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Rules of thumb for Sunday
By Steve R. Mills
Just as Murphy's Laws are a humorous way to look at
are valuable laws or "rules of thumb" for helping us understand
our churches and Sunday schools and how to make them more
Let's look at several of these rules of thumb that can be used in
your church and Sunday school.
Administrative And Organizational Rule
Great Commission Ratio 3:5
At least three of every five leaders should have a
"Great Commission Conscience." Win Arn in his Church Growth Ratio Book provides the
following quiz. Seven out of 10 yes responses indicate a healthy
"Great Commission Conscience."
- I see the primary purpose of our church as responding to the
- I have participated in an outreach training event in the last
- I have invited an unchurched
friend/relative to a church event
in the last 6 months.
- I would support a motion to designate at least 10 percent of
our church budget to outreach events/training activities.
- I would prefer the pastor call on nonmembers more often than
- I would be willing to take a new
member/visitor home for dinner
once every 6 months.
- I have intentionally introduced myself to a new member or visitor
in the past month.
- I have talked with an unchurched person about my faith in the
past 3 months.
- I have prayed for a specific unchurched person in the past
- 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 be outreach leaders, extension class leaders,
branch Sunday school leaders, etc.
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
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
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 25-40 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 a total of only 20 percent volunteer employment in the
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, paying their
way to seminars, etc.
Worker Resource Ratio 1:1
Church Growth and Evangelism Rules
Each Sunday school worker should receive an annual subscription
to the Sunday School Counselor and each leader should receive the
Counselor, Leader Edition. This is the minimum that should be provided
as a resource for each Sunday school worker.
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
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
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
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
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 drop-out. This means that a church
will have to gain at least 6 to 10 percent just to remain
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,
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
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
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.
- In the last week have you intentionally done something
for at least two people?
- In the last week have you prayed for someone outside your immediate
- In the last week have you said, "I love
you," or hugged someone?
- In the last 2 weeks have you contacted another church member
who needed encouragement?
- When you are in a group of people and someone asks for help,
do you usually volunteer?
- In the last month have any of your work or school associates
called on you for help outside your normal relationship?
- In the last month have you done a
loving/caring act anonymously?
- In the last month have you taken the initiative to
sorry," to restore a strained relationship?
- Can you recall a significant sacrifice you have made in the
last 3 months to help someone in need?
- 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.
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
Maximum Capacity Ratio 80:1 00
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
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.)
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:
- Assimilate people into the church.
- Appeal to more kinds of people.
- Replace stagnated/ plateaued classes.
- Provide meaningful ministry
- Discourage ingrown attitudes, programs, and curriculum.
- Effectively win new people to Christ and the
- Help multi-cell expansion and church
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
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
and outreach ministries appropriate for the congregation. Expanding
the kingdom of God through the local church is the objective.
Ron Lewis, "Roadblocks to Church Growth;" Growing Churches, October-December
Win Arn, Church Growth Ratio Book.
The Sunday School Growth Spiral; SBC.
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, then
trust the Lord to bring the ultimate victory.
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