Determining how to kick off a new Sunday School year amid an ongoing pandemic has many church leaders thinking carefully and creatively.
Ken Braddy, director of Sunday School at Lifeway Christian Resources, said small groups are the best tool to reach and keep people, defining the ideal Sunday School class as “12, plus or minus four” — even if that means some are joining online from offsite.
“Lifeway found that we keep 83 percent of new members after five years who are active in Sunday School, but we keep only 16 percent of those who attend worship only,” he said. “Group participation brings increases in five areas: giving, service, confession of sin, prayer and connection. We must move people from ‘rows’ in worship to ‘circles’ in Bible study ministry.”
During a recent webinar titled “Restarting Sunday School,” Brady offered suggestions for reopening Sunday Schools and/or launching the new Sunday School year, such as a “Back to Church” day or month once churches have everything worked out with schedules and plans.
“We should enlist and train our workers and resist the temptation to combine groups,” he said, adding that the start of a new Sunday School year is a good time to start new groups. “We need as many ‘hooks in the water’ as possible. Sunday School is affinity-driven, not curriculum-driven, so we need groups for parents of preschoolers, or women 30–40, and others. People are naturally drawn into friendships through life stages and experiences.”
Braddy suggested another preparation for the new Sunday School year is to look at the church campus through the eyes of guests, or what he called doing a “spacewalk.”
“What about parking, signage, restrooms and clutter?” he asked. “Excellence is in the details, and we grow accustomed to less than this when we see it every week. Get some new eyes to help you see the church property as your guests see it.”
Braddy also noted that a commitment to inviting those not involved in Sunday School and using a trustworthy curriculum are important for maintaining and growing healthy classes — even if the classes look and function a little differently than before the pandemic.
And through it all “we mustn’t neglect our primary mission to reach lost people,” he said. “This is the commission Jesus gave us.”