Ministry Resources

Rules of Thumb for Sunday School Growth

Author: Clancy Hayes

Murphy’s Laws are a humorous way to look at life.

There are valuable laws or “rules of thumb” for helping us understand our churches and Sunday Schools and how to make them more effective. Let us look at some rules that can apply to your church and Sunday School.

Administrative and organizational rules

Great Commission Ratio 3:5

At least three of every five leaders should have a “Great Commission Conscience.” In his Church Growth Ratio Book, Win Arn provides the following quiz. Seven or more yes responses indicate a healthy “Great Commission Conscience.”

1. I see the primary purpose of our church as responding to the Great Commission.
2. I have participated in an outreach-training event in the last year.
3. I have invited an unchurched friend/relative to a church event in the last 6 months.
4. I would support a motion to designate at least 10 percent of our church budget to outreach events/training activities.
5. I would prefer the pastor call on nonmembers more often than on members.
6. I would be willing to take a new member/visitor home for dinner once every 6 months.
7. I have intentionally introduced myself to a new member or visitor in the past month.
8. I have talked with an unchurched person about my faith in the past 3 months.
9. I have prayed for a specific unchurched person in the past month.
10. I would be willing to be a pioneer in a new group or new church fellowship to help reach people.

Attendance to Enrollment Ratio 5:10

For every five people in regular attendance in Sunday School, five more should be enrolled. A church needs to have twice as many enrolled as it has in attendance for Sunday School. This ratio should not be less than 5:10 and not greater than 7:10.

Classes to Enrollment Ratio 1:18

There should be one class for every 18 people enrolled in Sunday School. This is based on having a proper attendance to enrollment ratio for the entire Sunday School.

Classes of Leaders Ratio 3:1

For every three workers focused on ministry to the churched there should be one worker focused specifically on ministry to the unchurched. This can include outreach leaders, extension class leaders, and branch Sunday School leaders.

Time Invested Ratio 3:1

For every 3 hours devoted to church-related activities, 1 hour should be devoted to outreach and ministry outside the church and to the unchurched.

Evaluation/Planning Ratio 1:12

Evaluation and planning should be done a minimum of once every 12 months. Evaluation should be thorough and planning goals well defined. They should cover all aspects of the church and ministry.

Weekly Church Income Ratio 12:1

Total weekly giving will be a ratio approximately equal to 12 times the Sunday School attendance. This will vary with each church, economic situation, and Sunday School to worship attendance ratio. To figure your current ratio take your annual church income, divide it by 52 weeks, then divide the sum by the average weekly Sunday School attendance. From there, you can estimate what your annual church income will be based upon your average Sunday School attendance.

Role/Task Ratio 60:100

A minimum of 60 roles and/or tasks should be available for every 100 members. A role or task includes all specific volunteer positions, functions, and responsibilities in the church. The average church usually has between 25 and 40 roles/tasks per 100 members. This is too few. Seventy-five percent of the roles/ tasks are filled by 10 percent of the people, who have more than one role/task. The other 25 percent of the roles/tasks are filled by an additional 10 percent of the people, for only 20 percent volunteer employment in the church.

New Role/Task Ratio 10:100

A minimum of 10 new roles/tasks for every 100 members should be created each year. This should not be busy work, but work that will advance the kingdom of God.

Worker to Enrollment Ratio 1:8

A church should have one Sunday School worker for each eight people enrolled. This includes teachers, workers, and leaders. This will also help with the need to continually train new leaders and workers. On the job training is a great way to get experience.

Frequency of Staff Meeting Ratio 1:30

A minimum of one Sunday School staff meeting should be held every 30 days. It may be brief and in conjunction with other meetings. The purpose is to build a Sunday School team. Meetings should inspire, inform, and involve the people.

Staff Meeting Attendance Ratio 7:10

A minimum of 7 out of 10 teachers, workers, and staff members should be present at each Sunday School workers’ meeting.

Leadership Training Ratio 1:2

Every Sunday School worker should complete two continuing educational training opportunities. This may be a national, district, or sectional Sunday School seminar, a local church training program, a staff training book-of-the-year, or a correspondence program.

Worker Appreciation Ratio 1:3

A church should express appreciation for the workers a minimum of once every 3 months or four times per year: appropriate awards, oral and written expressions of appreciation, banquets, and paying their way to seminars.

