MBC goal: 300,000 in Sunday School
JEFFERSON CITY—The Sunday School/Discipleship team of the Missouri Baptist Convention (MBC) is challenging all Missouri Baptist churches to collectively reach the 300,000 mark in Sunday School enrollment by the end of the current Annual Church Profile (ACP) reporting period.
The challenge is for every church to enroll seven resident members and seven new class members by “seven”—the seventh month of 2008, which is July. With churches in active pursuit of those targets, feeding off the extra energy that is bound to come with the effort, the objective is very achievable, according to MBC Sunday School/Discipleship Team Director Bruce Morrison.
“Our goal is to help churches bring their Sunday School enrollment up to their resident membership numbers,” Morrison said.
Morrison is concerned about a downward trend in Missouri Baptist Sunday School enrollment that has seen the number fall from a modern-day high (since 1917) of 353,791 in 1964 to 267,416 in 2006. In 1997, the number dipped below the 300,000 level, and it has been falling ever since.
An obvious way to reverse the trend is to fish in the pool of MBC resident members, which last year totaled 391,808. That leaves more than 124,000 “prospects” for the first part of the challenge.
“This is a relatively painless way for a church to show some growth internally,” Morrison said, noting it will also benefit a church with increased manpower as it goes about the work of reaching the lost through Sunday School.
Reaching seven new class members is the second part of the challenge. This is where synergy works, Morrison said.
“It is a proven fact that an increase in Sunday School enrollment will increase Sunday School and worship attendance,” he said.
Morrison said the Sunday School challenge is meant to come alongside the initiative of MBC Interim Executive Director David Tolliver concerning membership integrity, or a more accurate count of Missouri Baptist numbers. Tolliver has indicated he would prefer to refer to Missouri Baptists by means of the resident member number (approximately 400,000) as opposed to the total membership number (approximately 600,000).
“This is a complimentary challenge,” Morrison said, adding that it is one way the MBC can help churches become “more realistic” in their Sunday School ministry.
“The big challenge is going to be issued at the convention (Oct. 29-31 at Tan-Tar-A, Osage Beach). That’s where we’re going to really put it to the forefront.”
Another number that is sometimes cited as an indicator of how many Missouri Baptists are truly participating in the Sunday School ministry from week to week is average attendance. That figure fell from 134,871 in 2005 to 132,982 in 2006.