In Part 1, I shared benefits a church realizes from offering Sunday School all year round. In Part 2, I want to offer some positive alternatives to taking Sunday School off for the summer. These alternatives answer the concerns that contribute to considering a summer vacation.
What are some of the concerns that leaders address when they consider taking a break from Sunday School during the summer? While this list is not intended to be exhaustive, here are some of the reasons/concerns leaders may give:
- organizations in the community take the summer off (i.e. public schools);
- organizations in the church take the summer off (missions, choirs, etc.);
- teachers are gone more frequently/longer periods during the summer;
- substitutes are more difficult to secure during the summer;
- preschool/children’s substitutes are more difficult to secure resulting in drafting adult attenders and further reducing adult class attendance;
- teachers are starting to ask for the summer off;
- teachers are starting to show more burnout in the spring and summer;
- attendance tends to decline slightly during the summer (do we need as many classes?); and
- a special emphasis might generate more interest and attendance.
These are genuine concerns. They deserve serious consideration and a planned response. On the other hand, Sunday School directors, pastors, and teachers should also examine the church’s vision and purpose for Sunday School before reponding to ensure that actions taken during the summer are not counterproductive. What, then, are some beginning responses to these concerns? Once again, the following list is not exhaustive and may not take into account your church’s vision and purpose for Sunday School:
- While organizations do take the summer off, worship continues throughout the summer. Sunday School is needed during the summer to follow up on worship guests, assimilate new members, and minister to members, absentees, and guests.
- Enlisting substitutes and apprentices to teach more often during the summer, can help the teacher who is gone more frequently or for longer periods during the summer. Enlisting these individuals early reduces last-minute pressure.
- Summer can be a great time to enlist individuals for one Sunday or one month. This can lead to great substitute or apprentice discovery. Some may only say yes to a shorter term as substitute rather than a year.
- Enlisting adults early (by March) to serve as preschool/children’s substitutes no more than one Sunday during the summer can prevent any individual or class from reduced attendance.
- In response to burnout, teachers should be enouraged to enlist and train apprentices who teach for them one Sunday each month and, if needed, more frequently in the spring and summer.
- Attendance does not have to slump during the summer. I have actually seen attendance increase. For suggestions, check out my blog entry, Summer Sunday School Spectacular.
- A special emphasis (like a 40-day campaign, etc.) in regular Sunday School classes during the summer could actually result in more interest and attendance. I have heard the suggestion of having a special Bible emphasis during the summer in which each of the four age groups (preschool, children, youth, and adults) are gathered together in four large spaces in the church facilities to do something like January Bible Study or VBS during the month of June or July. Here is my caution about this idea: how will you follow up on worship guests, assimilate new members, and minister to member and guest needs during that period of time? Who will be responsible? How will you bridge the gap in these areas then back to Sunday School?
Can you think of additional concerns leaders may share when suggesting taking a Sunday School summer vacation? Or can you think of additional responses to these concerns? Press the comments button below to share what you have heard, thought about, or experienced. Whatever you do, begin by seeking God’s leadership and wise counsel. Plan to be strategic rather than reactive in your plan to disciple, assimilate, reach, and minister through the Sunday School. In fact, plan to be revolutionary!