Children and teens miss Bible class from time to time. Perhaps they’ve been sick or on vacation. Maybe it’s not a priority in their home and their parents didn’t bring them. Maybe their parents are struggling with some issues and regular attendance is difficult. Whatever the reason, missing a Bible class or two can make young people feel like an outsider -which is the last thing we want them to experience at Church.
There are some things you can do, however, to help young people stay connected or reconnect when they have to miss your Bible class. That sense of connection can erase any reluctance they may feel for returning to a class they have missed. They can remain emotionally close to you and their classmates, even if they have to miss a few weeks in a row.
So what can you do when a student misses class?
- Contact the parents as soon as possible. Make the contact non-threatening and casual. You may even want to ask parents at the beginning of the year how they would prefer to be contacted. A quick, “We really missed Johnny yesterday. Can I mail him what he missed?” will probably get a positive response in return. For families you know a little better, you may even feel comfortable asking if everything is okay or if there is anything you can do to help.
- Send the student something he or she missed. Depending upon the age of the student, you could send the materials for the activity you did or an activity sheet about the Bible story you taught. Older kids and teens might appreciate an email or text giving the highlights of the lesson and anything else they may want to know on their return – like announcements or prayer requests.
- Send a thinking of you card. Children and teens rarely get “real” mail. A cute thinking of you postcard letting them know they were missed can make them feel loved.
- For longer absences – especially illness – have students make contact. Once again, this will depend upon the age of your students and the relationship they have with the absent student. You may want to have younger students make get well cards and then you deliver the packet. Older students may want to text or call their friend personally to check in.
- Consider making a home visit. If a student has missed several weeks, it might be helpful to ask the parents if you can drop by and have a short visit with your student. If you can afford it, bring some sort of fun Bible activity or Christian book. Sometimes just knowing someone cares enough to visit can make a huge difference.
- Offer to be supportive of parents. If the parents admit they are struggling with some issue, offer to help. Maybe all you can do is listen, bring a hot meal or connect them to someone who can help them with their issues. Often just offering to pray for others is comfort enough.
- Handle re-entry carefully. Know your student. A shy, introverted child will hate being made the center of attention upon their return. A quiet excited “I’m so glad you’re back. I’ve really missed you!” will probably be enough. More extroverted students may enjoy everyone making a big deal over their return.
- Be pro-active about absences. Illness, winter weather and vacations are a fact of life. Having an online or take away resource students know they can access while they are away can help them feel connected even when they miss.
- Have a plan for chronically ill students. Some young people have conditions that mean they are often absent more than they are present. Set up Google Hangout so they can attend your class virtually even if they can’t physically be there.
Taking the time to connect with students when they are absent can make it easier for them to return to class. For some students, that connection can mean the difference between them continuing to attend class or dropping out entirely. It’s worth your time and effort to make those connections.