One question that I frequently get in a conference is “How big should a Sunday School Class be?” My standard answer is that it depends.
The traditional textbook answer is that an adult class’s enrollment should be around 25 which means 12-15 will be in attendance on Sunday morning. A youth class would be smaller around 15 enrolled with 7-8 in attendance. A Children class larger with an enrollment of 24 with 12-16 in attendance with a teacher ratio of 1:6. Preschool classes range from 12-20 enrolled with 8-15 in attendance with also a high teacher ratio depending on the age group.
But it really does depend. For example, my experience is that a dynamic takes place when a Coed Sunday School class begins to average around 16-20. But when these same classes grow must past 35, they begin to become complacent. They are guaranteed a decent attendance each week, so often the ministry of the class begins to be taken for granted. My church allows space to dictate our class size, when a classroom is 80% full, the goal is to start a new class within 3 months. Now, classrooms are intentionally built to only hold around 26-30 on an average.
Allan Taylor utilizes the Parable of the Talents and says that there are 1 talent teachers, two talent teachers, and five talent teachers. Teachers of all teaching levels are needed and appreciated but this impacts class size.
Large classes and Master Teacher classes can be detrimental to the Sunday School movement and the growth of a Sunday School. The key words in the previous sentence is “can be”, because it depends. Usually large classes are taught by teachers who are strong communicators and have a gift for teaching. Many large classes have become small churches inside a church. When this happens, it is easy for Sunday School to become an event that takes place on Sunday morning instead of a strategy for growing the church. Teachers of large classes must work hard to reproduce leaders and birth new classes and to make sure that the class stays connected and relational.
I would strongly encourage having more classes that average between 10-20. In fact, a great ratio for most churches is that you have a class for every ten persons in attendance with your enrollment almost twice the attendance. Remember some classes will be larger and some will be smaller.
The principle is that Life Change Best Happens in Small Community Groups. These groups can meet on Sunday morning prior to or after worship or during the week. Small is seldom bad but large can be detrimental. You see it really does depend.
Posted on Fri, September 10, 2010
by Dr. Mark Miller