After 17 years of blogging about Sunday School and small groups, I am more convinced than ever that groups can be revolutionary. The Lord loved us and gave us a mission that groups can help disciples and the church accomplish. That mission depends on love (care) for Him, each other, and others. Care (love in action) matters! Two verses make this plain:
We love because he first loved us.1 John 4:19 (CSB)
“I give you a new command: Love one another. Just as I have loved you, you are also to love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”John 13:34-35 (CSB)
Survey Questions, Responses, and Insights
Because of the importance of care and the need to strengthen relationships and mobilize care through our groups, I just used Microsoft Forms to complete a care survey in preparation for writing a book about relationships and care. I want to share the responses of 168 people along with my brief insights:
Q1: What are ways your group has strengthened relationships and provided care for group members in the last 3 years? (choose all that apply)
INSIGHTS: The first few surveys did not allow choosing multiple answers or these numbers may have been higher. The survey showed that praying is a strong part of relationships and care. The next two highest responses were care in time of need and caring contacts followed by meals together. My take-away is that expressions of care start with prayer, need to be communicated, and are contextual.
Q2: Share a brief story about how your group expressed care for a member or absentee in a unique way.
INSIGHTS: I was not surprised that 30% of the 100 written responses included the word, “meal.” Responses illustrated the statistics from question 1. Many mentioned using mealtrain.com. Stories of care that were shared will provide illustrations for the book I will be writing.
Q3. What are ways in the last 3 years that your group has developed relationships and provided care for people in the community who are not members of your class or church? (choose all that apply)
INSIGHTS: Prayer tops the list of developing relationships and providing care with people in the community. Fellowships and parties were the second most common way to connecting with people in the community. Care in time of need placed third. Service projects and conversation also make a difference. I was surprised with the diversity which again reminded me that relationships and care are contextual.
Q4. Share a brief story about how your group expressed care in a unique way for someone in the community (who is not a group member).
INSIGHTS: The word, “church,” was used in 23 (30%) of the 76 responses. I believe there are two reasons. First, some needs are larger than a single class/group can meet. Second, some groups had no story of expressing care for someone in the community apart from assisting in a churchwide effort. Every age group was represented in the stories.
Q5. How does your group communicate the needs of group members to the group? (choose all that apply)
INSIGHTS: The top 3 ways of communicating group member needs included class announcements, prayer requests, and text. I am guessing that most announcements and prayer requests were shared when the group was together, and most texts (and emails) were sent between sessions. I wonder what would happen if we texted every absentee every Sunday.
Q6. How well does your group connect with and care for new members? (1 star = poor; 10 stars = great)
INSIGHTS: Thom Rainer, former president of Lifeway Christian Resources, discovered that only 16% of new church members not involved in Sunday School were still involved in the church 5 years later. On the other hand, 83% of new members involved in Sunday School were still involved in church five years later. Groups make a difference when our they connect and care well.
Q7. How well does your group pursue and care for absentees and dropouts? (1 star = poor; 10 stars = great)
INSIGHTS: Q6 connects with Q7. About 80% of new church members drop out in the first 6 months. Likely the same will happen to new Sunday School members when care is missing. Care is much easier when we don’t allow guilt to develop because we waited too long to respond to absence. Groups who do this well tend to (1) care and (2) have a system for communicating that care.
Q8. How well does your group connect with, care for, and invite people from the community? (1 star = poor; 10 stars = great)
INSIGHTS: Every class leaks. People die, move, get sick, change schedules, etc. Every class that fails to connect well with, care for, and invite people in the community is heading toward decline. From personal experience of having no one speak to me in more than 100 groups, I can tell you that the average rating seems high to me. Poor first impressions usually do not lead to second visits. And the lack of greeters tends to be a sign we are not expecting new people to come (maybe because we have not invited them).
Q9. Where is your church located?
INSIGHTS: Since the majority of my contacts and readers of my blog are from Kentucky, it is not surprising that 143 of 168 (85%) people completing the survey are from Kentucky. Of the other 25, 7 were from Arkansas, 3 from Mississippi, 2 from Tennessee, and 1 from Georgia, New Mexico, Iowa, Texas, South Carolina, Utah, West Virginia, Missouri, Montana, Ohio, Massachusetts, Virginia, and Louisiana.
Q10. What is the denomination of your church?
INSIGHTS: All but 10 of 168 the surveys were completed by Southern Baptists. From a Sunday School training event of the South Arkansas District Church of the Nazarene, 7 completed the survey. The other 3 were other Baptists.
Q11. In appreciation for completing this survey, I would like to send you a digital copy of the book, 100 SMALL Sunday School Changes That Make a BIG Difference. If you would like to receive the 99-page book, include your email below.
Of the 168 people who responded to the survey, 127 requested the digital book. I encourage you to reward those who respond to your surveys.
Care Survey Summary
Those who complete a survey about strengthening Sunday School relationships and care tend to be those who are more interested. And yet, the survey responses give me hope about the future. They remind me of the various needs and personalities involved as well as the varied contexts for relationships and ministry. Don’t grow weary in well doing. What you are doing matters! Relationships matter! Our Lord’s mission matters! Care. Make disciples. Be revolutionary!