I have been to hundreds of church and Sunday School fellowship activities over the years. I have attended hay rides, potlucks, bowling parties, birthday parties, outreach events, Christmas parties, Thanksgiving ministry projects, progressive dinners, game nights, and much more. All of them were fun, and almost all of them included food.
But Sunday School fellowships are more than food and fun. They are more about relationships. It is true that having fun together can deepen relationships, and often eating together brings out casual conversation which allows discovery of affinities. But both the food and fun become meaningful because of their impact upon the relationships. Otherwise, we could eat and have fun by ourselves!
Dr. Chuck Lawless wrote a great article about fellowship entitled Church Fellowship Should Be More Than Food. In the article (which has been taken from his book, Discipled Warriors, he makes four very important points about fellowship. I want to apply his points to fellowship efforts of the Sunday School class. I will share his four points in all capitals followed by my commentary:
SUPPORTING ONE ANOTHER. This is an essential of fellowship. Members of a Sunday School class or small group Bible study care about each other. They pray for each other. They share about celebrations, concerns, and needs. When there are needs, the group mobilizes to meet the needs. For instance, when an attender loses a family member, the class may mow the grass and bring food. When an attender cannot pay a bill due to being unemployed, the class (perhaps together with the church) pays the bill.
BUILDING UP ONE ANOTHER IN THE FAITH. The Sunday School class or small group works to encourage each other to grow as disciples. The group time is more than just teaching. It is a time for learning. It is iron sharpening iron. The group encourages attenders to keep their commitments. They check on progress. They trust one another and know how and when to push each other forward. And they know how to pick one another up when there have been failures. Building up one another in the faith is vital in Sunday School fellowship.
ENCOURAGING EACH OTHER TO LOVE OTHERS AND DO GOOD DEEDS. In my experience, when a person drops out of church (Christian community), he/she stops growing and stop serving God. We need to gather together. When we do, Jesus has said he will be in the midst of the two or three who gather in His name. Sunday School is a great launching point for ministering to the community and world. It is a great group with whom to serve together. And it is a great group to encourage us to live for Jesus in our daily interactions in life even when they are challenging. Encouraging each other to love others and do good deeds is a natural outflow of Sunday School lessons and fellowship.
AVOIDING POTENTIAL DISASTER. One other important facet of Sunday School fellowship is accountability. I saved this word for this point. Sunday School and small groups spend time together in class and between classes. They come to know each other. They develop deep, trusting relationships. As a result, they can be honest with each other. When group members are not living as our Lord’s disciples, individuals can lovingly confront the person about their actions. This is positive accountability. Because the group loves and prays for the person, they want what is best for him/her.
Which of these four fellowship actions is most true of your class? Which one of them is hardest? How could it help your group? What do you need to do to move beyond food and fun into fellowship with impact? Pray. Share. Fellowship. Be revolutionary!