by Pastor Jack Hyles
(Chapter 12 from Dr. Hyle's excellent book, The Hyles Sunday School Manual)
In order to build a great Sunday school much attention should be given to promotion. Occasionally it is helpful to have a special day working for a high attendance. For a number of years now I have led my Sunday school with a ten- to twelve-week spring program and a ten- to twelve-week fall program. Each of these programs is characterized by a number of promotional ideas. While no church or pastor could use all of them, perhaps each church and pastor could use some of them.
1. Back to School Sunday
Once each year on one of the last Sundays in September a “Back to School Sunday” is conducted. The following things may be included:
(1) A gift may be given to each school pupil. This gift always has some kind of spiritual connotation and is given to each pupil starting to school. One year a ball point pen could be used. A scripture verse should be printed on the side along with the name and address of the church. There are many kinds of pens.
One year we gave away the world’s smallest ball point pen. Another year we used one that writes in three different colors-- red, black, and blue.
Another gift that young people and children love to receive as a gift is a notebook, or a tablet, or maybe a ruler. Remember, on all of these use the church’s name and a Scripture verse. There are many other gift suggestions. One year we gave away five book covers to each pupil with the church’s picture and the pastor’s picture on the front. Other suggestions can be secured from an advertising specialty company. These are located in most metropolitan areas. If the yellow pages do not reveal such a company, try contacting some corporation that gives Christmas gifts to its customers. These gifts are often secured from such advertising companies.
(2) Have high school boys perform the duties of the ushers. In larger churches this may not be advisable due to the complexities of the duties performed.
(3) Have the special music provided by the school students. Much care should be taken that the music is proper and well presented. It is usually better to use the older high school students for this.
(4) Testimonies could be given by school students.
(5) A special gift should be given to each school pupil who brings his teacher to the service. Announcement should be made both in Sunday school and preaching service for several weeks prior to “Back to School Day” informing the pupils of this special gift so they will have ample time to persuade their teachers to attend.
(6) The schoolteachers of the local church as well as those visiting the services with pupils should be honored publicly. They should be asked to stand, and each should give his name, the school he represents, and the subject or grade level he teaches.
(7) An inexpensive corsage could be given to the lady schoolteachers and a boutonniere to the men. Have the pastor’s wife and, if needed, other important ladies pin these corsages and boutonnieres on the teachers. This, of course, would necessitate their coming to the front for special recognition.
(8) With the teachers at the altar, the pastor should lead in a prayer of dedication for the new school year. The pastor should ask God’s guidance upon them as they help to guide the lives and destinies of our young people.
(9) The pastor should then ask all school students to stand, whereupon a special prayer should be offered for God’s guidance in their lives during the school year. In this prayer the pastor should certainly ask God to give them diligence in their studies, separation in their Christian walk, and honesty in their character. A fitting word could then be spoken by the pastor to the teachers and pupils, congratulating them upon the beginning of the new year and assuring them of the church’s cooperation in every right endeavor undertaken.
(10) The pastor could then bring an appropriate message on a subject such as, “The School and the Living God.” He could speak of how to enroll in God’s school (salvation), how to be promoted in God’s school (growing in grace), and then finally the graduation day (when we shall be like Him).
2. Teacher Appreciation Day
This could increase the Sunday school attendance over a period of many weeks. It has been used very successfully in spring and fall programs.
(1) Announce two or three weeks in advance that the church will have a Teacher Appreciation Sunday. This Sunday may be promoted by having each teacher to have a record attendance and by asking each Sunday school pupil to help give his teacher the biggest class ever on Teacher Appreciation Day.
(2) When the Sunday comes the teachers should sit in a reserved section of the auditorium. The pastor and other church leaders should speak briefly concerning the appreciation the church has for the teachers. Each teacher should stand, give his name and the department and class which he teaches.
(3) A prayer of dedication should be offered thanking God for the teachers and asking God’s blessings upon them. This would be a good day to have near Promotion Day. Perhaps just before Promotion Day. Perhaps just before Promotion Day would be a suitable time. Through the months the pupils and the teachers have become close to each other. Now it is time to express appreciation and gratitude. Because of the plans presented in the following points, however, Teacher Appreciation Day should not be scheduled any nearer to Promotion Day than four Sundays.
(4) A gift should be presented to each teacher. These should be gift-wrapped and have a card attached. The gifts should be of spiritual theme, or one of any number of items which could have engraved or printed Scripture verses on it would be satisfactory. While the teachers are still standing these gifts should be presented to them.
