Because of the schedules of my families, and the fact that my Ward (= local congregation) has a designated night of the week to use the local meeting house, I hold my Webelos meetings every Tuesday at 7, excepting weeks when we have Pack Meeting. This is later than I would like, but since it's the same time and place as all the Boy Scout, Young Women, and adult activities, it means that many families are already there anyway, so it's not much hassle to get the kids there. It's late, yeah, but there's nothing stopping us from having a Saturday event here or there as long as we communicate that to the families (more on that in a bit).
A key factor to ensuring attendance, however, is consistency. We ALWAYS meet Tuesdays at 7 (except when we have Pack Meeting, which is ALWAYS the third Thursday of the month). I almost never change that, and so it has become an established routine that parents never have to ask about, never have to question, and never have to doubt. It's ALWAYS Tuesdays at 7. Because I have made it so dependable, my families feel more confident sending their kids in every week, because they know that unless something big happens, Webelos is Tuesdays at 7 (except when we have Pack Meeting, which is ALWAYS the third Thursday of the month). See how nice and dependable that is? Parents love that.
And what about when something big DOES happen? Halloween is on a Tuesday this year. The eclipse was on a Monday. Sometimes our weekly activity is a Saturday hike. What then?
COMMUNICATE, COMMUNICATE, COMMUNICATE!!!
I have all my parents e-mails and phone numbers - for both parents where that is possible. Any time I know something is going to change, I let them know the week before with a note sent home with every boy, then again with an e-mail a few days before hand. I send another e-mail letting them know about the change the night before (and a text to those who don't have e-mail), then the morning of I call or leave a message to each family. In every case, I explain the reason for the scheduling change, and give the information for any alternative activity if applicable. During my first few months I worried that my parents would be sick of hearing from me (sometimes I still worry that!), but they have actually been overwhelmingly grateful for the near-torrent of updates I send every week - parents want to know what's going on with their kids! These people have lives, so the easier we make it for them to live them, the more willing they are to help out and get their kids to my activities.
Mind you, I don't only communicate with them when there is a change coming - I send weekly e-mails discussing upcoming events and what we are working on each meeting, I have a hard-copy monthly newsletter that goes home with each boy at the start of every month, I talk with them personally whenever they drop off or pick up their kids - I try to make "Den Leader" a family role. And it works! Parents are more than willing to step in if needed because they can see, almost daily, how hard we are working to deliver a good program. They also have time to plan opportunities to get involved since our meeting times are so reliable, and changes are only made with plenty of notice. There's a sense of security that comes with being informed about what's going on by caring leaders. So whether your group chooses to meet on Saturdays at 10 am or Thursdays at 7:30 pm, the important thing is that you establish a routine, and keep your communication as open and frequent as possible - and that you take the time to get to know your families. If you can do those three simple things, you'll find attendance is relatively easy to manage.
Hope this helps!
Edited by The Latin Scot, 09 September 2017 - 10:01 AM.