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Identifying and Enrolling Prospects
Who cares that 62 percent of the unchurched feel the church is
irrelevant (Barna 1990)? Who cares that they believe church people
are not loving and caring, but are concerned mostly about themselves?
Congregations that want to make a difference in people's lives
and in their communities care. Churches that take seriously the
growth and development of people seek to involve them in life-changing
Bible study and Sunday school.
Most people do not seek a church, and most churches do not seek
people. But a recent Gallup poll revealed that 58 percent of the
unchurched in America "could see themselves becoming actively involved
in a church today and are open to an invitation." Reaching, keeping,
and discipling people are most effective when done through Bible
study groups or Sunday school classes.
What Is Enrollment?
Enrollment in Bible study or Sunday school is how the church builds
people. Churches that don't enroll and involve people in Bible study
or Sunday school may attract a crowd, but they will not build people.
Enrollment is the conscious, deliberate effort to involve people
in life changing Bible study so they will be enriched and developed.
Enrollment is a tangible expression of the church's commitment
to care for people. It attempts: (1) to cultivate and nurture the
friendship of those who are enrolled, and (2) to develop their spiritual
growth through ministry, Bible study, and other activities. Enrollment
makes each person the responsibility of a group, class, or department
that will minister to him.
Enrollment provides a prospect pool. As a group or class actively
seeks to build relationships with them, many enrollees will be unable
to resist the invitations and genuine expressions of love and concern.
They will become active members.
Enrollment is an evaluation tool. It helps a church judge its effectiveness
in outreach and assimilation. The enrollment figure helps the church
determine the number of classes and departments and the number of
Enrollment is the basis for projecting growth. Growth ratios based
on enrollment help leaders project worship attendance, Sunday school
or Bible study attendance, income, and conversions.
Enrollment is the basis for the church's care ministry. We enroll
people so we can maintain appropriate contact and minister to them.
Without enrollment, it would be easy to overlook some persons.
The Value of Enrolling People in Bible Study
Of churches that plateaued in attendance and then began to grow
again, 78 percent have "increased emphasis upon Sunday school in
the past several years (Kirk Hadaway, Church Growth Principles:
Separating Fact from Fiction. Broadman, 1991). Churches that
grow intentionally make their Sunday school evangelistic. They identify
prospects, enroll them, and actively seek to involve them in regular
Bible study or Sunday school classes or groups.
Churches are stronger when people are involved in Bible study.
John Vaughn, founder and director of Megachurch Research Center,
said, "Today's megachurch is tomorrow's empty cathedral" (Megachurches
and American Cities, 1993). Any church that doesn't take the
development of people through the systematic study and application
of God's Word seriously stands to suffer significant loss of people
Evangelism and assimilation are more effective when people are
enrolled in Bible study or Sunday school. Research indicates that
life changing Bible study classes and groups are most effective
in evangelism and assimilation. In his book The Growth Spiral,
Andy Anderson said that two out of four people enrolled in a Bible
study group are unsaved. One out of four people enrolled in a Bible
study will be saved and baptized in water within 1 year of enrollment.
He contrasted this with 400 persons not enrolled in a Bible study
group. Only one is saved in the same year. Anderson also said that
nearly 100 percent of new converts who are enrolled in Bible study
groups are assimilated into the church. With personal evangelism,
one out of five will be baptized in water. With mass evangelism
and crusades, one out of 10 is baptized. With Sunday school and
Bible study, 9 out of 10 are baptized.
Finances increase when people are enrolled and involved in Bible
study. People who are regular in Bible study or Sunday school and
worship attendance seem to be more obedient to Christ in stewardship.
Elmer Towns, church growth consultant, said that the average per
capita giving for worship-only attendees is 50 cents per week compared
to $10 per week for those who attend both Sunday school or Bible
study and worship service.
Enrollment is the first step in getting people to become actively
involved in Bible study and Sunday school.
What Should Our Enrollment Policy Be?