(5) The teacher should read the attached card first. As soon as the gifts are handed out, the pastor or Sunday school superintendent should say, “Now before opening your present, please read the attached card.” Words to this effect should be written on the card: “This gift is not to be opened until the class has ----- present in Sunday school.” Then it should be explained to the teachers that they will have to put their gifts back on the altar leaving them unopened until they have reached their assigned goals. On the Sunday that each class reaches its goal the teacher then opens the gift. This could be done in the morning service, in the departmental assembly, or at the weekly Teachers’ and Officers’ Meeting. The message on the card should also inform the teacher that he has only a certain amount of Sundays to reach his goal. These should be no less than four and in larger Sunday school could extend on to ten or twelve weeks. With every teacher trying to reach his goal every Sunday, and some teachers reaching their goal each Sunday, the plan insures a big attendance for several weeks. Then, of course, when one class has a high day, it helps other classes to have high days. When the adults come in great numbers, more children come to Sunday school with them. When the beginners or primaries do well, they are usually brought by adults, so it becomes a very effective way to have a big Sunday school push. Not only does the aforementioned idea give a big Sunday on Teacher Appreciation Day, but it guarantees several big Sundays to follow.
3. Carry the Load Sunday
The idea behind this is to have a program of several weeks and asking each department to work hard for just on week. The idea is to have the nursery break its record one Sunday, the beginners the next Sunday, the primaries the next Sunday, the juniors the next Sunday, etc. In larger churches where there are numerous departments within each age level, this could become quite a lengthy drive.
(1) Have a special meeting of all Sunday school workers. At this meeting explain to them that instead of asking each worker to work hard for a period of weeks, this time we are only asking each department to have a “super, colossal day” once during this big push. (This is exceptionally good for summer use or winter use during the in-between times when no special drive is on. It has been very helpful in preventing summer slumps.) At this meeting the idea should be presented that on the particular Sunday that each department carries the load it is to have an unusually high attendance. Not only is it to break its record, but it is to surpass its record by far. Then the schedule for the program should be made informing each worker of the date of his particular big day to “carry the load.”
(2) A huge sack should be used. This sack should be stuffed with paper or some other lightweight substance. It should be ten to twenty-five feet long with the following words on the side in big print: “Carry the Load.” In the morning service or in the teachers’ meeting the load should be given to the person who is carrying the load the next Sunday. This superintendent or teacher pretends to be burdened down with the load as he or she walks off the platform carrying the sack. The following Sunday this superintendent should bring the load back to the platform and give it to the superintendent next in line. Special recognition should be given to the superintendent who shall carry the load for the next week.
(3) Bear in mind that if a department or class doubles its attendance on a particular Sunday, every department in the Sunday school should be up. On the nursery Sunday, the parents would have to be there. This is also true on the beginner Sunday. When the parents have their big day, they will of necessity to bring their children. This is a way to have a big attendance every Sunday for several weeks with no one working very hard more than one Sunday. This would not be as advisable as some other plans for the spring or fall program, but it is a splendid way to keep the attendance up during the summertime or during some other slow season.
4. Baseball Game
This idea has to do with carrying the baseball theme throughout the entire Sunday school. This is especially adaptable to a spring program starting at the beginning of the baseball season. It can also be used for a drive during the summer.
A good slogan for such a baseball theme could be, “Winning in every inning.” This could be displayed on a huge sign and placed in the auditorium, departmental assembly room, or teachers’ meeting room.
(1) A contest should be conducted with another church. Both churches or Sunday schools could choose a name such as the “Sluggers,” the “Tigers,” or some other appropriate name and an attendance contest should follow for “nine innings.” A huge scoreboard should be placed before the people. This could be permanent or could be carried in briefly each Sunday morning. The contest would last for nine Sundays with each Sunday being an inning, and each person attending Sunday school counting a run. For example, if the Sunday school has 150 in attendance, that would be 150 runs.
(2) Instead of giving banners or trophies to the outstanding class and department, give baseball bats. These bats should be big-league quality and should be presented to the department that does the best job of increasing its attendance.
(3) The departmental percentage of increase should be called the batting average. An average attendance for a period of weeks should be taken and called the base. Each Sunday the attendance should be compared with the base. The percentage increase is the batting average. The classes and departments having the best increase should be awarded the bats as mentioned above.
(4) The bats should be presented by a celebrity. Choose some good-natured person in the church and call him “Slugger” or some other baseball title. Have someone make a uniform for him with the word “Slugger” across the front. In a contest of this sort we used “666” for the number on the back of the uniform. “Slugger” had his hat turned sideways and was a very funny character. He should present the bats to the winning department and class.
