In my doctoral research, I discovered that Sunday School dropouts tended to have two or fewer “friends they can call on in time of need.” Those who had six or more friends, tended to be the most frequent attenders. Relationships (plural) matter!
Want to keep new people connected? Want to keep long-term members connected? Your group members need more than a relationship with you. They need relationships. What can you do to encourage multiple friendships? Consider the following:
- Teach about the importance of connections. Don’t assume they know. Don’t try to sneak it in without them realizing it. Be open and honest. Understanding and ownership of the need are great steps.
- Have private conversations. Seek out individuals you fear may disconnect. Share your concerns and ask how you can help.
- Enlist a member care leader to help. This individual encourages contacts with absentees, plans fellowships and projects, encourages serving, and works to deepen and multiply relationships.
- Offer fellowships and projects. Offer social and serving activities in order to enrich relationships beyond group Bible study time.
- Observe interactions. When individuals appear to have few connections with your group, enlist group members intentionally to befriend them.
- Spend time in smaller groups. Break your group Bible study time into pairs, triads, quads, etc. Give them assignments. While this is not enough for relationships to develop, it can help in affinity discovery and trust-development.
- Notice when absent. Make contact with an absentee–even when you know why they are not present. Let them know they were missed. Express your care–without producing guilt.
- Minister when in need. When there is a need, respond in care. Listen. Be present. Help. Relationships grow or drift apart during times of stress and need–depending on how we respond.
Teachers need help. Pray. Enlist a member care leader. Then together lay out a play for improving connections. Make disciples. Be revolutionary!