Arthur Flake was one of Sunday School’s great pioneers. Mr. Flake was a committed lay-leader who had such success in his local church as a Sunday School Director, that he was eventually asked to be a field worker for the Baptist Sunday School Board. In the early 1900’s, he was asked to move to Nashville to become the head of the Sunday School department there. Since then, Flake’s Five-Step Formula has been used over 100 years now to inspire churches to use the Sunday School to reach and disciple people for Jesus. “What are the five steps?” I'm glad you asked.
Flake’s first principle of Sunday School growth is “Know Your Possibilities.” That is, know who you’re trying to reach so you can go after the people and build your Sunday School. Every Sunday School class has great, yet sometimes unreached potential. Some class leaders may think, “We do not have any prospects, or even suspects!” The truth is you likely have prospects you haven't even considered.
Many Sunday School Directors provide a list of prospects to go after. You will likely also have many people attending church services that are not involved in a Sunday School class. These can also become key prospects. You also need to be on the lookout for visitors who might be prospects for your class. With these names and addresses in your Sunday School records, you will be able to make phone calls, send letters and make visits to these prospects. View these people as your regular prospects and keep in touch with them and invite them to Sunday School.
Flake’s second principle is “Enlarge the Organization.” Basically, this principle deals with adding new classes on a regular basis. Sometimes this means starting a new class as a “mission class” formed out of an existing class. Maybe five or six people feel led to start the class in order to double the potential. Sometimes a new class can be started after a surge in growth as a part of a new members’ class. Whatever the method, starting new groups is one key to church growth.
The third principle is “Provide Space and Equipment.” You cannot get 13 eggs in a carton designed for a dozen. The principle holds for Sunday School classrooms as well. Before building expensive space, however, churches should consider other options such as providing two Sunday School times or holding classes in the evening or off campus in homes.
The fourth principle is “Enlist and Train Workers.” Most people do not volunteer to teach or work in Sunday School unless they are asked and challenged to do so. A quick tour of a Sunday School Teacher’s Quarterly is not adequate training, that’s why churches offer annual training events and regular in-service training opportunities throughout the year. Even McDonald’s requires the grill cooks to go through “Hamburger University” training. It only makes sense to have training for teaching God’s Book and doing God’s work.
The fifth principle is “Go After the People.” Even in our day of technology, there is nothing like a face to face encounter to let people know you are interested in them. Every business knows this to be true. It is why they spend a great deal of money sending sales reps out to meet clients all over the world. We are involved in the Father’s business of reaching and discipling people. This too requires some face to face interaction with lost, unreached church members and unchurched people. Flake’s formula is “old school,” but it still works when churches (and classes) work it.