The Death of Sunday School and Wednesday Night Class

The Barna Research Group in a 2000 study found that:

  • Only 19 percent of church members attended Sunday school in 2000. That figure is relatively unchanged since 1991.
  • Thirty-three percent of born again Christians and 60 percent of evangelicals attend Sunday school in a typical week.
  • Married individuals are more likely than single adults to attend a Sunday school class in a typical week.
  • Sunday school remains a draw primarily in the South, where nearly three out of 10 adults attend weekly.
  • Contrary to popular opinion, there is virtually no drop off in Sunday school attendance during the summer.
  • Nearly one out of 10 adults is currently involved in teaching a Sunday school class, a catechism class or other type of Christian education class.

I don’t know where the church you attend is at in their Sunday School situation, but it seems like Sunday School is getting less and less of a priority today.  People tend to show up 10-15 minutes late, and by then they’ve either missed the beginning, or the teacher has waited to start, and they don’t get a full 45 minutes to an hour.  You can’t discipline them, because its their prerogative to be there or not.

I feel like the reason most Sunday School programs may lack attendance is two-fold:

1.  Lack of options for classes

2.  Lack of commitment and dedication among members.

If you attend a church like most, you will have very few adult options for classes.  In fact, in the churches I have worked at, there has been very limited options for adult classes.  You always have your typical “Adult Auditorium” class, where more often than not, it is a textual study that is verse by verse, or is using a rather boring curriculum.  These classes are effective for those that want to attend, but those that want to attend are growing fewer and fewer.  While these classes should be some of the best, and most attended, they are not.   Sadly, most younger people, young adults, and even middle aged adults are not seeking heavy textual classes anymore, but rather are seeking classes that are fresh, topical in nature, or directly affects them and their niche in life.

Even in the last church where I worked, where there were over 350 in attendance, for adult classes there were only 3 options.  On top of that, those 3 classes were taught by the same 3 people, over and over and again.  And that’s how it typically happens.  Therefore, new styles, thoughts, or direction from different teachers were never an option.

I remember in college I had one semester where I had the same teacher for 3 different classes.  It was horrible.  Its not that I didn’t like the teacher, its just that no matter what the subject matter was, the style was exactly the same.  Many of the same illustrations found their way into the lectures.

If Sunday morning is a problem, Wednesday nights are even harder.  Its growing more and more complicated to find people who willing to teach on Wednesday evenings due to a growing demand on their schedule.  If you attend a smaller congregation, you find yourself pulling from the same pool of Sunday morning teachers, thus overwhelming them and burning them out.

Smaller churches also have a hard time finding different teachers for their children’s classes.  It grows even more complicated for finding teachers for Junior High and High School classes.  Sadly, this task falls solely on the youth minister, if there is one.  The youth minister then never has a chance to connect with people his own age in an adult class setting (which is why I’m a firm believer that a minister should only teach either Sunday Morning or Wednesday night, never both, or at least get a quarter off from teaching each year).

The second problem is you may have a lack of commitment.  We’ll discuss that later.  Your thoughts?

One comment on “The Death of Sunday School and Wednesday Night Class

  1. I’ve taught kids and adults for over 30 years. I have not seen a decrease in summer. I have not seen an increase either. NOW our leaders have dumped the childrens SS classes in lieu of Junior Church classes. I voiced my opinion to the leadership but it fell on deaf ears. I have seen success in both adult and youth classes over the years. I fear where this is all going in the new millenium of time. Suggestions?

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