Use these 5 Sunday school attendance boosters to create opportunities for celebrating faithful attendance, diligent teaching, and successful learning.
When parents enroll their children in ballet, soccer, or music lessons, they conscientiously note registration deadlines and dates of classes, games, and final programs on the family calendar so their children won’t miss a thing.
We can foster a similar commitment to Sunday school attendance even though our programming is year-round. By building and celebrating specific checkpoints in our ministries, we can stimulate enthusiastic participation and maintain consistent involvement.
1. Set a Beginning and an End
Begin your education year on the Sunday after Labor Day in September and end on the Sunday before Memorial Day in May. Avoid the actual holiday weekends because attendance will likely be low. Make these Sundays festive with any of the following ideas.
Have a “world of fun” theme.
Study missionaries around the world and play games from other countries.
Give a Bible to each graduating third grader and a picture of Jesus to each graduating kindergartner in the spring.
Affirm your staff.
Recognize teachers by giving them red corsages or boutonniere. Give assistants white and staff people yellow.
Have a mystery or detective theme.
Use magnifying glasses to promote “what children will discover about God” this year. Give glimpses of your ministry. Show slides or a video of children in Sunday school classes with a live background song such as Amy Grant’s “Baby, Baby” or the chorus to Pharell’s “Happy.”
Hold an open house for parents.
Display art projects and curriculum posters of what’ll be happening this quarter. Have teachers explain the curriculum to parents.
Announce special events that’ll happen throughout the year.
For example, designate specific field trips that certain age groups get to go on each year. The fifth-grade class can visit another church in town while the second graders see sheep at a nearby farm.
2. Establish Registration Sundays
If your new Sunday school year begins in September, designate the Sundays in August as Registration Sundays. That way you can reach everyone despite vacation schedules. Even children whose families never miss a week will enjoy signing up for their new classes.
Give registered children a colorful enrollment card that identifies their class, teacher, room number, and the start and end dates of the school year. Seasonal registration reinforces for children and parents that they’re committing to attend for a specific period of time rather than just dropping in whenever they feel like it.
3. Do a Big Fall Kick-Off
Make the first Sunday of the new Sunday school year a memorable event. Select a theme design, slogan, or Bible verse to feature on name tags, bulletin covers, classroom doors, bulletin boards, banners, posters, and the refreshment table. For example, do an Up, Up, and Away with Jesus theme, and have helium balloons all over your church. Enlist someone to make balloon sculptures for children. Or even better, find someone to set up a hot-air balloon in your church parking lot. Check out your insurance policy before you decide to give rides.
4. Celebrate Spring Completion
Make the last Sunday of the Sunday school year special, too. Serve brunch or a luncheon to honor the volunteers and teachers who worked faithfully throughout the school year. Hold an open house that showcases the children’s best work. Invite parents to class parties. Replace regular Sunday school classes with an assembly featuring Bible skits, puppet plays, songs, and Scripture memory verses the children have learned during the year.
5. Blow Out Promotion Sunday
Advancement to a new school grade is a significant event for children. They identify themselves with their next grade on the day school closes in the spring. While churches have traditionally promoted children to their new grades in the fall, a promotion at the beginning of summer has definite advantages. Promoting children in the spring capitalizes on their excitement about being a grade older and may actually enhance summer attendance. What self-respecting third grader wants to remain in the second-grade class all summer long? The relaxed, informal activities of summer make it an ideal time to transition your graduating fifth or sixth graders into the youth ministry. Promotion Sunday makes the change an occasion to anticipate rather than something to dread.
Sharon Short is a Christian education consultant in Michigan.