The Attendance Program
One of the most significant facts with respect to Sunday School attendance is that it does not stay at a given level without continuous effort. Children leave by moving out of the neighbourhood, by growing too old, or for other reasons. If no new children come to the Sunday School, then, gradually and eventually, it will grow smaller and smaller.
The natural desire is to increase the attendance in our schools, but the plain fact is, if we are to maintain the same number of children in our Sunday Schools that we have today, we must practise a program of recruiting new children on a continuing year-round basis. In New Testament times the disciples went about from place to place and thus contacted new audiences at each new location. In one of the parables in Matthew’s Gospel, we are told the master of the house had his servants go into the highways and byways to compel men and women to come in. We, likewise, must continually search for new audiences, and go out into the neighbourhood to get the children to come.
There are three specific appeals we can make. The first is to the children now in our Sunday School; the second, to new children; and the third, to the parents of children not now in our School. In each case the appeal must be consistent and direct in presenting the significant motive that will produce action on the part of the children and the parents.
What makes a child want to come to Sunday School? Why do parents send their child? The proper answers to these questions should give us an important key in our approach to the appeals which we will make to improve regular attendance.
Those in Our School
A child may come to the Sunday School because he enjoys the class, the rewards, and the year-end programs, but primarily he will come because of the teacher. Class interest and the other factors are, of course, very important, but a teacher’s personal attraction over his class can only be measured in terms of his love for them. Therefore, the initial appeal to children for their attendance on a continuing basis, and for their help in bringing others, comes directly and forcefully from the teacher. To be successful in any measure with attendance, the teacher must demonstrate a love for the children in his class. This must be to the extent that it will influence the children to come regularly and to make them enthusiastic about bringing other children with them.
In this atmosphere of loving interest, the teacher, the superintendent, and the workers can launch programs with the children. Rewards can be offered to the children for every new child brought to the Sunday School. Contests with prizes for those with the best records in bringing new children may be used by each class. This appeal will help to hold the present children, and will put them to work appealing to their friends and classmates in the community day school.
Those Outside Our School
There must be a direct appeal to the children not in our Sunday School. This must be done by a visit to the homes of the parents and by the distribution of invitations in the surrounding neighbourhood. A personal visit to the homes of prospective scholars provides a first-hand acquaintance with someone from the School and with someone who is actually demonstrating a love for them. This work can also be accomplished by distributing invitations near the regular day schools as the children leave in the afternoon. Such contacts provide an opportunity for firsthand acquaintance with them.
The written invitation to be distributed, briefly can explain the Sunday School, the programs, and the rewards. It can also be used to advertise special programs, children’s meetings, rally days, and other special events, all a part of a continuous program to appeal directly to the children not now in the School. The specific details of the special events aimed at increasing the attendance are important and should be carefully planned and executed as announced.
Parents will want to send their child to Sunday School probably because they recognize that he should have what they consider religious training. Most will want also to be assured that the school chosen is not a new cult or something unusual in religion. They want the teaching to be along the lines with which they are generally familiar. This, of course, applies usually to those parents who have no firm religious connection, and, as a result, have no predetermined place for their children to go. Actually, it is to this type of parent that you will have the greatest appeal. Generally there is not as much success with those who have a strong feeling about their religious connections.
The best approach in the appeal is, of course, the direct visitation by the Sunday school worker to the parents. The distribution of invitations is good and does have results, but the personal visit is the strongest approach. Whether we visit or pass out invitations, there are certain things that should be stressed. We should emphasize the need for spiritual enlightenment, and mention some of the important by-products of the Sunday School which may appeal to the unsaved parents: such things as building moral character, good citizenship, and a sound knowledge of the Bible.
The implementation of these appeals is important. Every detail should be carefully considered. There must be enthusiasm, attractive material, real interest, and love on the part of the workers. There are many kinds of programs, contests, and methods which have been outlined in publications from time to time. The primary purpose of this article is to emphasize the necessity of a well-defined continuous program on a yearly basis with an appeal to the children at present in the Sunday School as well as to those outside, and to the parents.
To make such a program effective, someone should be appointed to supervise the whole plan. If possible this person should not have a class, and should not be the superintendent of the Sunday School. He should be free to devote his efforts to this task. First, the teachers, and every one in the Assembly who can be of assistance should be organized to take part in the labour that goes along with special events like children’s meetings, vacation Bible Schools, summer camps, rally days, and the other programs.