Church growth and evangelism rules

Unchurched Population Ratio 50:100

Fifty out of every 100 people in the community are most likely unchurched. Thus, 50 percent of a community’s population is unchurched (or attends church less than five times a year).

Unchurched Outreach Potential Ratio 30:100

The maximum number of people a church will reach is 30 percent of the unchurched in a community.

Churched Population Potential Ratio 10:100

Ten people per 100 of the churched population in the community would attend your church if given new circumstances in their spiritual development.

Total Growth Potential Ratio 10 + 30:100

The total growth potential for a church is equal to 10 percent of the churched plus 30 percent of the unchurched. In a typical community of 10,000, approximately 5,000 will be unchurched. Another 5,000 will be churched (attend five or more time per year). The total growth potential will be approximately 10 percent of the churched (or 500) plus 30 percent of the unchurched (or 1,500), which equals 2,000.

Approximately 1 percent per year (10 percent per decade) of its total growth potential (or 20) is all a church will realize.

Decade Growth Potential Ratio 10:10

A church reaches only 10 percent of its growth potential in a 10-year cycle. This means that each year, 1 percent of the total growth potential should be added to the church.

Extended Family Ratio 1:2

One of every two active members should have identified their “extended family” of unchurched friends, relatives, and associates. As these families are identified, an active strategy for reaching them should be employed. The total group of extended family members is the church’s extended congregation. Statistics show that between 70 and 90 percent of those who come to Christ and the church do so because of a friend, relative, or associate.

Extended Congregation Ratio 1:8

For every one adult member in the church are eight friends, relatives, and associates who are unchurched. This means that a church’s extended congregation is at least eight times the size of the average attendance. A church with an average adult attendance of 100 actually has an extended congregation that totals 800. This group is most receptive to the ministry and witness of the church. Programs, ministries, and plans must be relevant to this larger congregation. By identifying its potential congregation, the church can focus on receptive people, programming, caring ministries, increasing morale, effectively investing resources, and experiencing a growing congregation.

Outreach Worker Ratio 1:1

There should be a minimum of one outreach worker per class or group to focus on outreach and assimilation of the visitors and the unchurched. This is done one-to-one and is based on a group being no larger than 35 people.

Visitor Percentage Ratio 5:100

At least 5 of every 100 persons in a Sunday morning worship service should be visitors from the church’s community.

First-Time Visitor Retention Ratio 1:4

One of four flrst-time visitors from the church’s community should be assimilated into the church within 1 year.

Second- to Fourth-Time Visitor Retention Ratio 3:4

Three out of four second-, third-, or fourth-time visitors should become active within 1 year.

Membership Loss Ratio 6-10:100

Annually, a church will lose between 6 and 10 people per 100 due to death, reversion, and dropout. This means that a church will have to gain at least 6 to 10 percent just to remain stationary.

Adult Conversion Ratio 1:2

One of every two persons who join the church should do so based on a profession of faith and genuine conversion rather than transferring in or growing up in the church (biological growth).

Evangelism Trained Ratio 1:3

One of every three adults in Sunday School should receive outreach / evangelism training each year. This includes instruction in how to share faith and life-style in a way that brings friends, relatives, and associates to Christ.

Social Activity Ratio 1:12

Each class/department should sponsor a social event at least once every 12 weeks. This helps build relationships and develop fellowship ties, thus assimilating and keeping more people.

Hospitality Leader Ratio 1:1

Each class or group of 35 people or less should have at least one person responsible as a host or host for visitors.

Outreach Emphasis Ratio 1:3

At least once every 3 months a church should provide an outreach emphasis in the form of a big day or multi-week campaign. At least one emphasis should be a multi-week outreach or promotional campaign.

Friendship Ratio 1:7

Each new member should make a minimum of seven new friends in the church within the first 6 months he attends. If this does not happen, he is likely to drop out.

Small Group Ratio 7:100

A church should have 7 groups for every 100 people. These small groups are no larger than 35 in average attendance and meet at least monthly. Small groups and classes are necessary because they contribute to the physical, emotional, and spiritual needs of participants. They provide a personal, supportive, and encouraging environment for fellowship and growth.

Member/Group Involvement Ratio 75:100

For every 100 regular members, 75 should be involved in a group. If the percentage is less, you will have small group problems with many people dropping out or changing churches, and you will have trouble in enlisting workers.

