I recently had a phone call about “age grading” a Sunday School and what my preferences were about it. After visiting on the phone, I realized there may be a number of folks who wonder why churches age grade their Sunday Schools. Let me share some thoughts on the matter:
Churches need some method to group people together into smaller groups for Bible study and personal care. Grading answers the question every person has when they attend a church’s small group ministry – where do I go? and… are there people here like me? If you have any kind of small group structure, eventually you are going to have to figure out a way to organize things so that both members and guests can find a group to attend. Age grading is one of those methods that most churches use in some form or another.
No Grading. So what if we just didn’t bother grading the Sunday School at all and let folks go wherever they wanted to go? In actuality, you are still grading your Sunday School, only now the Sunday School is being graded by the popularity of the teacher. People will organize themselves based on teacher reputation.
Topical Grading. Also known as Bible College, this grading system revolves around topics that people choose and attend (EX: 1 Corinthians, Raising Godly Children, Bible Prophecy, Study of King David). Because most topics run their course in a few weeks, the classes are typically a semester in length (12-16 weeks).
LifeStage Grading. LifeStage grading is a version of age grading. Instead of a class being offered by age (EX: 25-35 year olds), classes are offered by lifestage (EX: Parents of Preschoolers, Parents of Teens, EmptyNesters).
Family Grading: A recent development is all members of the family attending the same Sunday School class together. In this model, parents are more actively involved in the teaching of their children. However, issues that need adult discussion are not as easily discussed in the presence of teenagers and young children.
Zip Code or Area Grading: This style of grading is done by some form of geographical boundary. In other words, people are formed into classes based upon their zip code or some other form based on geography, such as school districts. This type of grading is more often found in mega-churches because of their larger geographical context.
Grading by Sin. I’m not even going to discuss grading your church by sin; such as separate classes for smoking, idolatry, pornography, or by weight!
So has age-grading the Sunday School gone the way of the dinosaur? Not in my opinion. Age-grading, or grading by lifestage is still a very viable and preferable way to organize the Sunday School in a way that people with similar needs are meeting together for Bible study and ministry.
There are two more vital components of a Sunday School that are related to the way the church organizes its small group Bible study ministry: guests and advancement. We’ll cover those two topics in future posts.