What would you do to reestablish a strained relationship with your best friend? When would you stop loving, caring, and reaching out to an adult child who is making some bad decisions? How far would you go to pursue an absentee if Jesus sent you? These are some good questions to help have an appropriate attitude about pursuing a family member (a member of your class).
What is the best way to reconnect with an absentee? In a word, it is ANTICIPATE. In other words, don’t let it happen in the first place. Care. Be a friend rather than just friendly! Be observant of attendance patterns. Follow up immediately when the normal pattern of attendance changes. If all members are assigned to care groups in small numbers, it won’t be difficult to notice and to reach out in care. Pray for and with the individual.
But what about after the individual has been out of class for some time? The overall best response is to pray. Pray for the individual. Pray for his/her connection to the class. Pray for your efforts to reach out to him/her. Again, be a friend. Persistently care without pestering or guilting the individual. Attempt to lead them gently back into the friendships of the class. Don’t give up.
This may involve ministry and fellowship. Keep the individual on the roll unless he/she has died, joined another church, or moved out of the ministry reach of the church. Continue to pray. Make regular caring contacts. Minister to any known needs. Be available during stressful times. Invite to the monthly class fellowship so relationships can be reestablished away from church. Invite him/her to your home for a meal. Find someone with an affinity/common interest who can attempt a connection. If needed, do everything in your power to seek to heal broken relationships.
It is possible for the restoring efforts of leaders and individuals of a class to fail. Some absentees have been gone so long that they are embarrassed to return. In some cases, it may take an invitation to a newly established class to restore an absentee’s attendance in Sunday School. New classes have room for new relationships. In some cases, even new classes will not reconnect an absentee.
After you have prayed, contacted, cared, invited to the old class, and invited to new a class, it may be time to encourage another church confidentially to reach out to the absentee. If you care about him/her, you will want to see the person stay connect to the body of Christ, even if it is not your church. Be revolutionary in reconnecting with absentees!