(5) Other prizes could be given to boys and girls doing the best jobs. These prizes could include baseball gloves, baseball bats, etc. Such items autographed can be secured from big-league baseball teams for a small fee.
(6) The biggest Sunday of all should be the seventh Sunday. Each class and department should go all out to have its biggest attendance on this particular Sunday. This could be in a form of a rally day. A Christian baseball player could be invited to give his testimony at such a rally. Naturally, this would be called “The Seventh Inning Stretch.”
(7) The winning class and the winning department could be taken to a baseball game as a prize. Church buses could be used for this event. It would be a never-to-be-forgotten experience for the class and department.
(8) It should be stressed to all classes and departments that they carry out the baseball theme. This should be done in opening assemblies and in attendance drives in the departments and classes. This can be a very, very profitable spring or fall program.
5. Bible Conference Contest
We have found this to be one of our most profitable drives. This has nothing to do with the departments and classes in the Sunday school, for this is a contest formed on an individual basis. Two people join to form a team. Each team resolves to work over a ten-week period to bring visitors to the Sunday school. The winning team receives an all-expense-paid trip to a Bible conference. It is advisable to find such a conference that is conducted not too far from the church, so as not to incur an excessive expense. If the conference chosen is at some distance, perhaps a church bus could be used for transportation.
(1) Several prizes should be given. If only one prize is given, the team in the lead could get so far ahead that the other contestants would lose interest. We find it advisable to have eight or ten prizes. You will notice that the prizes graduate downward, but any prize is worthy of one’s work.
(2) Sometimes perennial absentees could be included as points in the contest. For example, someone who has not been to Sunday school for six months could be counted. This would not only enable the Sunday school to reach new people, but reclaim old ones also.
(3) The rules for such a contest should be very
clearly explained at the beginning. A mimeographed sheet should be passed
out to each contestant. The following is a list of rules for such a contest
and the prizes offered.
(4) Each week’s contest standings should be mailed or given to the contestant. A sample is shown below:
(5) Once the contest is begun, it should be carried on basically with the contestants. Little public attention should be given to it. When a prize in a contest is a big one such as this, it is best not to keep it before the people constantly. Weekly or periodical meetings could be held just for the contestants at which time inspiration could be given and a challenge presented. Because this involves a limited number of people, it should not be promoted publicly once it is underway.
6. Foreign Mission Trip
For the pastor who knows how to promote and has people who are easily inspired to work hard, this can be an unbelievable drive. It could be included in the Bible conference campaign mentioned above or it could be conducted separately. We have found it beneficial to use the foreign mission trip as a part of the Bible conference contest. It is, of course, the grand prize. To the couple or team or two bringing the most visitors over a period of ten to twelve weeks an all-expense-paid trip is given to some nearby mission field. Churches in the eastern part of the United States could use such places as Jamaica, the Bahamas, Bermuda, etc. Churches in the North could use Canada and Alaska in addition to the ones mentioned before. Churches in the extreme western part of the country could use Alaska, Hawaii, or Mexico. This contest should be heavily promoted and a minimum should be set for the winner. Over a period of ten weeks we have found that the winners usually bring between seven hundred and a thousand visitors. If the contestant does not catch on, it could be a waste of money, so a minimum number should be set in order for a person to qualify to be a winner. If the team which won first place brought only fifty visitors, they would not have earned such a trip.
The trip should include plane fare, hotel, meals, and tips. In smaller churches just the plane fare might be sufficient. With the proper promotion, inspiration, and challenge, this can be a tremendous boost to any Sunday school.
7. Roundup Day
Out in the West the roundup is when all the strays are rounded up. After the summer vacation it is a good idea for a church to round up all the “strays” and have a Roundup Day. The following are helpful ideas for such a day:
(1) Every class and department should be encouraged to have many visitors as possible in order to have a record attendance. (2) People may be encouraged to wear western-style clothing. Those who do should have special recognition in front of the people.
(3) Cowboy hats could be given to every person attending Sunday school. Cardboard cowboy hats may be purchased from advertising specialty companies for as little as 10 cents a piece. The name of the church can be printed on the hat along with something like “Roundup Day - 1969.” These come in several colors and are covered possessions by children.
(4) The entire Sunday school should congregate at the front of the church or at some other advantageous place for a giant picture to be made as everyone wears his cowboy hat.
(5) A pony can be given to the child bringing the most visitors. In most areas a hundred dollars should purchase a nice pony. Of course, this should be announced for many weeks in advance so as to stir up interest on the part of the children. This pony could be presented in front of the church when the crowd is assembled for the taking of the picture. It is a good idea to have the pony several weeks before Roundup Day. Someone could have him in front of the church each Sunday so the boys and girls could have their appetites whetted as they come to Sunday school.
