Low attendance. Boring lectures. Tired students. Unfortunately, this is the reality of most Sunday school classes for teenagers. Most teenagers either do not show up or are showing up very tired and reluctant about their involvement. Can we blame them? Teenagers live busy lives and are under a lot of pressure to perform academically and socially. Students do not want to wake up early Sunday morning to attend another boring lecture, in a boring class-room, after sitting through a busy week of school. We have a big problem.
There is good news. You can refresh Sunday school. You can reignite student excitement and involvement. You can change the ministry you dreaded most into one of the most refreshing meaningful ministries in your youth group. No matter where you are—you have what it takes. It is time to refresh Sunday school and the answer is simple. Stop doing "school" and start connecting with Students.
Connect is a conversational approach to Sunday "school". A "Connect" ministry has three essential components: 1) a relaxing environment, 2) conversation based small groups and 3) student leadership involvement. The goal of connect is Not to download information. The goal of connect is to build relationships and engage in spiritual conversations that foster spiritual growth.
I have grown up in the Church my entire life. I have been in youth ministry for over six years and never have I participated in a Sunday school ministry that students were excited about, until three years ago. Up until three years ago our sr. high Sunday school had less than 15% of our students involved. We were doing what most church's and youth ministries do, lectures with discussions in a class-room. Our low point came when we met a few weeks with only 2 or 3 students and on one occasion no one showed up.
One morning when only three students showed up I decided we would do something different, so I grabbed our teaching DVD and brought the kids to caribou. It happened to work out that my van has a DVD player so I was able to show the teaching DVD on the way down. We purchased our beverages, talked about the week, the DVD and then closed in prayer. We had found our answer, we refreshed Sunday school.
The next fall I was excited to continue refreshing Sunday school with what had worked earlier. I brought the idea before the parents at a parent meeting. "For years our sr. high Sunday school attendance has been dropping," I said. "Last year was so bad there were a few weeks when no students showed up. That is not acceptable and I want to change that this year. Here is my idea. I want to invite the sr. high students to meet at Caribou (one of our local coffee shops, literally just down the road from our church). We will purchase a beverage, talk about our weeks, discuss a spiritual topic and close in prayer". To my delight, the parents were very supportive. It's easy to support change when you've failed for so many years. After all, our old way of doing Sunday school clearly was not working. Our very first week 36 kids showed up—that's over 100% of our Wednesday night ministry. Even some of the kids who don't come to our regular youth group showed up for this. We consistently have over 30 students involved every week and they are growing in their faith and friendships.