As we read yesterday the teacher-shepherd needs to have a good understanding of the requirements of being shepherd. Again that may not be your gifting but you need to understand the importance of it and if need be surround yourself with a team to take up the slack wherever needed.
Most Sunday school classes start out as simply that…a class! But as you begin to exercise your shepherding role you will begin to see your flock blossom into what we call community. Community is where people feel comfortable to tell their stories, share their hurts, and have their “family” celebrate their victories.
So how do you get there? It all starts with one person. It may be the teacher (and sometimes it is better if the teacher sets the example, but it doesn’t have to be.) You can find someone to help you with this part of the journey. Many times it could be your spouse or your co-teacher, maybe even someone from your leadership team within the class. But if you are ever going to begin to create that sense of community it has to start somewhere.
Remember that everybody is comfortable speaking in front of a group much less sharing a story. So here are some thoughts that might help you as you begin to move into this culture of community.
1) Create Sub Groups – Divide your group into groups of 2 or 3 and let people start there. That way everybody feels a little more at ease.
2) Write out your story first – I have always taught that it is a good thing to write down what you are going to say. I would have my students in evangelism class write out their testimony before they would present it to the class. It always helps.
3) Start with small portions – It’s like a movie trailer. You are giving the overview or just some basic thoughts to start with.
4) Use Ice breakers or discussion questions – Whether you do this as a larger group or in your sub groups this can be a great way to get people talking.
5) Start in the outer-court then move into the inner-court – Bill
Donahue, small groups specialist puts it this way…Start lighter – move deeper. The outer-court in the O.T. was a place that was loud, festive, busy, but when you began to move into the inner-court the atmosphere began to change. Things became more serious, deeper. Your group can do that as well. Many times that is where real community begins.
6) Safety and Confidentiality are Essential – If there is ever a place that this needs to be evident, it is in your group. This is not a gossip session or finding out things you did not know so that you can go tell someone else. Rather this should be a place where members of the flock can come and share their heart with each other.
So jump in and start telling stories. You will be amazed how your class responds!
Dwayne Lee is the Associate Group Leader of the Bible Teaching and Resource Group of the State Convention of Baptists in Ohio.