Many of the people who organize the Sunday morning Bible school grew up at in a period of Christianity in America where if you opened the doors you would get 95% attendance. The remaining 5% would respond to the invitation and repent for not making it to Bible class that morning. While that may be a stretch it highlights the point that our assumptions are powerful. If your Bible class ministry is run from the assumption that people will figure out what is going on, want to be in class and show up regardless of what is being taught or how well it is communicated you are probably missing a ton of people who don’t share that assumption.
Advertising Rule 1: Be Timely:
In many congregations Bible class schedules are cobbled together in the last few weeks before a quarter begins. That means there isn’t enough time to advertise classes in a timely manner or even at all. Bible class lineups need to be in people’s hands in the weeks prior to the beginning of a new quarter (if you are on a quarter system).
Advertising Rule 2: Communicate What, Who & Why
People need to know what is being taught on Sunday morning. There needs to be a print out, a power point, an email, on the website…and however many more ways you can get this information in people’s hands. Some churches will just be glad to get the word out in any form but advertising in and of itself is not enough. People need to know what is being taught, who is teaching it, who it is for (specific age group, stage of life, or circumstance such as grief or divorce recovery, men or women) and why that class is relevant. If we can’t demonstrate why a class is needed, should it be taught? If we can’t answer the “why” question maybe we need to take a step back and make sure we are actually speaking to where people are in their lives rather than lecturing over the heads, teaching disconnected topics, or thinking that any teaching is relevant as long as it is biblical…that is just not true. That may sound harsh but anyone who has been in Bible class for decades can attest to material presented in ways that were completely disconnected from reality or relevance.
Advertising Rule 3: Use many forms of media
It is important that advertising is done in many forms. An announcement on Sunday won’t cut it. People are often talking and not tuned in. Even if they are listening they will probably forget by the end of worship. Several ways of getting the word out include: facebook, email, church website, phone tree, hand out, power point slide. I am sure there are more but the point is, use many forms and use them repeatedly. People may not hear you the first few times but eventually they will get it.
The main thing here is…go where people already are. If you have a younger audience where will you find them? Facebook. So start a group for your class or ministry and invite them into it and communicate through it. If you have an older audience it may take mailing them something, email, or a periodic phone call. This all takes work and it is important those who teach Bible class know that what is expected is more than just showing up to teach 1 hour a week…they are the class leader and that requires them to communicate with those in their class.
Advertising Rule 4: Encourage people to tell others
Your best advertisement is word of mouth. If people are excited about what is being taught or find it particularly relevant they will tell someone else about it. I noticed in our 20s & 30s class that when I asked them for their questions and then began a series of discussions where they learned to think through their questions and come to conclusions that they found it relevant enough to tell others about it. Our attendance increased. Often all people need is a reminder from the teacher/facilitator that they are welcome to invite others.
Advertising Rule 5: Weekly communication to class members
I have made it a weekly habit to email all the classes I teach about what is being taught that week. When new people come I get their email address and send them updates, what is being taught in class that week, etc. I think often people don’t come just because class isn’t really on their mind. But when they get a weekly reminder of what is coming within a day or two of class it is one more thing that can help them remember to plan on attending. Every teacher needs a list of emails and phone numbers of those who attend their class to keep people up to speed. When I complete a series I often email the notes to the class so they can review it or catch up on classes they missed.
Last, again…don’t assume people will just show up. Be proactive. Be a good communicator. Over communicate it. Don’t have a poor attendance because people just aren’t informed as to what is going on. What other ways have you seen Bible classes effectively communicated to the congregation.