Open enrollment is the best policy. Open enrollment means you will
enroll anybody, anywhere, at anytime as long as the person agrees
to enroll. It further means you will remove names from the roll
only when the persons have died, moved out of the area, joined another
church, or asked to be removed.
Open enrollment is a practical way for the church to be true to
Scripture and the commands of Christ. Jesus said, "Go out into the
highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may
be filled" (Luke 14:23).
This policy begs the question, why do we need to enroll anyone?
We enroll people so we can minister to them. We remove them when
we can no longer minister to them.
The enrollment policy should also include appropriate follow-up.
The 4 to 6 weeks following enrollment are critical to ensuring that
the enrolled person becomes actively involved. Phone calls, personal
visits, and mail are practical ways to follow up. Studies show that
80 percent of those enrolled and followed up will attend.
How is the follow-up done best? Once a person enrolls, he should
be assigned to a group, class, or department. Kirk Hadaway, a church
statistician, said, "Increasing one's enrollment will not affect
Sunday school attendance, nor the growth of the church, unless continual
efforts are made to visit, invite, and involve persons who are enrolled,
but who do not attend" (Church Growth Principles: Separating
Fact from Fiction. Nashville: Broadman, 1991, p. 51).
How do we know we are enrolling enough new people? As a rule of
thumb, enrollment should be twice the number in attendance. "Enrollment
is the base from which you work. Determine your attendance goal
and then double that to get your enrollment goal. Enrollment should
be not more than twice average attendance and not less than 70 percent
more than your average attendance. For example, if your present
attendance is 50, your enrollment should be between 70 and 100.
These enrollment goals alone will not increase attendance, but they
are the place to start. The primary reason for focusing on enrollment
is to help each class become more aware of the people they are responsible
for and thus take action to care for and minister to them" (Focus
on Administration, Springfield: GPH, 1993, p. 63).
Whom Do We Enroll?
Lost persons need to be reached. People in every church have friends,
relatives, associates, and neighbors who do not know Jesus Christ
as their personal Savior. Studies show that the church's extended
potential congregation is at least six times larger than the average
adult attendance. It is estimated that every person who has been
a Christian for 2 years or longer still has between six and eight
unchurched contacts. Those who have been Christians for less than
2 years average 12 unchurched contacts.
Generally this group of people is the easiest to reach. Opportunities
for ministry to prospects include times of crisis, tragedy, or transition
such as death, illness, family problems, financial need, loneliness,
changing jobs, children starting school, or graduation.
Those who attend worship services only need to be enrolled. In
1989 and 1990, the Search Institute conducted a study of six different
denominations regarding the value and impact of Bible study and
Christian education in the lives of constituents. They found that
churches with a strong systematic study of God's Word through Christian
education (Sunday school) had teenagers and adults whose faith was
stronger and more viable, who were less likely to leave their faith,
and who were less likely to be at risk. They were less likely to
get involved in drugs, alcohol, and illicit sex. People in these
churches had a more developed, integrated faith. Their faith, spiritual
growth, and development activated their everyday lives.
Whenever guests are present at a church activity, explain the benefits
of enrollment and provide opportunity for them to enroll in Bible
study. This includes the preschoolers, children, and youth who attend
special ministries such as VBS, kids crusades, camps, and midweek
Non-attending parents of children and youth who attend Sunday school,
VBS, or other activities also are good candidates for enrollment.
Methods for Prospecting and Enrolling
TeleTOUCH. This method uses the telephone to identify prospects.
Contacts who do not attend a church regularly are asked if they
would like to receive information about the church and Bible studies.
The TeleTOUCH Manual from Sunday School Promotion and Training Department,
($2, #714-899) is an effective tool for setting up this type of
Enrollment campaign. This is an annual or semiannual effort
intentionally designed to find prospects and enroll them in Bible
study. The morning worship service is a good place to begin this
people search. In addition, encourage members to carry enrollment
cards always. They should pray for opportunities to reach out to
unchurched people and enroll them.
