday School by David Francis & Michael Kelley, LifeWay) You can get this book for free at LifeWay.

Over 80% of North American churches are in decline or on a plateau.

Start with vision! How are you sharing the vision that every follower of Christ should be in an ongoing Bible study? The Great Commandment is clear that we should love the Lord our God with all of our heart, soul, mind and strength.

We cannot fully love God with our mind without being with others studying God’s Word! The strongest churches in Bible study share it from the pulpit by the pastor!

Sunday School classes and small groups must remember and share regularly the Great Commission!

How often do we pray that God would not take our saints to heaven too soon in prayer requests? How often do we pray God would bring someone in our lives that needs to see God’s love and know about heaven?

Those two questions will help you see where you are. Sunday School in its inception was a missionary movement to help others where they are and see what God has for them.

Know your culture! Are you in an area where traveling ball teams take your children and youth away for the weekends? Commission the parents to be missionaries! Provide support so they can reach other families! Perhaps they can start a Bible study where they are.

Are you in an area where some of your people work on Sunday? Commission them to be missionaries in the workplace. This should be getting to know co-workers, helping them care where they are, and leading to opportunities.

Start new classes/small groups! Too many of our classes and small groups have turned inward. If you have been going three years or longer, you have become a closed group by personal preferences, experiences, and language.

Are there persons in worship not coming to Bible study? Is there an affinity for a hobby/life transition in your church with no Bible study? Consider starting new groups/Sunday School classes. (If you need help with how, email me at tony.brooks@bgav.org.)  

Unfortunately, consumerism has infected our churches. Many members want to know what you have for them. Pastors, you have to preach that it is not about us. It is about helping humanity with God’s grace, love, and the possibilities to lose our lives for Christ sake!

Speak up on justice issues and have an ongoing mission project in your community. Please hear me. I am for separation of church and state. I am not suggesting we ever endorse a candidate locally, statewide, or nationally.

I am suggesting that we be informed about issues around the world and let classes/small groups know about them. Have an ongoing service project in your community. Each person feels more connected when you do so. Others may join your class based on the service project.

“The Spirit of the Lord is on me,
    because he has anointed me
    to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners
    and recovery of sight for the blind,
to set the oppressed free,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
(Luke 4:18-19 NIV)  

Can every member of your class live into this last Scripture below? 

For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. (Matthew 16:25 NIV)

Brooks-TonyTony Brooks is our Sunday School/Discipleship Specialist and Field Strategist for the Southside Region. You may email him at tony.brooks@bgav.org. Follow Tony on Twitter: @TonyBrooks7