published Saturday, January 5th, 2013

Northwest Georgia Baptist churches are growing their Sunday schools

SUNDAY SCHOOL STALWARTS

Northwest Georgia congregations in the top 20 for Sunday school growth among Georgia Baptist Convention churches in 2011:

* Mega churches: 4. Rock Bridge Community Church, Dalton (also first in 2009, first in 2008, second in 2007). (Note: The latter two years were in the large church category.)

* Large churches: 3. Peavine Baptist, Rock Spring (also second in 2009, fourth in 2008, fifth in 2007 and 18th in 2006); 7. Salem Baptist, Dalton (also sixth in 2010 and first as a medium-size church in 2009).

* Medium churches: 3. Heritage Baptist, Calhoun; 13, Belmont Baptist, Calhoun.

* Intermediate churches: 3. Riverview Baptist, Calhoun (also sixth in 2010 and 11th in 2009); 12. White Oak Baptist, Trenton; 19. Boynton Baptist, Ringgold.

* Small churches: 5. Pleasant Grove, Ringgold; 8. Corinth Baptist, LaFayette; 10. Whitfield County Baptist Hispanic Mission, Dalton.

Terry Trivette says his church's Sunday school has been multiplying by dividing.

White Oak Baptist Church in Trenton, Ga., where he has served since 2007, ranks 12th among the 420 intermediate churches in the Georgia Baptist Convention for Sunday school growth during 2011.

"When I came to White Oak as pastor in 2007," Trivette says, "the church had gone through a difficult time, and the attendance in both Sunday school and worship was down from what it had been in years past."

The average Sunday school attendance in 2007 was 45, he says. For 2011, it was more than 130.

The Georgia Baptist Convention figures for Sunday school growth, released recently, also show one area megachurch (700-plus members in Sunday school) on the list, two large churches (400 to 699 members), two medium churches (200 to 399 members), two additional intermediate churches (101 to 199 members) and three small churches (35 to 100 members).

Trivette, who was on the staff of Temple Baptist Church in Chattanooga before being called to White Oak, says he attributes the growth in White Oak's Sunday school to "the grace of God," to enthusiasm among members and to an effort to start new classes out of growing classes.

"Whenever a class grows to more than 15 or 20," he says, "we find someone to teach a new class and send four or five members to join them in the new class. Ideally, those new classes will reach new people and multiply themselves."

Trivette says Sunday school may be a bit different than when he was growing up or working under his father, Ken Trivette, at Temple, but he says it still serves as a place of connection to the church family as a much as a place of education.

"We believe that if a person, or a family, connects to a small group (Sunday school class)," he says, "they will be more likely to stay connected to the larger body of the church."

Chuck Smith, pastor of Pleasant Grove Baptist Church in Ringgold for almost 10 years, says his church ranked fifth on the list of small-church Sunday schools for several reasons.

"It's not one particular thing," he says, "but a lot of devoted folks at our church have really been praying, reaching out and trying to get people involved. They've made special efforts to invite them, to get people in our Sunday school."

However, Smith says the church began offering a continental breakfast of toast, bagels, doughnuts, coffee and juices before Sunday school. The members who come not only can get breakfast, he says, they also can engage in a time of fellowship and get to know each other.

While the church offers variety among its four adult Sunday school classes, he says, the classes don't stray from the truths of the Bible.

"That's why I think God has blessed it," Smith says.

During his time there, he says, attendance in classes has risen from the low 20s to at least 60 per week.

about Clint Cooper...

Clint Cooper is the faith editor and a staff writer for the Times Free Press Life section. He also has been an assistant sports editor and Metro staff writer for the newspaper. Prior to the merger between the Chattanooga Free Press and Chattanooga Times in 1999, he was sports news editor for the Chattanooga Free Press, where he was in charge of the day-to-day content of the section and the section’s design. Before becoming sports ...

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