Increasing and Improving Sunday School attendance has been a perennial subject here at Rotation.org. 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 and/or increasing their participation
- Improving = improving the quality of their participation and learning
Your ideas and stories about "what works" welcome!
Facts About Attendance to Chew On:
1. Some attendance factors are out of our immediate control.
These factors can include pastoral leadership, worship, adult education, and the demographics of a congregation and its neighborhood.
As we like to say around here, "kids don't drive themselves to church." So if you attract a parent, you usually get their kids.
2. The quality of our Sunday School atmosphere and teaching is are contributing factors to attendance.
While kids don't drive themselves, today's kids DO have a larger influence on their parent's attendance behavior.If walking into your church and Sunday School isn't a kid-friendly experience, you need to change that.
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 generations of parents who don't want to subject their children to the same thing. We need to change that opinion in both the kids AND the parents.
3. The world has changed.
But none of these changes is an excuse for abandoning the regular Bible teaching to kids, they just make it more challenging.
- 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.
Faith in Christ requires a working knowledge and understanding of his teachings and life story. You don't get that by junking Sunday School and switching to a 20-minute "verse + craft" model of instruction during the sermon (which also only appeals to the little kids). You don't get that by making children's worship the only learning experience.
5. A "Monolithic Approach" to Reaching and Teaching Kids Won't Work (and probably never did)
"Back in the day," we had the luxury of regular and good attendance and could create a singular learning experience on Sunday morning. Continuing to teach that way as if nothing has changed is the road to extinction. Worse, it doesn't reach and teach the kids about Jesus -- which is the only thing that should not change.
One of the "proof-texts" for teaching children creatively here at Rotation.org has been Acts 2 when the disciples were given the gift of speaking in MANY languages to the crowd gathered outside our upperroom. But now in most cases today, the crowd no longer gathers outside our door. Instead, we have to hit the road like Peter and Paul did AFTER Pentecost. We have to "go where the kids are" in both a literal and figurative way. Today, that includes reaching out to them as individuals, instead of always expecting them to gather as a group.