Reaching The Sunday School Dropout
Sunday school dropouts connote failure! No one likes to accept responsibility for failure. Therefore, loss of students is usually blamed on circumstances or a situation beyond our control. However, we need to honestly and objectively take a look at the real causes of Sunday school dropouts, how we can prevent them and what we can do to reach those who have already dropped out.
First, what are some of the causes for students who were once a part of our fellowship to no longer attend? The following is submitted as only a partial list of reasons:
1. Moving to a new location miles from the church
2. Dissatisfaction with the organizational structure of the Sunday school
3. Lack of interest due to poor teaching
4. No feeling of “belonging”
5. Loss of transportation
The above list is far from all-inclusive. There may be many other factors involved and there are certainly many varying degrees and facets of those causes listed. If we are willing to search out and understand the reasons for loss in our Sunday school, we have taken the first positive steps toward dealing with the problem. The logical next move is to determine which causes are preventable and which are not. Let’s examine the 5 we have listed.
People move for various reasons. This is unpreventable and does not account for a large percentage of dropouts. Most will attend a Sunday school in their new location.
We will never please all of the people all of the time. However, we need to be sure that the needs of the Sunday school family are being met. Do you have a reasonable age grouping of your classes, providing a comfortable unit for each age level? Have you taken into account differences of interest and common problems? For example, adults grouped together from ages 18 to 45 is a very poor grouping just as students 14 years to 25 years would not be able to share common problems comfortably. The size of the class is another important factor. Proper sizes differ with the age level of the students. Listen to suggestions made and be willing to make changes when they are justified. Most dropouts, because of dissatisfaction with organizational structure, can be avoided.
Poor teaching is the bane of many Sunday schools. This is preventable and should be dealt with kindly but firmly in every circumstance. However, we need to be sure that everyone has a clear understanding of what poor teaching is. Poor teaching is the result of apathetic attitudes, poor preparation and lack of commitment. Good teaching does not require a specified education or even superior Biblical knowledge. I have sat under excellent teaching that was peppered with poor grammar and mispronounced words. Encourage your teacher to attend teacher training sessions available to them, provide good resources for study and preparation and set your standards high. Never be afraid to study by those high standards. Talk with those teachers who do not comply and pray diligently about the situation.
A feeling of belonging is the most vital factor in the prevention of Sunday school dropouts. Anyone who truly feels that they “belong” will not easily lose interest in any group.
Some percentage of loss can often be attributed to lack of transportation if your church or the individual is not easily accessible to public transportation. This is particularly true for some senior citizens and for children. In most cases, this problem is preventable.
Now that we have thought about the causes and looked at some preventatives, how can we win back those who have already dropped out? The following is a list of suggestions for reaching Sunday school dropouts:
1. Keep accurate records. Beware of who is absent and how often.
2. Pray for each dropout specifically.
3. Contact the dropout and try to keep in touch. Let them know they are missed. Find out why they are no longer attending.
4. Organize a Sunday school visitation program, including Sunday school classmates of the dropout.
5. Hold Sunday school growth contests to revive interest and try to win back the dropouts.
6. Elevate standards of teaching in your Sunday school.
7. Provide an environment of welcome and guard against Sunday school cliques and exclusiveness.
8. Improve the appearance of classrooms and your organizational structure.
9. Provide Sunday school social events and special programs to which dropouts receive a special invitation.
10. Provide transportation where needed. A bus may not be necessary. Car pooling or use of vans or station wagons may be the answer.
We can win back those dropouts! Pray, organize and work – then trust the Lord for success!