Keep Life Flowing in Sunday School through Promotion

by Ken Braddy on Wednesday, February 01, 2012

There are two bodies of water close to my home. One is a stagnant pond into which no fresh water flows. The water is dirty, smelly, and has a layer of green algae.

flowing stream

Classes that don't promote adults become like this pond. Relationships become stagnant when new members can't make friends because they have been together so long. Leaders stagnate because they continue serving in their roles without developing new leaders.

The other body of water is a flowing stream. It's clear, has small fish in it, and it has no foul smell.

Which of the two bodies of water do you think we find more attractive? Which one is better for the neighborhood?

Now think about your Sunday school class. I hope you can say it resembles a running stream. But if you think it more closely resembles a stagnant pond, there's hope! Classes that show little influx of people can again see new life.

Promotion benefits everyone

Many Sunday schools have discovered the importance of promoting adults into new classes. Some churches make this a formal process at the start of the new Sunday school year. Others encourage continual movement as adults move up to the next age level. Whichever method your church uses, there are several key benefits to promoting adults.

Class members will be free to find the best fit for them. Having a time for adult promotion gives every adult member an "out" – a way to graciously move from one class to the next without feeling guilty. Promotion and movement become the norm, and no one thinks twice when a person or a couple leaves to explore other classes. Instead, this is viewed as a natural and healthy event - part of the Sunday school process.

An influx of new people brings new life and needed change. New class members add unique personalities and perspectives to your weekly lessons, and to the overall class session. They arrive with ideas for fellowship and ministry that you may not have considered.

New people are potential new leaders. Have you ever felt as though you have gone to the same well over and over, asking for someone - anyone - to step up and provide leadership? New class members are often excited and eager to help, so they become a terrific source of new leadership.

Releasing class members creates health and vibrancy. Sunday school classrooms should be clearinghouses, not storehouses. Providing promotion opportunities keeps new people moving into classes, including yours!

Classes will maintain an identity with a target group. If people do not promote, classes won't continue reaching their assigned groups. Promotion helps ensure that classes reach their targets.

What if people still won't promote?

  1. Change the class "label" as its members age. Reclassify its target audience in your Sunday school class directory. This will help guests find adults their age, and will reorient the class toward its new target.
  2. Challenge the oldest adult classes to reach new members. If people will not promote into your oldest classes, meet with these groups to pray and strategize for reaching people who are far from God.
  3. Find five to 10 people and start a new group. Discover a few people who should promote and recruit them to start a new class for their age group. If they don't find moving up to another class attractive, let them start a new one.

In our culture, promotion is considered a good thing and a cause for celebration. Military leaders achieve higher ranks. Employees climb the corporate ladder. Assistant coaches move up to head coaching positions. My two sons have just promoted - one from high school to college, and the other from college to the workplace. Promotion is a natural part of life.

Let's change the church culture by encouraging adult learners to promote and embrace new leadership opportunities, setting a good example for younger adult leaders.

Ken Braddy is managing director of Leadership and Adult Publishing at LifeWay Christian Resources and has served churches for more than 20 years as a minister of education. Follow his Sunday School blog at

Story Highlights

Important promotion principles

There is no universal promotion method, so churches have experimented and have discovered what works for them. Perhaps the following principles regarding what motivates adults to promote will work for your ministry.

Adults want to know their new teachers. Consider exchanging teachers once a month with the class directly above yours in terms of age.

Adults want to know people in the next class. Relationships can make or break the promotion strategy, so look for ways to foster this among classes.

Adults need encouragement. Communicate the positive benefits of promoting to the next class and be a cheerleader for those people who make the decision to promote.

Adults want new classes to resemble their current ones. One reason that adults sometimes resist promoting is that the next class is just too different from the one they are in.

Adults are more likely to promote as a group. Doing something together can make it more attractive.

Adults want to be involved. Make learners part of the promotion process. Get their input on how to make it work.

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