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Sunday School vs. Small Groups

people in church sunday school

Small Groups

Most churches offer an opportunity to meet together for Bible study in a group.  There is no doubt the traditional model going back many years is Sunday School, which typically takes place before the main worship service.   The small groups model is a relatively new phenomenon that usually meets in group member’s homes.  Some churches even offer both to try to fit this into a busy family’s schedule.  Lets take a look at the pros and cons of the small groups model and see if it might be a good fit for you (and/or your  church).


  1. Outreach Potential – Many unchurched people are more willing to attend when invited to someone’s house instead of a church building.
  2. Relaxed Setting – Sitting in one’s living room or den automatically produces an atmosphere that can put attendees at ease compared to a classroom at church.
  3. Unique Curriculum – Often you can utilize your television/DVD player to show a video-driven study that might not necessarily fit as well in a classroom setting.
  4. Personal – Class size is limited due to size of home and can provide a more intimate setting where you can really get to know one another.


  1. Limited space – A home is limited to as many people who can fit into one room.  This can be a big hindrance to growth.
  2. Childcare – This can be a major issue if you have a lot of kids and can possibly be a distraction to the small group study if the children are in close proximity.
  3. Burdensome – If one family hosts for an extended period of time, it can become very taxing on the host family.  A lot goes in to preparing week after week.
  4. Can Be Cliquish – Because space is limited, families that meet together for a period of time become close quickly.  This can lead to thoughts of keeping the group together and never multiplying to reach more people for the Lord.

These are some pros and cons to small groups ministry.  There are certainly some solutions for the cons mentioned above.   With a lot of prayer and planning, God could certainly help small groups become a vital part of your ministry.

Sunday School

Connecting in a smaller group of people is important to one’s spiritual walk with God. Relationships and bonds are built as people study the Bible together. Methodology comes into play as churches decide how they want to accomplish this the best to help them grow. The two most popular models for this type of connection in the church today are Sunday School and small groups. Let’s take a look at the pros and cons of the Sunday School model and see if it might be the right fit for your church.


  1. Classroom space – Many churches have spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on education space, so why not take advantage of it?
  2. Childcare – Most churches have a nursery and are prepared with space designated for children. Usually this space is not close to the adult classrooms, which limits potential distractions to studiers. Volunteers are also more easily to find on a Sunday morning.
  3. Location/Age appropriate classes – Most people live within 10 miles of the church they attend. This central location makes it easier for families to meet in one place that provides Bible study for teenagers and children, all while adults meet.
  4. Feeds the worship service – Most Sunday School classes meet an hour prior to worship service. This makes Sunday school a natural feeder to your time of worship.


  1. Start time is too early – Many young families do not want to arrive at church at 9:00 a.m. on Sunday morning. Therefore, many choose not to come and will only come to the worship service.
  2. Outreach is limited – Guests may be more limited on an early Sunday morning bible study. Also, the classroom may not be as inviting as going to someone’s home for the first time.
  3. Classroom setting too structured – Most classrooms at church are very sterile and not overly inviting. Often times the setting may remind people of secular school.
  4. Class size too large – Many Sunday School classes grow too large and don’t multiply to start new classes. The result of this is classes that are too big for people to connect. These larger classes are barriers to real growth.

The Sunday School model certainly worked for the church in years past. However, after looking at the pros, cons, and your church culture, you can decide what works for your congregation. Sunday School that is done well could be the answer you need to grow your small group ministry.

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