Boost Sunday School Attendance

May 22nd, 2011

Who attends the children's Sunday school at your church? Probably kids whose parents attend worship. It's only logical.

How do you increase attendance? Just as logically, by encouraging more of the parents attending worship to enroll their children. Or you can entice parents who don't attend worship to enroll their kids.

The second option has potential for great rewards. First, you can reach out to children who live in homes where church isn't a priority. Second, if you are successful, their parents may some day come to worship. Whatever efforts you apply to reaching out to them will also be effective in reaching parents already in the sanctuary on Sunday morning.

The challenge is reaching families who do not attend worship. I suspect many parents think it would be good to have their kids experience a positive, affirming program once a week. But if these parents aren't attending church, it will be difficult to get them to show up on a Sunday morning to see what Sunday school has to offer their children.

Consider holding a Sunday school open house during the week. Families can learn about your Sunday school program and meet the teachers without feeling pressured to attend church themselves. You can even structure the evening so they can bring their kids along.

How do you extend an invitation to your open house? Use a mailing that targets households close to your church. At the United Methodist Church of the Resurrection in Leawood, Kan., we reach over 20,000 households within a 3-mile radius.

You can even buy a qualified mailing list of just those households in your area that have children. Contact a mailing service or your local printing company for help.

A mailing gives you the flexibility to tell your complete story. Remember, the invitation can't just say, "Come to our Sunday School Open House." It also needs to convince parents that there are real benefits to having their children attend Sunday school.

Importantly, a mailing doesn't need to be a letter. In fact, I'd recommend against a letter because it won't look very inviting. And since it's from a church, it may not even get opened. Instead, design a mailing that is colorful, fun, and informative. We frequently use mailings that are oversized so they stand out in a pile of mail.

You may also want to do some newspaper advertising or get your open house posted on the newspaper's community calendar. Because these tactics don't provide the space to tell your complete story, be sure to have all the necessary information on your Web site and provide a "for more information" link to your site in the calendar posting.

Focusing your efforts on parents who aren't in worship with you on Sunday morning doesn't mean that your open house won't appeal to those who are. Be sure to hand out your mailer on Sunday morning and use your newsletter, bulletin, and e-mail also to reach those in your congregation who don't already have their children enrolled in Sunday school.

Peter Metz is director of communications for the United Methodist Church of the Resurrection, Leawood, Kan.

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