I was driving one Sunday morning to our church's facilities and I remember my skin was crawling and I was incredibly nervous. I was the minister of education, it was August, and that day was "Promotion Day". You know Promotion Day, the day the 1st graders move to 2nd grade, the 9th graders move to 10th grade, and the adults who are 47 finally leave the 35-39 y/o class. Okay, how about two out of three there? We had just arranged to use a lot of off campus space for Sunday School, AND… we were moving to two Sunday School hours. Because we had moved a lot of our children's classes off campus, we had chartered city busses to transport people to their off campus locations.
Now do you see why I was nervous? But above it all, our church was stepping out in faith, a lot of faith. We had spent the summer enlisting and training new leaders to start new classes, 44 new classes in fact. Yes, forty-four new Sunday School classes – and they were all starting that day! 44 new classes, over 100 new Sunday School teachers were beginning their new groups that day. And what happened?
I'll tell you what happened… our attendance increased by 500 people… and the police showed up! The traffic jam of people trying to get into our parking lots backed up into a major intersection and the police ended up directing traffic to get the people into our church parking.
Here are some principles of starting new classes we can apply today:
The Principle of 10. The Principle of 10 simply means that for every new class you start, attendance will eventually increase by 10 people. For us that Sunday in August, it took one day for attendance to increase by 10 people per new class. Sometimes it takes five or six weeks, sometimes even six months. But it will increase to about 10 people per class. So if you want to grow your Sunday School by 30 people next year – that's three new classes. (note: 44 new classes multiplied by 10?)
Make space. Many times we tend to think of space in terms of rooms available on the church campus. Our church at Indiana Avenue in Lubbock had more people meeting off-campus on Sunday morning than on-campus. Restaurants, schools, and homes make great places to meet for Sunday School. We even had one class meeting in the basement of an insurance agency. We had a class meeting in the pastor's office and the church kitchen.
Educate your class. The feelings church members have about starting new classes is similar to their feelings about seeing their dentist for a root canal. One of the most important things we can do is to show the people in our group why starting new classes is so important (tomorrow's post by the way). When the teacher of the class understands why starting new classes is important, he or she becomes the point person to starting a new group.
Just Do It! Nike's world famous motto is appropriate to starting new groups. I have been in numerous churches that know they need to start new classes. They have known it for some time, but still they have not started them. I have led Sunday School clinics and had teachers tell me that they know they need to birth a new group, and I've returned to lead a clinic the next year and they still have not done it. The biggest issue seems to be the timing. Can I share something with you? The timing will never be right! Now don't try to force something that just isn't there, but let's face it. Many, no, most Sunday School classes have "excusitis" when it comes to starting new groups.