(6) As on all special days departmental assemblies and departmental classes should have an emphasis centered around the theme. Decorations should be used carrying out the western idea of the roundup theme. Opening assemblies, guests, costumes, etc., should do likewise.
8. Canada Trip
For a number of years our fall program has been centered around this idea. It is a very simple, yet workable, suggestion. Various contests are conducted and the winners go on an all-expense-paid trip to Canada. Canada is about 250 miles from our city, and such a trip bears with it certain glamour. In other sections of the country, a resort area could be chosen or just a nice trip to any point that would require several hours of driving. Such a drive is conducted in the following manner:
(1) The teachers and officers of best department or departments over a period of ten to twelve weeks are awarded this all-expense-paid trip to Canada. In a smaller Sunday school the teachers of the outstanding department could be awarded the trip. In a larger Sunday school more than one department could be included.
(2) The outstanding adult class or classes could be included on the trip. In the case of a small Sunday school or small adult classes the entire class might be awarded the prize. We have found in our Sunday school that the classes are so large that only the teachers of the three outstanding classes with the trip.
(3) When a church has a bus ministry, the captains of the winning bus or buses could be included. The most recent such drive that we conducted included the workers of the two outstanding departments, the teachers of the three outstanding classes, and the captains of the ten best buses (we have 60 buses). The trip may be taken on a church bus. Since such a bus will normally care for about forty people, the number of winners should be limited accordingly. It is much more fun to take only one bus and keep the group together.
(4) Motel or hotel rooms should be reserved in advance. In some cases two to a room is wise. Sometimes even four to a room will be acceptable. Reservations should be made in a nice motel or hotel.
(5) The hotel should have a private dining room large enough to accommodate the entire party. This will enable the group to sing choruses and have testimonies, Bible studies, etc.
(6) The tour can start at noon Monday and end at noon Wednesday. This enables the group to arrive at the destination in time to have an evening meal and arrive back home in time to prepare for the Wednesday evening service. The drive should be no longer than 4 or 5 hours and should be well planned.
(7) Activities should be planned in advance. We have found it very nice to have stewardesses on the bus. Two young ladies can arrange personally improvised stewardess uniforms (or even make their own) and take along such things as magazines, chewing gum, box lunches, and other surprises that would help in making the trip enjoyable. Tuesday should be a full day. It could begin with break- fast at the hotel, sightseeing in the morning, lunch in a nice restaurant at noon, and the afternoon given for rest and shopping. Recreation could even be a part of such a trip, and the highlight could be a lovely meal in an exclusive restaurant either Monday or Tuesday evening. This should be a dress-up occasion.
(8) The pastor should accompany the group. This gives the pastor and people an excellent opportunity to know each other better. This actually adds a new dimension to the pastor in the eyes of his people. The pastor should enter into the fun and should be a definite part of the group.
(9) This idea can be used for any type of contest. One well-known pastor was wise when he gave such a trip to each person who brought a hundred visitors for a period of several weeks . Regardless of the type of contest that a church uses, the idea can be a successful one, and it will grow in its usefulness each year as the people come back and report of the good times they have enjoyed on such trips.
9. Valentine’s Day (Broken Heart Sunday)
This is just a simple little idea that can be used in any size Sunday school. Cut out a big, red heart for each class. Then cut the heart into pieces sending each member of the class a piece of the heart. The idea is for each member to bring his piece to the class Sunday and put together the big heart. The pieces are placed over a black paper heart. If all are present, they have prevented the class from having a black heart or broken heart. If the members are not all present, then the heart is broken and a portion of the heart is black. Each class may display before the church or the department the condition of its heart after it has been put together. The biggest heart will win a prize.
A letter can be sent to the members with such statements as, “Don’t break our heart,” “Have a heart,” “Be big-hearted,” “Put your heart into the Sunday school” and “Bring your heart Sunday so that we will not have a broken heart.”
10. Christmas Cards
During the summer months an order of Christmas cards can be made. Twenty or thirty can be in each box and the picture on the card can be a picture of the church or maybe even the church and pastor, or the pastor and family, or some other item of interest. The year that we used this idea, we had a picture taken of the interior of our auditorium. Poinsettias were purchased and the picture was taken in color. The cards were received in time for public display before the fall program began. Any person who brought as many as ten visitors during the ten-week fall program received a box of the Christmas cards. These must be very lovely, and should be ordered in plenty of time to stir the interest and whet the appetites of the people.
