Seasonal Sunday School Attendance
by LifeWay Research (SBC Statistics)
LifeWay Research discovers four distinct periods of seasonal Sunday School attendance
Have you ever been caught off guard by seasonal Sunday School attendance patterns? Have you ever wondered if the seasonal attendance patterns at other churches match yours?
LifeWay Research has developed a unique seasonal perspective on Sunday School attendance by bringing together more than 3 years of monthly reporting. To better understand your congregation, compare your church to the pattern of seasonal Sunday School Attendance for the ďaverageĒ Southern Baptist church.
Here are four distinct periods of seasonal Sunday School attendance:
1. January Ė April: Churches typically see a crescendo in attendance from January until the annual peak in March.
Why? One contributing factor: less travel. According to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics (www.bts.gov), January and February are the lowest travel months of the year. Easter can also have an impact, depending on the year. Here it landed in both March (2005) and April (2003, 2004). Spring breaks from school and milder weather begin to erode attendance by April.
Implications: This period of natural attendance growth is a critical time for visitor follow-up. While Easter provides outreach opportunities unlike the typical Sunday, the nature of church planning can often make Easter seem like the finish line in terms of attendance.
2. May Ė July: Churches experience a deep trough in attendance in the summer months. Itís no surprise that May through July have the lowest attendance of the year. Why? Members need vacation and so does the church staff! Air travel peaks in July and vehicle travel is high (www.bts.gov). Camps and mission trips take the church on the road. Others simply use their Sundays to take advantage of the nice weather or for taking day trips.
Implications: If churches didnít experience an August rebound to their low July attendance, they would be devastated. Also, many formerly churched adults have admitted itís devastating when no one notices you are gone. Caring contact is critical when folks are away.
3. August Ė November: Churches see people return to Sunday School in August and attendance stays steady through November.
Why? The kickoff of the church year corresponds with local school calendars. People return in force in August despite it being the highest vehicle travel of the year (www.bts.gov).
Implications: This is a great time of year for spiritual growth, as church fits neatly into the routine. Not surprisingly, this is the best time of year to start new classes. Class patterns such as organizing care groups, following up with visitors, and mentoring new teachers can best be developed in the fall months and will be greatly needed the rest of the year. Incorporate an outreach event and encourage attendees to invite friends and neighbors. Moving beyond consistent attendance to encouraging and facilitating growth is a routine worth getting into.
4. December: Churches see Sunday School attendance drop to the lowest non-summer level of the year in December.
Why? While worship attendance may be strong, many people skip Sunday School as they host visitors, travel, or get caught up in the busyness of the season.
Implications: Many classes enjoy Sunday School socials this time of year, but there may be an untapped opportunity for Sunday School classes to become a refuge from the busyness of the Christmas season. Classes need to stay in touch during this difficult month. While attendance naturally rebounds in January, it takes until February to get back to where things were in November. Donít wait until then!
The Making of the Index: A sample of 400 Southern Baptist churches reported Average Sunday School Attendance each month from August 2002 through January 2006. The sample of churches was not identical each month, but it was kept as consistent as possible (much like the companies listed on the S&P 500). Each monthly sample has a margin of error of +5 percent at the 95 percent confidence interval.
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