As I continue the thoughts about the components of community as it relates to Sunday School, I want to take some time today to write about the essential focus of personal relationships. In Jesus’s ministry we read an intentional process of building relationships with the disciples as a larger group, then the twelve and finally the inner circle of Peter, James & John. Whether it was taking time through everyday experiences to talk about the Kingdom of God, practicing the Kingdom of God through his actions with the disciples present or an intentional teaching time, Jesus understood the best way to change our world was an intentional process of building relationships that lead to a change in knowledge, attitude & behavior.
Some questions to ponder:
How intentional is your class at building relationships that grow deeper in faith in the class?
How intentional are your class members outside the class in growing closer to God and each other?
Too often even at church we take on the “I’m fine” syndrome, and never really let others in our lives deep enough to see beyond the façade. Others focus on the problems of the world, the weather or sports trivia and never move into the personal realm. Church and the Sunday School/Bible study class needs to be a safe, confidential place to let down the façade and seek to pray for, encourage and challenge each other in and outside the class.
I want to make a few suggestions for you to consider as a way to bring your class members closer to God and each other:
1. Have a box for prayer requests for those who want to share a concern in their lives but may have difficulty talking about it. There are some who are too introverted to share a personal concern, but they may be willing to write it down. (Get permission before sharing it with the rest of the class.)
2. One minute phone call: As the teacher take time on Saturday evening to call each person on your ministry care list (Remember I don’t like the idea of calling it an attendance roll!) You simply say: I am going over my lesson for tomorrow, and I wanted to pause and see if there is anything I can be praying with you about. Call active and inactive members, and make it brief! God may use this as an opportunity to begin deeper relationships with the entire class.
3. Encourage your class to group three people together and commit ninety days of praying for each other. It is encouraged to meet once a week outside of class to get together and pray. This may be the kickoff of an inner circle with God.
4. Have opportunities to get together throughout the year for fellowship (At least once a quarter.) Often I experienced God closer with our class in someone’s house for dinner and fellowship than I did inside the class. People were not as intimidated to open up and share their concerns, burdens and shortcomings.
5. Find ways to serve together. I encourage every class to have an ongoing service project. There are people who will come and serve with you from your inactive list that may not come to the formal class. As you serve others in the community, be intentional in your relationship with these members as well.
More than anything else, this world needs to see us differently than the rest of society and I believe it begins with a deeper love in relationship to God & each other. (Read I John 4:7-21)