11. Free books
As soon as a Christian book is published that would be of interest to all the people or even to a majority of the people, it could be used in the same way as the aforementioned Christmas cards were used. When a person brings a visitor per Sunday over a period of Sundays, he receives the book. The book should be purchased in plenty of time for proper promotion and inspiration.
One year we ordered some little, black Testaments with the outline of our church building engraved in gold on the front. This happened to be our 75th Anniversary. We had the following engraved in gold underneath the church building: First Baptist Church, Hammond, Indiana, 75th Anniversary, 1887-1962. Each person averaging one visitor a week for seven weeks received a Testament. Of course, the offering that the visitors brought more than paid for the expense incurred.
12. Vacation Bible School Sunday
This could be conducted the Sunday prior to vacation Bible school or the Sunday immediately following vacation Bible school. This simply extends vacation Bible school by a day and gives the Sunday school the privilege of sharing in the good attendance. This can be in the form of a big rally for all the children of vacation Bible school age. It could also be enrollment day. Interest should be stirred in the hearts of the boys and girls so as to create in them a desire to attend vacation Bible school. If this rally is conducted after the Bible school ends, then it should be announced throughout the entire week or weeks in such a way that will instill in the children a desire to be present. We have found it best to have such a rally on the Sunday preceding vacation Bible school.
We have unusual Bible school characters such as Silly Billy, the ugliest boy in all the world; Phooidini, the Gospel magician; the Old-Timer, who is over a hundred years old and has never missed vacation Bible school; Pee Wee, who is a big fat boy; etc. At the rally these characters are introduced and the children are shown samples of what they may expect at Bible school.
Not only does this increase the vacation Bible school attendance, but it also guarantees a large Sunday school crowd at least one more Sunday out of the year.
13. Matthew Sunday
While preparing a message on the conversion of Matthew, I was impressed with the fact that Matthew had a feast in his house and invited the publicans and sinners to attend. This feast took place upon his conversion. It seemed tome that Matthew was wanting to tell the publicans and sinners about Jesus Christ and the salvation he had found through Him. This led me to have a Matthew Sunday. This is the Sunday when all of the people in the church are asked to round up their old crowd and bring them to Sunday school and church. Since Matthew gave a feast for publicans and sinners, we encouraged our people to prepare a big Sunday lunch or picnic to which they could invite the unsaved people with whom they used to run. We gave a free book to every family that prepared such a meal and invited the old crowd to Sunday school, preaching, and lunch.
One by one they came to First Baptist Church bringing their unsaved friends with them. Over ninety of these were saved as the power of God met with us. Matthew used it with success. The First Baptist Church of Hammond used it with success. May it be a help to many others.
14. Couples’ Rally-Men’s Rally-Ladies’ Rally
Approximately once each year I like to talk very frankly to the married people of our church. Sometimes it is in the form of a Couples’ Rally, where I speak to them concerning their responsibilities as husbands, wives, mothers, and fathers. At such a rally the pastor may want to give a picture of himself and his wife to every couple who attends. Eight-by-ten reprints can be ordered in great volumes at about 8 cents to 10 cents apiece. At the rally some couple should sing a duet, and then the pastor should talk very frankly to the husbands and wives.
Some years we have a Ladies’ Rally on Mother’s Day and a Men’s Rally on Father’s Day. Special gifts can be given at this rally. On one occasion we ordered ball point pens which had little corsage-like, artificial flowers on top. We placed these in a huge styrofoam board and called it the “World’s Largest Corsage.” On each pen the following words were printed: “Happy Mother’s Day-1966, First Baptist Church, Hammond, Indiana-Jack Hyles, Pastor.” At the close of the service each mother came and picked her “flower” from the corsage.
For the Men’s Rally Praying Hands “tie tacs”
could be used.
15. Bus Contest
For a church which has church buses a bus contest will always work if it is properly promoted and planned. A special event is given as a prize to the winning bus or buses. One year we took the winning bus to a little airport nearby, chartered two planes, and gave everybody a free plane ride. All of the time a picnic was going on on the ground for those awaiting their plane ride. A trip to a ball game, an all-day trip to an important place, such as a state capital, or one of any number of similar ideas would be of great appeal to the bus passengers.
There are also ways to have Sunday-by-Sunday contests between the buses. The best bus or buses may be served ice cream on the way home. They may go by the Dairy Queen stands and be served ice cream on the way home.
