Preparing for Growth by Adding New Classes

8 Steps to Starting a New Sunday School Class

The people of Israel were told by the prophet Isaiah, “Enlarge the place of thy tent, and let them stretch forth the curtains of thine habitations: spare not, lengthen thy cords, and strengthen thy stakes” (Isaiah 54:2). He encouraged them to prepare for, expect, and make room for the fruitfulness that God would bring. He said in the following verse, “For thou shalt break forth on the right hand and on the left….”

He didn’t want them to expand in response to growth. He wanted them to expand in anticipation of growth. That’s the difference faith makes! And that’s the way growing churches—churches that expect to reach, win, and disciple new Christians—think.

At Lancaster Baptist, Pastor Chappell has often called on us to launch new LifeStage adult Sunday school classes, only to turn around six to twelve months later and find these new classes filled to capacity with fresh, new faces. There is nothing more thrilling for these new teachers, their class members, and especially the growing new believers—that’s what it’s all about!

But many churches are stuck—we’ve been stuck. There are a handful of healthy, happy adult Sunday school classes with dedicated teachers and faithful members, but they have plateaued in their efforts to win and disciple new Christians. There are many things individual classes can do to break out of this slump (we discuss these things often). But there’s also something larger we can do that will force a static Sunday school out of its comfort zone, and that is to start several new classes!

This is treacherous territory for many pastors, leaders, and especially seasoned Sunday school teachers, because it means change. It means some existing classes are going to have to give up a few members to help start the new classes (not the members they’d want to give up!). It means some classes will relocate. It’s going to require flexibility on several levels. And your average Sunday school teacher is allergic to all of this!

But it’s worth the effort. The fact is, new classes tend to generate more enthusiasm, provide better care, cultivate closer relationships, and allow for greater involvement than established classes. New classes are also less intimidating and more naturally welcoming to newcomers. As we’ve started around fifty new adult Sunday school classes over the past dozen years here at Lancaster Baptist Church, we’ve followed essentially the same steps. If you want to start new classes, these steps can help:

  1. Make sure the entire church family (especially the existing Sunday school leadership) knows that the purpose of starting new classes is to reach more people. It’s simple—you have to prepare for growth. Who could possibly be against that?

  2. Select, interview, and train the new class teachers over a three-month period.

  3. Choose an age bracket (we call them LifeStages) for each new class. This will catch the attention of people who currently attend your church but who do not attend a Sunday school class.

  4. Identify a few “pioneer members” (from existing classes) who will join with the new teachers and serve as the first leaders and helpers in the new class.

  5. Introduce the new classes and teachers to the congregation a few weeks before the classes begin. Advertise what topics are being taught and what age groups the classes will serve. We also “name” our classes (visit for some ideas).

  6. Use a form distributed in your Sunday bulletin for two consecutive weeks, prior to the start date, to “pre-enroll” worship service attenders into the new classes. A few folks will move from an existing class to a new class—and that’s okay (really, it’s okay).

  7. Conduct pre-launch fellowships with the pioneers, pre-enrolled members, and class leaders the week before the classes officially start.

  8. Make sure each class understands from the very first week that their job—as a unit within the church—is to reach people with the Gospel, build relationships with each other and with those who come into the class, study the Word, grow together spiritually, and serve the Lord as a group.

Not every new class will be a homerun. You’ll need to apply some adjustments, correction, and ongoing training. If done prayerfully and properly, though, starting new classes is one of the greatest and time-tested strategies at our disposal for seeing more people reached and kept for Christ. The whole process seems to communicate, “Lord, we’re enlarging our tent; we’re lengthening our cords. We’re making more room, and we’re ready for the growth You want to bring our way!”

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