A case study for use at Southern Nazarene University by Howard Culbertson

Case study: Declining Sunday school class

What could they do? Their Sunday school class had once seemed so vibrant and exciting. Now, interest was dropping. Attendance was falling. Were they in trouble?

Who or what was to blame? Was there a quick fix on the horizon?

The YouAllCome Sunday School class had been started five years earlier. Average attendance had been as high as 34 but recently had dropped to about 20. The teacher and class officers had become concerned. So, one Sunday night after church, they got together to discuss the issue.

Bob, the class president, spoke first: "This class used to be our church's most dynamic and alive Sunday school class. Anymore, I'm not too excited about coming an hour before the worship service. If I, the class president, am having those feelings, I'm sure others must be as well."

Barbara, the class secretary, chimed in, "It gets discouraging week after week to take the roll and see how many people are not coming -- people who used to be there regularly. Sunday School and church don't seem as important to people as they used to be. There are so many other things competing for our time."

Ron, who was the teacher, slumped in his chair. At a lull in the discussion, he mused out loud: "On many Sunday afternoons, I've thought about resigning as teacher. You know, I love these people. And I feel that they love me, but I'm not really sure I'm making a difference in their lives. We've been studying material in the Old Testament, but it's not easy to make all those facts about the sacrifices and feasts interesting. I'm doing my best, but frankly, I'm discouraged."

Susan tried to put a cheerful spin on the discussion: "During Sunday school, three couples from our class are now serving in other leadership capacities. Shouldn't we feel good about the fact that we have contributed people to other ministries in the church?"

"Yes, you have a point. But where have the Johnsons been? And the Smiths and the Carpenters? I haven't heard from them for weeks. Have you?"

"Well, I think I saw the Carpenters in worship about a month ago," said George.

"Hey now, we can't give up. Surely there are some things we can do. What can we do to make a difference in the attendance of this Sunday School class?"

The others began to speak up and said . . .

The goal of a good case study discussion is not to have a debate and declare a winner.

Rather, it is to get a good look at all aspects of a problem and come up with a course of action that is possible, reasonable, and ethical.

"Case studies facilitate our understanding of others, and even more important, they assist us in understanding ourselves" -- Alan Neely

A strategy for proceeding

  1. Read the case.
  2. Get the members of the cast and the flow of events clearly in mind.
  3. Clarify from whose perspective the case has been written.
  4. Identify the basic issues.
  5. List possible courses of action. What will be the likely results of each alternative?
  6. What additional information would be helpful?
  7. Go back over the facts of the case and the possibilities for action.
  8. What is the most appropriate course of action?

SNU missions course materials and syllabi

Cultural Anthropology    Introduction to Missions    Linguistics    Missions Strategies    Modern Missionary Movement (History of  Missions)    Nazarene Missions    Church Growth and Christian Missions    Theology of Missions    Traditional Religions    World Religions
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Howard Culbertson, 5901 NW 81st, Oklahoma City, OK 73132  |  Phone: 405-740-4149 - Fax: 405-491-6658

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