Back in the 1950’s the Southern Baptist Convention was on the cutting edge of church growth techniques. We had a program that married evangelism and discipleship resulting in some of the largest churches in the history of the world (up to that point anyway). The method was Sunday School Growth.
Years ago the Southern Baptist Convention released a filmstrip, The Laws of Sunday School Growth, that reflects the Convention’s strategy for growth. These laws were restated by J. N. Barnette in his study book The Pull of the People, Convention Press, 1956. Many Sunday School authorities outside the ten million member Southern Baptist Convention look to the laws of Sunday School growth as expressed by the Southern Baptist as an infallible guide to Sunday School expansion. (Towns, Elmer. 1969. Ten Largest Sunday Schools [PDF])
SBC Sunday School Decline?
With all the talk about declining membership in the Southern Baptist Convention, I thought I would do some checking to find out about the strength of our Sunday school attendance. The data above compares Sunday school attendance and total number of churches to calculate the average Sunday school attendance per Southern Baptist church. It comes from the Annual Church Profile, a voluntary self reporting tool used by about 90% of SBC churches each year.
What Do You Think?
I’d be interested to hear your responses. I find these averages interesting for a number of reasons.
- The total convention wide Sunday school attendance numbers have increased consistently.
- From the high in 1976 to the lows in the 1993 the percent change is around 15%. That doesn’t seem too bad considering the massive shifts in American culture and church practice.
- The rapid drop in the early 90’s makes me wonder if there was a change in the way the results were gathered. My other theory for that drop would be the rise of the “Seeker Church” approach that saw Sunday school as outdated.
- I’m not certain how home based small groups are included in these numbers, but I think they are counted elsewhere on the ACP.
Data Table: Southern Baptist Sunday School Attendance