Traditional Sunday School has fallen on hard times. Some churches are changing focus, while others are just losing out to pillow time. Whatever the reasons, low attendance is a big discouragement to Sunday School teachers.
Maybe you’ve seen this first hand.
You work hard to prepare a relevant, kid friendly, biblical faithful lesson. You arrive early to set up the classroom and spend a few minutes in prayer. Then you wait.
10 minutes later you realize that no kids are coming. Or maybe the pastor’s son walks in, but he’s the only one. Few things are more discouraging.
In this post I want to offer you some practical help. The following steps can maximize the attendance in your class, even in very small churches. This is not easy. All these strategies require work and a sincere desire to bring in more children. There are no guarantees, but these tactics can help you turn things around for your class.
1. Make sure your class is worth attending: A disorganized, unprepared, or just plain boring lesson will not make a good impression on guests. Make sure the class is a positive experience for kids so they will want to come back. Children begging to come to church is a powerful motivator to parents.
2. Build a class prospect list: Compile basic information for each prospect including phone number, mailing address, parent’s names, family email and how they are connected with the church. Include all the children in that age group who attend your church. Then add kids from VBS or other ministry programs.
3. Pray for this prospect list: Make it a regular practice to mention these kids to God. Ask specifically for ways to help them grow in their faith and opportunities to invite them to class. You may be surprised at the chance encounters that God will arrange.
4. Mail an invitation to these prospects: Create a invitation postcard or personal letter inviting each child to your class. Writing this out by hand will show you are sincere and care about each child. Include basic information about the class and mention other children who already attend. Explain the benefits in a way that will appeal to parents. For specific ideas, browse our post titled “Why Children’s Ministry Matters.”
5. Make phone calls to the parents of these prospects: This is a simple way to introduce yourself to parents and encourage them to bring kids to Sunday School. You don’t need to put anyone on the spot, just remind them of the class time and say how much you’d love their child to attend. You can even ask if there are any needs they would like you to pray about for their family.
6. Make a visit to this prospect’s house: When you go, bring along materials from the class. This approach is very helpful for kids who used to come but have fallen out of the habit. Just a friendly visit to show that you care.
7. Ask your pastor to promote Sunday School: Sometimes a firm reminder from the minister will help families make the commitment. He can simply make an announcement, or add a point of application to his sermon. You might even use our bulletin insert about Sunday School to give him talking points.
8. Ask your pastor to encourage specific families: Some church families need an extra nudge from the pastor. This second hand invitation is also an strong endorsement of your class. Parents may think, “If the pastor is serious about this it must be important.”
9. Plan a special event just for the class and prospects: This can be a pizza party after church, a pool party, or a special cookout at your house. Be sure to include parents, other siblings, and church leaders. Building these relationships outside of the class is important.
10. Connect with parents online: Use email and Facebook to stay in touch with parents. This is an easy and non-threatening way to followup when a child is absent in Sunday School.
11. Plan a giveaway or contest to promote attendance: Many churches give awards for Sunday School attendance. Why not offer a prize for any student who comes 3 weeks in a row? You could have something larger for children who reach a certain attendance goal (maybe 90% for the semester). If possible, present these awards in kids church or big church where potential class members wills see.
12. Offer gifts to first time guests: Make it something valuable and encourage current students to bring friends to bring. It could be something simple like “silly bands” or something big like a new release DVD or CD. Be sure to add a personal note and information pack for parents.
13. Make sure existing students keep coming. Don’t forget to recruit children who already are faithful in attendance. Praise parents for their role in getting children to class every week. You can even send occasional thank you notes. This encouragement will help your existing class members stay committed.
14. Arrange to pickup children who’s parents don’t attend. Some kids would come if they could get a ride. This is tricky because you don’t want to bypass the parent’s role, but this is a way to serve them. You can provide a ride yourself or have another church member. Just be sure to follow any security or transportation policies your church may have.
15. Encourage students to have friends over on Saturday night. This is an easy way for families to reach out to unchurched kids. They may even decide to meet the other family at church, then share lunch together.
16. Recruit a Sunday School champion: This should be an outgoing church member who is not currently teaching Sunday School. They can share the workload of these strategies and be an evangelist for the value of Sunday School. Give them these strategies and set them loose.