There are many other ways a bus contest may be utilized for the increasing of the Sunday school attendance. During such a big drive appropriate things are given out that have to do with the Sunday school lessons. If the Sunday school lessons are about fishing for men, then goldfish in plastic bags filled with water can be given to the bus children. Bear in mind as we have mentioned before that all prizes should have a spiritual connotation or should be advertisement for the church. All of the prizes that have been mentioned in this chapter have had to do with spiritual enrichment, Christian testimony, or church publicity. We do not use on a church wide basis prizes that have not connection with the church or spiritual matters.
16. Christmas Sunday
This is usually a difficult time for a Sunday school. Because of this we like to have something special each Christmas. The pastor could land in front of the church in a helicopter with Testaments for each child. If possible, each child’s name could be imprinted in gold on the cover of his Testament. This would certainly draw a big crowd. Sometimes just the Testaments could be used without the fanfare. Don’t give up on holiday Sundays. Fight the Devil in his own back yard. Don’t give him the victory in the seasons of the year which should be the best for the Lord’s work.
A good thing to use on Christmas Sunday would be a Scripture text calendar with a picture of the church on it. A very attractive calendar could be printed which could be used as a prayer reminder through the year.
17. Giant Picture Sunday
Once each year the Sunday school should have a mass picture taken of its entire attendance or enrollment. We have found it helpful to use this picture on our church letterhead, church envelopes, newspaper ads, and in other advertisement. For several weeks in advance we announce that a picture is to be made and that a free picture will be given to each person who attends on that particular day. The names of the people attending should be taken and the picture should be mailed to them later or given to them at Sunday school at a later date. It should be announced again and again that the picture is to be used for many advertising purposes. Promises should be received from the people that they will be present for the occasion.
18. Helium-Filled Balloons With Gospel Tracts
This idea can be used with the previous one, or it can be used on its own. Balloons can be purchased with the name of the church printed on them. They can be filled with helium and released at the same time in front of the church. This can be done at the time of the picture and the balloons could be seen in the picture. Attached to the balloons should be a gospel tract with a place for the person to sign who accepts Christ as Savior. There should also be a card with the following words:
My name is -----------. I attend the ----------- church in -----------. If you will return this card to me at my church address, you will receive a gift and so will I. If you have never received Christ as your Saviour and are willing to do so now, please sign the enclosed tract and return it with this card.
19. Picture-Taking Sunday
Once each year the entire Sunday school should have a Picture-Taking Sunday. This could be incorporated with the mass picture mentioned above. A picture of each class should be taken on Picture-Taking Sunday, and the pupils should be given the opportunity of purchasing copies. The best classes or departments could be awarded free copies. People love to have their pictures made. They will come for such a day. Using this idea annually it is entirely possible that a person could grow up having an album which would include a picture of every Sunday school class that he has attended.
When the pictures of the babies are taken, they should be taken in color with a Polaroid camera or some other good camera using color film. Some nice background could be prepared and a doll or teddy bear could be put into the baby’s lap and the picture presented as a gift to the parents.
20. The Awarding of Banners, Etc.
During any contest it is good to give weekly awards to the outstanding classes and departments. We mentioned previously the awarding of baseball bats in the baseball drive. Banners are always advisable. The “Awful Cup” or “Lousy Cup” is a good one. To make such a cup you take a tin can or bucket, turn it upside down, put a funnel through the top, and attach bent spoons for handles. This looks like a trophy. Beautiful trophies can be presented to the best department and class, and the “Awful Cup” or “Lousy Cup” can be presented to the poorest one.
One year we awarded a character named “Ezirp Yboob” to the poorest department. (“Ezirp Yboob” is booby prize spelled backwards.) He was a fellow six feet tall, stuffed with all kinds of junk and dressed up in a suit of clothes. He was a real character and was awarded publicly to the poorest department each Sunday. People love to be first place and recognized as such. It is amazing how hard they will work for a little recognition for their class or department.
21. Shut-in Sunday
This is especially good for churches with large Sunday schools and membership. Transportation should be provided for every shut-in who could attend the service. Ambulances, wheel chairs, hospital beds, etc., can be provided to make it possible for those who normally cannot attend the services to be present on this special day. The shut-ins should be recognized in the public service. They should receive some kind of gift, such as a nice book, plaque, or some other expression of love and appreciation. A noon meal could be planned for those who are able to stay. This gives honor to those who deserve it and brings some sunshine to the people whose days are normally dark.
