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7 Reasons Sunday School Attendance Rates are at Record Lows

Sunday School attendance rates continue to be at some of the lowest we’ve seen in a long time. More and more kids, and frankly, more and more parents, are deciding they have better things to do on Sunday morning than attend church.

While I don’t have all the answers to fix Sunday School attendance rates I would like to offer 7 reasons/remedies for helping to reverse the trend.

So here are a few ideas for making Sunday School better than its ever been, and for getting more kids to come back than ever have before.

1. Sunday School is B-O-R-I-N-G

There might not be a more significant problem with Sunday School these days than this one.

If kids are bored in Sunday School it doesn’t matter what you are teaching or how you teach it. Kids don’t learn when they are bored, and the definitely won’t be begging their parents to bring them back to church.

boring

Have you ever seen a kid sit through a boring movie? Or perhaps I should say, have you ever seen a kid sit through PART of a boring movie? Kids rarely stay to see the whole thing. It’s the same situation we have with Sunday School…if the classes are boring and there is just a lot of “sitting” and “staring” at the teacher don’t be surprised when kids don’t show up for more incredibly boring classes.

2. Sunday School sounds like Sunday

Everything in our culture sounds modern. Think about music…it doesn’t ever sound the same for more than about a decade. The music from the 70s doesn’t sound anything like music from the 80s, which in turn sounds nothing like my favorite, the 90s. In every decade the style of music shifts to adapt with what the culture wants to hear.

But…are the topics that people sang about in the 60s still relevant for today? Absolutely!

People today are just as interested to hear party rock anthems and moving love songs as ever before, just as long as they sound good…in today’s world.

It’s the same thing with Sunday School. If the lesson and the class sounds like “Sunday” – meaning it’s full of big Bible words and phrases we only ever hear in church than the kids are going to tune out and eventually check out of church completely. It’s not about the message, that will always be the same. What I’m talking about here is the delivery, and the style the Bible story is presented in.

We need to update our delivery and approach for 21st century kids. Everything else in their life sounds like it is relevant in 2016. God’s Word should be no different!

3. There’s nothing to look forward to

You know what makes my life great?

When I have something to look forward to! In fact, as I type this I have a HUGE baseball game I’m attending in a few days, and there’s a big football game on television on Saturday that I’m excited to watch. (yes…I like sports)

I can say honestly, that my life is more exciting and interesting right now because I have something to look forward to.

lookforward

Kids are the same way (and maybe more so). They need something to look forward to. Sunday School can be that “something” they look forward to…if we alter our approach a bit.

As a teacher, a volunteer, or a staff member, you have to make sure that every Sunday is so interesting and exciting for kids that they can’t wait to come back the following week. I’m not talking about huge production budgets or some elaborate 60-hour week full of planning….all I’m really saying is that incorporating a fun game, an interesting lesson, and a few laughs along the way will have the kids loving every minute of classtime.

If we would all spend a few minutes each week figuring out how to make every Sunday a day kids looked forward to, we would see kids return more often and be more engaged than they ever were before.

4. Teachers are all the same

One Sunday you ought to take a stroll through the church hallways where the kids hang out on Sunday morning. There are more amazing people, working with kids on that hallway than you can dream of. I truly believe some of the sweetest and most loving people in the world work in Sunday School rooms across this country.

But here’s one issue I still have:

Where are the men? Have you ever noticed that Sunday School classrooms are filled with female teachers?

I am hardly saying that women don’t make great teachers. They are fantastic.

My argument here is that we should mix it up a little. I think there should be a classroom or two where there is a man teaching the kids the Bible story. It is so rare to walk into a 3rd grade classroom and see a man teaching. Generally the women are always the ones that step up and volunteer to teach and to lead a classroom.

If you are a church leader, and particularly if you work with kids, recruit some men to teach in some of your classes. Perhaps every week seems daunting to new volunteers at first, so ask them to teach for one quarter of the year or something like that. Start small.

men

Kids need a variety of influences in their lives as they come of age and having a variety of teachers is key. Kids need teachers who approach the Scriptures from a woman’s perspective, and kids need teachers who approach the Scriptures from a man’s point of view.

You know how they say that variety is the spice of life? It applies to Sunday School as well.

So find curriculum you love and give it to adults, of all types. Teach your Sunday School kids the message of God’s Word using as many different types of teachers as possible.

5. Sunday School doesn’t always need to be more “school”

Part of the attendance issue with Sunday School, in my opinion, is in the name itself. After all, if you  asked a kid on Friday evening, “Do you want to go to school this weekend!?” , what do you think they would say?

Um, NO!!

As a kid, I remember Fridays…and the last thing I wanted to do during the weekend was to go anywhere that reminded me of school. Monday through Friday was PLENTY for me.

If we aren’t careful we will drive kids away from God’s Word and from Sunday School by running it just like “school”. If we expect kids to spend another day quietly listening to teachers lecture and patiently sitting at tables doing crafts we are asking for trouble.

Keep kids coming back to class by refusing to make every week feel like “school”. Play games, inspire learning through activities and special events. Give the kids a chance to act out the story and teach alongside you every so often.

Find as many ways as possible to mix up the routine so Sunday School feels nothing like….school.

6. Don’t forget mom and dad

Maybe you’ve read this far (hey, congrats!) and you are thinking to yourself, “we do a pretty good job with all this stuff”. Well then, you have my congrats and well done. You rock!

Regardless of how you feel you are “measuring up”, here’s something you may have never considered…your kids can be as excited as possible about Sunday morning, but if the parents aren’t excited there’s only so much the kids can do to get their parents to church. The kids can’t exactly drive!

drive

An often forgotten aspect of kids ministry and Sunday School work is the work of getting the parents on board and excited about what is going on in the classroom.

You need to spend strategic effort in creating collateral and communication that tells parents about all the great stuff you are doing each week.

A parent often picks up their kid from class and by the time they are in the parking lot the conversation has long moved past the topic of that morning’s lesson.

Put information in the hands of the parents that tells them about all the amazing stuff you are doing in class and how important it is for their kid to be there every week. Make parents feel like they can’t afford not to bring their kid to church because of what their child might miss!

If Sunday School leaders would make on-purpose communication like this a priority parents would be more informed and more motivated to bring their kids back to Sunday School again and again.

7. Sunday School keeps them around

The statistics tell us that Sunday School is often not the reason that families join another church. Generally that responsibility lies with the Pastor and what is happening in the main auditorium every Sunday.

But the same statistics also tell us that Sunday School can play a HUGE role in keeping families at the same church long term.

If you are disappointed in declining Sunday School attendance the best thing you can do right now is to focus all your effort on making your program as amazing as it can be. Make sure Sunday mornings are mind blowing. Do everything you can so kids leave on a “high” from what they’ve experienced in church. Don’t stress about the kids you don’t have, impress the kids you do have. Because if the stats are correct, you aren’t responsible for the kids coming in the door, but you are very responsible for the kids that never come back!

No pressure, right 😉

Lastly, I am not one to sit on the sidelines and point fingers. The goal of this article is to share ideas with you about ways we can draw kids to church, and ultimately to the Gospel. We are all in this together.

In my book, anyone who invests themselves in the lives of kids is doing amazing work. You rock!

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