Attendance and Contests
The responsibility for good attendance in the Sunday School rests entirely upon the superintendent and the teachers. Contests and competitions, however, have been used with gratifying results. This article is written to offer some practical pointers that may prove helpful.
When planning contests, certain basic rules should be kept in mind. They are as follows:
Plan the Contest to Develop the Sunday School Attendance Habit
Sunday School attendance is a matter of habit with many children. In the contest, therefore, do all you can to aid more boys and girls in forming this habit.
Have One Definite Purpose For Your Contest
For example, it should be intended either to add new members to the Sunday School or to stimulate regular attendance. Have a specific goal before you.
Select a Good Starting Date
As a rule, teachers do considerable visitation prior to the Sunday School picnic, Rally Sunday and the annual Christmas Treat. This extra interest and work on the teacher’s part will no doubt result in added members. These periods, then, seem excellent opportunities to capitalize on good attendance. By starting a contest, this attendance will likely remain higher than usual.
Teachers Should be Enthusiastic
If the teachers are enthusiastic about the contest and its results, this spirit will spread to the children. If children see their teachers excited, they will quickly follow.
Make the Rules Simple
Complicated rules are hard to follow and difficult to enforce. They tend to destroy interest rather than generate it.
Contest Period Not Too Long
If the contest is confined to an eight or ten week period, enthusiasm will more likely remain high throughout.
We are living in an extremely materialistic age and this must be remembered when the contest prizes are selected. Years ago, children would bring new scholars when promised a book or similar prize. However, in this day of prosperity, television and Sunday sports, they expect something more exciting. For the boys, try fishing rods jack-knives, flashlights or wallets; and for the girls, an inexpensive camera, Bracelet, necklace or dresser set.
In the second contest rule, it was stated the contest should be planned to increase or maintain attendance. With this rule in mind, the following contests are suggested. It should also be remembered that children enjoy competing as a class or team, at which time they work as one of eight or ten teams, rather than one child competing against one hundred and fifty other children.
Suggested Contests For Attendance
Turkey Dinner Contest
This is an ideal contest to start immediately following a Rally Sunday in late September. At this time the children are told that the 75 who have the most nearly perfect attendance over the next eight weeks will be treated to a sumptuous turkey dinner prepared and served by the teachers in early December.
After having selected a good starting date, all children are given keys, one of which will open the Treasure Chest on display at the front of the Sunday School. The date for opening the chest is known only by one or two teachers in charge of the contest. The children are told that some Sunday in the near future all will be given an opportunity to open the chest. For the child opening the chest, there will be a special prize, and as well, a prize for all present. For the special prize, a two pound box of candy might be given, while all others receive chocolate bars.
The Zoo Contest
The Zoo Contest could be started immediately following the Sunday School picnic in late June, with the hope of maintaining attendance during the summer. The children are told that the forty having the best attendance over the next eight weeks will be taken by bus to the zoo in a near-by city. This would likely be a full or half day adventure to which the children will certainly look forward. It may be that there will be other places of interest to which the children in your Sunday School could be taken. Wherever it might be, they will enjoy going in a group.
If this contest is used, a large and attractive banner should be purchased from your Bible Book Store. Prior to starting the contest, the average class attendance is calculated over the past three month period. To this average, one is added as a challenge and one to represent the teacher’s attendance. The children will enjoy seeing their teacher as part of the team. The class which has an average attendance of six over the past three months would be expected to have eight or better in attendance.
On a large blackboard chart at the front of the Sunday School, the name of each class, its attendance expected and its weekly attendance is displayed.
During the opening exercises, the attendance is taken and the banner presented to the winning class. If the class wins two weeks in succession, all in the class receive chocolate bars.
At the close of the contest, all children in the class which has the highest percentage based on total attendance, will receive prizes similar to those suggested in an earlier paragraph on prizes. The teacher could be given a box of chocolates, a tie or book, or some other suitable prize.
The Goldfish Contest
To every boy or girl who brings a new scholar, there is presented a gold fish bowl. When the new scholar returns, the water and one fish are added. On the third Sunday, he receives a second fish. On each of the following Sundays the new scholar attends, the child bringing him will receive additional items such as a castle, water plants or colored stones. Once again, you attempt to develop the Sunday School attendance habit.
New Scholar Contest
For the new scholar contest, the class once again works as a team. Every time one member brings a new scholar of any age, the class is given five points, and each time the new scholar returns, the class is awarded ten additional points. At the end of the contest period, the class having the greatest number of points is declared the winner, and each child will receive a worthwhile prize.
Of course, it must ever be remembered that Sunday School contests will never take the place of a loving teacher’s interest in his scholar’s attendance at Sunday School. The contest should only be used as one link in the chain to bring the children under the sound of the sweetest story ever told. May it then be the God-given exercise of every teacher to lovingly, clearly and simply present the story of the Saviour’s love to these young hearts.