22. The Largest Sunday School Idea
Everybody likes to be a part of something that is the largest or the greatest. Perhaps your Sunday school could try to be the largest in the state, county, city, or the largest in a section of the city. Let your people know that you are striving to become that, and then work toward it. Have some little inexpensive felt pennants made with the picture of your church on it and put on it such words as “The Largest Sunday school in Lake County.” Have a ten-week push to become the largest Sunday school in the county. On the big kick-off Sunday, give out the felt pennants to all who attend. Keep the thought before your people constantly through the program. Be striving to be the largest. Most anyone will rally to this incentive.
23. Charm Bracelet Idea
Find a little bracelet with ten religious charms. On the first Sunday of the drive give the child the bracelet. On the second Sunday, the first charm; the third Sunday, the second charm; etc. The idea, of course, is never to miss a Sunday during the entire push. Especially is this a good idea in working with children.
24. Church License Plates
In many states only one license plate is sold for the car. In such cases the front of the car may be used for church license plates. These may say simply, “We attend the First Baptist Church, Hammond, Indiana.” They can be passed out on a big Sunday. This not only enables you to have a big crowd on a given Sunday, but your church is advertised all over the area. Each car becomes an advertisement or a signboard for the church.
25. Pastor Speaks to Departments
Some pastors find it profitable to make an annual visit to each department or class. Especially is this good for younger children. To them the pastor is really somebody and they can get to know him better by having him visit with them. For many years I did not teach a Sunday school class in my pastorates. During these years I made an annual trip to each department and class for a little five-minute, get-acquainted visit. For the years that I have been teaching a Sunday school class of my own I simply stay available to make five- or ten-minute visits in particular departments. When I do make such a visit, I leave my class about ten minutes early.
26. The Giving of a Financial Allotment to Each Department for a Spring
or Fall Program
We ask in our church that each spring and fall program be promoted on three levels: a churchwide basis, the departmental basis, and class basis. In order to encourage the departments to promote on their own, apart from the churchwide push, we allocate approximately $25.00 to each department for a twelve-week program. This money may be used by the department for their own promotional purposes. Some churches find it wise to put this in the annual budget, giving each department a stipulated amount to spend for the annual promotion of its program.
27. Pack-the-Pew Day
This is an old, and yet, effective way to get a crowd. Give each person a pew and have them promise to fill it for the big rally day. Put the name of the person on the end of the pew and make some little reward and give some recognition to those who fill their pews. This is good, not only for a Sunday school push, but for a big night in a revival meeting, or any special occasion.
28. Old-Fashioned Day
Once each year our churches through the years have declared their belief in the old-fashioned Gospel by having what we call Old-Fashioned Day. On this day we display a collection of antiques, use a pump organ for the music, pass hats instead of plates, use an old-fashioned mourners’ bench covered with quilts, and use coal-oil lamps and lanterns for the light for the evening service. The people wear old-fashioned costumes, etc. (For a more detailed explanation of Old-Fashioned Day see the author’s book, How to Boost Your Church Attendance, published by Zondervan Publishing House, price $1.95.)
29. The Birthday Anniversary of the Church
Many churches find it wise to celebrate their birthday in a big way. A huge birthday cake is purchased. Oftentimes the cake is in the shape of a Bible, a cross, the church building, or some other interesting design. Candles are sent out to the Sunday school pupils. Each one is asked to bring his candle on the birthday for the birthday cake. Birthday party invitations are sent out to the pupils, and sometime during the day the cake is served with coffee or soft drinks. Special guests acquainted with the founding of the church or the early days of the church history can come and tell about the early experiences that the church enjoyed.
30. Baby Day
One of the highlights of the year for many churches is the annual Baby Day. There is the Baby Day parade with the parents carrying their babies around the auditorium while the organist plays, “Jesus Loves Me, This I Know.” Special letters are sent out to each baby. Pink corsages are presented to all mothers of little girls and blue corsages to all mothers of little boys. Oftentimes pictures are taken of each baby and given as a gift to the parents. The nursery workers are honored. There is a service of dedication for the babies. The pastor simply asks the parents to bring the little ones to the altar, and he has a prayer for God’s blessings upon each of them. There can be a reserved section in the auditorium for the parents, and a special sermon could be given by the pastor. (For a more detailed explanation of Baby Day see the author’s book, How to Boost Your Church Attendance, published by Zondervan Publishing House, price $1.95.)
