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Improving and/or increasing Sunday School attendance has been a perennial subject here at Indeed, in many ways, this entire site is devoted to helping increase or improve Sunday School attendance by improving the lesson experience.

  • Increasing = adding more kids
  • Improving = helping a kid/family go from 1 to 3 weeks per month.

Your ideas and stories about "what works" welcome! 

Facts to chew on:

1. Some attendance factors are out of our immediate control. These factors can include pastoral leadership, worship, and adult education offerings that are lackluster, and the demographics of a congregation and its neighborhood. As we like to say around here, "kids don't drive themselves to church."

2. The quality of our Sunday School and teaching is a contributing factor to attendance. While kids don't drive themselves, today's kids have a larger influence on their parent's attendance behavior. The Workshop Rotation Model was created in part, to address the children's "experience" of Sunday School -- to help them both learn AND want to return. Decades of boring Sunday School have now created two or more generation of parents don't want to subject their children to the same thing.

3. The world has changed. (But these should not be excuses for abandoning teaching the Bible to kids.)

  • More adults are working weekends.
  • Kids and parents have more options and activities competing for their attention.
  • It's easier to find things to do (and find peers doing them) on Sunday morning than it was 40 years ago.
  • The definition of "regular attendance" has changed from "nearly every week" to 1 or 2 times a month. This change parallels the trends in attitude regarding spirituality and "institutional church" among younger generations being measured by research groups such as Barna and Pew.
  • Growing secularization of society. Simply put, churches have lost many "nominal" or "notional" Christians.
  • Some churches have been substituting children's worship for Sunday School in part or entirely (and the two are not the same thing).
  • Many of today's adult Christians did not grow up with a dynamic children's ministry experience, and thus, don't understand its importance.
  • Your "change" here.

4. Worship and fellowship are not substitutes for teaching and learning, they are equal parts of a balanced faith and faithful church.
An understanding of the major stories and teachings of the Bible is an essential part of what it means to be a Christian and guide to Christian living. Faith in Christ requires knowledge and understanding of his life teachings and life story. 



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Last edited by Neil MacQueen
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A Few Ways to Promote Sunday School Attendance

Here are some of the things that have worked for me in churches of various sizes. Feel free to comment and make your own suggestions.

Make sure your facility and classrooms are attractive and inviting to kids and visiting parents. Beige and boring, dim and musty are unacceptable.

Make sure your approach to teaching is attractive and inviting. 45 minutes in a chair with a worksheet and a pile of pipe cleaners is a great way to make kids disappear.

Create "points of re-entry" for those who need a reason to "get back into the habit."  These points of entry can be special events, Sunday School service projects. They can also be as simple as asking a parent to come help.  (Conversely, planning a constant stream of events creates the impression that nothing is special.)

Have a plan for shutting the "back door" on attendance loss. Be aware of who's not there and why. Sometimes people just need to know they are missed.

Have a plan of regular communication with parents (not blurps buried in the emailed newsletter or tossed away with the bulletin).  If you are not using text-messaging, you are living in the past.

Promote "what's happened," not just "what's happening," and do it through visuals and social media. Help people see what they've missed, and remind those who attended that they were glad they did!

Have a thriving family ministry and young families ministry. This is probably the single greatest way to help families feel connected and responsible to each other. Doesn't have to be fancy or complicated.

Create "rites of passage."  Parents respond to special events where their children will be recognized. This can include "promotion Sundays," gifting Bibles, communion education.

Create events that attract the attention of neighborhood families.  Bouncy houses. Water game days. Free concerts and ice cream, and VBS-like programs that include something that gets non-church parents to stay and mingle. When parents start to feel a connection, they are more likely to send their kids. 

Organize and equip key families to identify and invite their friends and neighbors. Research shows that it's your members' connections that are the best way to recruit new members. This is an especially good strategy if your congregation's demographics are aging.

Make sure your church's "presence" along the road and in the community is KNOWN. When people start looking for a church, you want yours to be visible to them. 

When visitors with children come to your church, make sure the kids leave with something fun in their hands other than a piece of paper (a cup with a crazy straw for example, and the church's name on that cup).  And don't forget to follow up on visitors.

Take control of your church's webpage for children's ministry. Supply them with exciting photos of past events and "what it looks and feels like" to attend.  (Most church websites are completely boring.) Avoid the boilerplate "blah blah blah."

Bond your kids to each other. Friends attend to be with friends. One of the best things I ever did to boost Sunday School attendance in a small church was to start a children's fellowship that met once a month. Our teachers also helped (many of them were parents.)

Here's an easy way teachers can help us follow up on visiting kids:

Have the visiting kid write their mailing address on an envelope. Then after class fill that envelope with three things and mail it: 

(1) A fun "thank you" card for the child. 

(2) A coupon for a free scoop of local ice cream. 

(3) A flyer for the parents.

 Don't' forget to give a copy of the address to the church office!

Children's ministry mag has this free printable postcard you can use to get started. The image could be your "fun thank you card." Before you use it, edit the pdf/image to add your church's logo, website and class and worship times. 


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