New Member/Group Involvement Ratio 9:10

For every 10 new members, 9 should be involved in a church-sponsored small group. To assimilate new members into the church, strong relationships must be developed. The small group setting is one of the best ways to build relationships and help the newcomer feel loved and needed.

Love/Care Ratio 7:10

Seven out of 10 members should be intentionally expressing love to people around them. Win Arn suggests a brief quiz to determine your members’ love/care quotient. Seven or more yes responses to the following questions suggest a positive, loving/caring person.

1. In the last week, have you intentionally done something loving/caring for at least two people?
2. In the last week, have you prayed for someone outside your immediate family?
3. In the last week, have you said, “I love you,” or hugged someone?
4. In the last 2 weeks, have you contacted another church member who needed encouragement?
5. When you are in a group of people and someone asks for help, do you usually volunteer?
6. In the last month, has any of your work or school associates called on you for help outside your normal relationship?
7. In the last month, have you done a loving/caring act anonymously?
8. In the last month, have you taken the initiative to say, “I’m sorry,” to restore a strained relationship?
9. In the last 3 months, have you made a significant sacrifice to help someone in need?
10. In the last 6 months, have you forgiven someone who has done wrong to you?

Member Contact Ratio 1:30

Each person in the church (not already involved in a group or a ministry role) should be contacted at least once every 30 days by another member with the purpose of showing Christian love and concern. If this is not done, it is easy for the person to drop out and be overlooked. Once a person drops out, he gives the church only 6 to 8 weeks to respond to his need.

Facilities rules

Site Space Ratio 1:150

It takes 1 acre of property to care adequately for 150 people. This includes grounds, parking, and facilities. Additional 2 to 4 acres per 150 people are needed for an activities building and outdoor recreation.

Maximum Capacity Ratio 80:100

When any space is 80 percent filled on the average, meeting attendance will plateau or decline. In most cases if any part of the facilities or parking is over 80 percent filled, it will stifle growth in other areas. Multiple services or uses are usually the best way to deal with this problem.

Auditorium Space Ratio 1:10

A minimum of 10 square feet per person is needed. A congregation of less than 150 requires 15-17 square feet per person.

Educational Space Ratio 1:45

A minimum of 45 square feet per person is needed. This is based on the total usable educational space.

Parking Space Ratio 1:3

One parking space is needed for every three auditorium seats.

Room Size Ratio 1:200

No classroom should be smaller than 200 square feet.

Office Size Ratio 1:200

The Sunday School office should be no smaller than 200 square feet. In churches under 100, the space may also serve as a resource center.

Resource Center Ratio 2:1

A minimum of 2 square feet per average Sunday School attendance is needed to serve as a library, resource, and media center space. (These ratios may vary according to geographic location and local building codes. Check before building.)

Ministry rules

New Class Ratio 1:5

One of every five Sunday School classes should have been started in the last 2 years. New classes and groups:

1. Assimilate people into the church.
2. Appeal to more kinds of people.
3. Replace stagnated/ plateaued classes.
4. Provide meaningful ministry opportunities.
5. Discourage ingrown attitudes, programs, and curriculum.
6. Win new people to Christ and the church.
7. Help multi-cell expansion and church growth.

Missions Education Rule 1:4

One week out of 4 should focus specifically on teaching children about missions, giving them the opportunity to contribute to they Boys and Girls Missionary Crusade.

Worship to Sunday School Ratio 7:10

Seven of every 10 persons present in worship services should be active in a Sunday School class.

Sunday School to Worship Ratio 9:10

Of those who attend Sunday School, 9 of 10 should be in worship services.

Church Growth Committee Ratio 1:1

Every church should have a committee that specifically focuses on expanding the congregation and reaching people. This group should be active in identifying areas for branch Sunday Schools, new churches, and outreach ministries appropriate for the congregation. Expanding the kingdom of God through the local church is the objective.

There are no short cuts to Sunday School and church growth. Some would like to have a quick fix to assure them of growth. Many seek a method or a plan that will assure them of quick growth and instant success. Most often, these are fads that come and go.

We want growth to be genuine and balanced. That can come as we trust in the Lord and understand proven principles of growth. God cannot be forced or manipulated to work according to our rules, but we must understand what we can do to be more effective, and then trust the Lord to bring the ultimate victory.

Clancy Hayes is training coordinator and district liaison for the Sunday School Department, Springfield, Missouri. Sunday School. All rights reserved. Used with permission.

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