Relationships take time. Time is needed to maintain relationships–to listen, to share, to care. And time is needed to form new relationships–to get acquainted, to respond to need, to laugh together. This time and care will naturally be invested in a variety of ways and for a variety of reasons.
The Sunday School class is in a strategic place to encourage relationships. Relationships are a significant part of the mission of a class: relationships with God, with each other in class, and with those outside the class. These relationships will be the focus of the class spontaneously, intentionally, and strategically. Consider the following opportunities for investment by the class in relationships:
SPONTANEOUSLY. In the course of normal Sunday School ministry, relationships will happen. As people spend time together in class and during class activities, there will be opportunity for conversation, affinity-discovery, laughter, and friendship-development. Perhaps a commonality was discovered during the lesson while sharing response to questions. It could be a class service project in which two couples realize they are facing similar challenges. Some attenders will connect spontaneously along the way. They will want to spend more time together.
But relationships also happen spontaneously beyond the Sunday School class. They happen at school, work, marketplace, and community. They also happen as time is spent together in meetings, in class, at play, and along life’s paths. These spontaneous marketplace relationships give the believer an opportunity to show the love of Christ, to share about the class, and even to invite to the class or class activities.
INTENTIONALLY. A Sunday School class is also appropriately intentional about relationships. The class is organized to keep good records and to respond in care to absence or need. Care groups, prayer chains, four-by-four fellowship groups, and more are designed to encourage relationship-development and small units of caring response. Fellowships and class projects are planned intentionally to encourage deeper relationships and connections.
Preparation for the lesson invests time in thinking through teaching methods which will lead to greater participation by more attenders. The more they share, the more they get to know one another. The more they trust one another, the more they can be open and honest when confronted by God’s Word. The teacher knowing this is intentional in designing large and small group interactive experiences.
STRATEGICALLY. At times, a teacher and class will make relationship-development (in class or beyond the class) the goal, the target of the class ministry. This may lead to an intentional strategy or goal. It may be a strategy for class members to get to know each other better through the week. It may be breaking the class into two parts to carry out projects or fellowships. It may be a plan for class members to invest in relationships with people who are not members of the class. Or it may be a goal for contacts or new class members.
For classes whose members have known each other for years, there may need to be more intentional and strategic plans for relationships with those outside of class. For new classes, a balanced inward and outward intentionality may be needed. Evaluation of strengths and needs is helpful here.
Help your class care enough to reach out. Care for each other. Notice when people are absent. Pray together. Organize to respond in times of need. Care for those beyond the class. Lead the class to care for people in the marketplace. Pray. Connect. Invite. Be revolutionary!