31. Homecoming Day
Homecoming Day is usually conducted in our church on the Thanksgiving weekend. Because of the holiday many people find it convenient to go out of the city. Many of them, however, will stay at home and invite their own friends and relatives to come spend the holiday with them if there is something special at the church. This is a good time for Homecoming Day. Letters advertising the event are sent to all of the people. Former members of the church are contacted with a special invitation. Each family of the church brings a lunch and the noon meal is spread out-of-doors. (In some areas of the country it would be too cold for this during the Thanksgiving season; hence, an earlier date is more acceptable.) Following the morning service there is dinner on the grounds followed by an afternoon service. At this service the old-timers are recognized and other special guests are introduced. A song fest is usually advisable here as well as a message by some well-known speaker. Testimonies as to what the church has meant in the lives of the people are in order at this special afternoon service. If possible, former pastors could be introduced at such a service.
32. Record Breaking Day
“Record Breaking Day” can be used to great advantage almost anywhere in the country. Letters are sent out to all of the people advertising it. It should be publicized in the church bulletin and also from the pulpit for several weeks in advance. Display a phonograph record on the platform or some place where it can be noticed. Over the record write the words, “SUNDAY SCHOOL.” The previous record attendance should be announced and then a challenge should be made for the people to break this record. On “Record Breaking Day,” when the announcement is made that the record attendance has been broken, the record on display is broken over the Sunday school superintendent’s head. The pupils will work hard just to see this done.
33. Good Neighbor Sunday
An opportunity to gain many good prospects is “Good Neighbor Sunday.” Ask each member to bring as his special guest a neighbor, and then have them to stand and introduce their guests in the service. It could be explained that a neighbor might be anyone who lives within a fifteen-mile radius of the church. A gift could be given to anyone who brings his neighbor and a nice gift such as a nice Bible might be awarded to anyone who brings as many as fifteen or twenty neighbors. The pastor might then preach an appropriate sermon such as “Who Is My Neighbor?” - the Good Samaritan story.
34. Fruitful February
“Fruitful February” could be one of the most profitable ideas. We have found it to be very successful. First, we cut down three medium-sized trees and placed them in containers of soil and put them in the auditorium. We called on tree an “apple tree,” which represented the Sunday school. Another tree was called a “pear tree” and represented the youth group. The other tree was an “orange tree” and was used to represent the Wednesday midweek service. The containers were then covered with red, yellow, and orange crepe paper.
Apples, pears, and oranges were mimeographed on red, yellow, and orange construction paper, and on each was a place for the person to sign his name. They were given to the Sunday school and youth workers to cut out, and it was also their job to get everyone signed up who would promise to be in Sunday school, youth meeting, and the midweek service every Sunday or Wednesday during the month of February. When they promised to come to Sunday school every Sunday in February, their red apples were placed on the apple tree. When they promised to be in the youth meeting every Sunday in February, their yellow pears were placed on the pear tree, etc. Every member of the family would sign up and the apples, pears, and oranges were strung on the “tree” in the auditorium. Of course, as the people signed the fruit, it was interesting to see the “trees” become filled with fruit. Letters should be written to the members stating that if they have not already signed up to be faithful to all of the services of the church, they should sign the enclosed apple and bring it back to Sunday school the next Sunday. The pastor should start several Sundays in advance promoting “Fruitful February” so as to build the attendance for the entire month. After having been faithful to all of the services for four weeks in succession, most of the people would have developed a good habit and then continue to be faithful.
35. Contest by States
In some churches, especially in metropolitan areas, people from many different areas attend the services. In such a case, there could be a contest for several weeks between the people born in different states. In such a contest at the First Baptist Church of Hammond, there was a group from Kentucky, a group from Northern Indiana, a group from Southern Indiana, another group from Northern Illinois, another group from Southern Illinois, another from Alabama, another from Tennessee, one from Ohio, one from Michigan and one from the Southwest (Texas, Oklahoma, New Mexico, etc.). One group was composed of those born inside the city limits of Hammond, and one was a Greater-Chicago group. These groups may bring anyone from anywhere to the contest. The workers are simply chosen from the various states.
The flags of the states are brought in as well as a plant of the flower of each state. The song of each state should be mimeographed. For the winning state each Sunday the flag should be raised, the flower displayed, and the state song sung. The captain of the winning group could receive an all-expense-paid trip to some Bible conference in his state. There are many other ramifications of this same idea that can be used in the enlarging of the Sunday school and in the helping of the spring or fall pushes.
Certainly no one person would agree with all of
these ideas for special occasions, but we will be grateful to God if a few
of them might be helpful to churches across America so that the attendance
might be increased, and that more souls might be brought to Jesus Christ.
Some will no doubt think that the ideas presented are too sensational.
Others will no doubt add more color to them. Take whatever is usable and
suitable for you and use it for the glory of God.
Note: There are other ideas for big days and special occasions presented in the author’s book, How to Boost Your Church Attendance, published by Zondervan Publishing House.
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