Operation Andrew. Members identify four or five friends,
relatives, associates, and neighbors not currently enrolled. During
a 3-month period, they specifically pray for and reach out to these
Encourage everyone to carry enrollment cards. They should pray
for and seek opportunity to reach out to unchurched people. An intentional,
sensitive effort should be made to enroll them.
Outreach Bible studies. This strategy seeks to involve unchurched
people in a 3- or 4-week basic Bible study. The objective is to
reach them where they are and lead them to more active involvement
in Bible study.
The welcoming process. Invite guests to enroll in Sunday
school at the welcome center, in classes, or in worship services.
Obtain parental consent before enrolling children.
Becoming a member. Encourage everyone who requests church
membership to enroll in Bible study or Sunday school. Criteria for
membership should include a commitment to be involved in regular
Training Members To Enroll Prospects
Relationships are the most effective basis for reaching and enrolling
people. Teach your members to be alert to opportunities that will
help them develop these valuable relationships. Share the following
instructions with them.
Whenever you meet a guest in a service, class, or event, ask the
person to enroll in Bible study or Sunday school. You might say,
"We're glad you're here today. We want to do our best to help you
in any way we can. If you have a need, we want you to feel you can
count on our church to help.
"Our Bible study groups are a caring arm of our church. Enrollment
in Bible study shows your interest in becoming all you can be and
our commitment to help you. We would like for you to be a part of
our group. Would you like to enroll in a Bible study?"
It is positive to assume they would like to be part of your group.
In some instances, people will prefer not to enroll, but they will
register as guests. If this happens, say something like, "I understand
your need to find out more about the church before you make a decision.
Perhaps you will want to enroll at the end of the class or in a
week or two."
Here is a sample script for prospecting and enrolling by telephone
or door-to-door. (The TeleTOUCH Manual has additional
information on this subject.)
"Hi, my name is _________ . I'm from [name of church] located
[give directions from a easily recognized landmark]. We
are doing a survey in this area. May I ask you a couple of questions?"
If the person says no, thank him and leave, or give appropriate
literature and leave.
If the answer is yes, continue with the following:
"Do you attend a church on a regular basis?"
If the contact says yes, you respond, "It's great to find
other people in our community who have a strong faith. We are attempting
to locate people who are not involved in a local church."
If the answer is no, you will reply, "Our church is interested
in the people and families of our community. We want to be of service
to you and help you as much as we can. Because you don't attend
church regularly, we would like to be available to you if you ever
experience a need. You can count on us to help you as much as we
"We would also like to keep you informed about upcoming seminars,
classes, programs, and activities that might interest you. This
service is provided through the Bible study groups in our church.
Our commitment to you involves three things:
- If you call, we will do our best to help you.
- With your permission we will provide you with information about
upcoming seminars, classes, programs, and activities that may
- With your permission we will contact you periodically to see
how you are doing.
"May we enroll you in one of our Bible study groups, so you can
contact us if ever you have need? Will you give us permission to
contact you periodically and provide you with valuable information
about upcoming seminars, classes, programs, and activities?"
If the person says no, ask, "Which of the three options
do you prefer not to be a part of?" (Attempt to get the person to
permit you to send information about the church and activities.
You may also ask if there are children in the home and if you might
enroll them in Sunday school. If the persons respond favorably,
get information about the children and ask if they would like to
attend Sunday school this week. You may offer to arrange transportation
If the person agrees to be enrolled, ask for names of all
family members and check the address to which you will send information
about the church. (See the sample enrollment card.)
Thank the person for speaking with you.
When you identify and enroll people in life-changing Bible study,
you are saying that your church cares.
For more enrollment information:
The Church Growth Spiral Manual. Springfield, Missouri:
Sunday School Promotion and Training, 1993.
The Church Growth Spiral Kit. Springfield, Missouri: Sunday
School Promotion and Training, 1993.
Focus on Administration. Edgerly, George, Efraim Espinoza,
and Steven Mills. Springfield Missouri: Gospel Publishing House
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