Snagging the Sunday School Dropout
By Rodney L. Pry
It’s something that every Sunday school has seen at one time or another. A new family moves to the area and begins attending our Sunday school, but after several weeks they don’t come back. Why?
There is no magic formula to solve the problem of Sunday school dropouts, but there are some things that we can and should do to ensure that the regular members of our Sunday school are aware of the needs of new members and, through that awareness, make a special effort to welcome and accept new members into their midst.
Here are a few things we should all keep in mind:
1. We all need friends. Get to know the new members who come to your Sunday school. Find out as much as you can about them…their likes, dislikes, family, friends, abilities, where they work, etc. Getting to know a person is basic to building a friendship with that person. Remember, we all need friends and for a person to really feel that they are a part of an organization such as a Sunday school, they must feel that they have friends, people who care about them and appreciate them, within that group.
2. Involve the new members in planning. As mentioned earlier, it’s important to get to know the abilities and talents of new members coming to your Sunday school. Once you are aware of these talents and abilities, what will you do with the information? The wise Sunday school leader will try to make use of all resources available to him or her. That means using the new members as best you can. But, beware. Don’t overload the new members. Start them off slowly. The new members should feel that they are important, but if you dump too much on them too quickly, you may end up scaring them away.
3. Keep good Sunday school records. If a new member who has been coming to your Sunday school doesn’t show up for two or three weeks, what do you do? First, you must be aware that the new member has missed several weeks. To do that, you need to keep good class or Sunday school records. If a person, especially a new member, misses more than two weeks in a row, the secretary or other person in charge of records needs to make the teacher aware. The teacher or other representative should then make a special effort to contact the absent person to let them know that they are missed and to find out if there is anything the class can do, such as provide transportation to Sunday school.
4. Build a complete family ministry. Does your Sunday school have classes available to each of the new member’s family members? If not, they may take their family to a Sunday school that does. Sunday school should be “a family affair.” That means that we need to be sure that our Sunday school is ministering to every member of the family. Even though one or two of the members of a new family may be very happy with their classes in your church, if you are not fully meeting the needs of the entire family, you could end up losing the new members.
5. Teach with each family member in mind. Having classes for each member of every family is a start, but it is also important to be sure that each Sunday school class is fully meeting the needs of each of their members. Of primary concern should be the fact that the Bible is being taught. Every person, at every age level, should be hearing about God and His Will for each of our lives, including our Lord’s desire that every person come to a saving knowledge of Himself as Lord and Savior. Furthermore, each Sunday school class should also be helping its members to learn how to apply God’s Word to their day-to-day lives. For example, young adults need to be learning how to apply Christian teachings to the young families they are starting, etc.
6. Sunday schools need to be understanding and forgiving. I recently heard of a family that started going to a new Sunday school and church because of some personal marital problems they were having. They were trying to “Start over” in a new church with a new group of friends. However, the rumors about the couple soon followed them to the new church and the members of that church soon became as cold toward them as the people at their old Sunday school. As Christians, we are called to be loving and forgiving to all persons. The Sunday school often offers us many opportunities to show God’s love to others.
Getting people to drop back into Sunday school isn’t easy. It’s much easier to be sure that you keep those new members by working to build a friendly, caring Sunday school where everyone will feel welcome and an important part of “the family of God.”
And one more reminder, don’t neglect applying these six reminders to your regular members, too. They need friendship and love just as much as the new members who come to your Sunday school.