School is back in session. Summer holidays and vacations are behind us, fall is fast approaching. With this season each year, there is also a season of change in our lives. As people settle into new routines and new chapters in life, they are open to fostering new relationships. What better place than the church to find and foster genuine relationships? Many churches have a built-in arena for building relationships.
Sunday School or small group Bible study groups have for more than 200 years been one of the greatest avenues on earth for discovering and fostering relationships. Still today, one would be hard-pressed to find a better relationship building opportunity for the entire family than can be found in the Sunday School setting. You may call it something different and it may not meet on Sunday morning, but for the remainder of this article I will use the term Sunday School to describe this all ages, Bible study ministry of the church.
Are our Sunday Schools geared to allow families to plug into and engage in spiritual growth and relationship building? Unfortunately not. We believe them to be, but ask the newcomer and you will hear terms as, “Outsider” or “I’m not part of the old guard.” Here are some helps every adult and student group can undertake to encourage engagement and genuine acceptance in fostering relationships while growing spiritually together.
1. Group activities
At least quarterly (monthly if possible), each class should have one activity planned for the whole group, outside of church. These can be cookouts, going to ballgames or events together, local mission projects, swim parties, game nights, seasonal get togethers such as campfires, Christmas, summer holidays, the list goes on and on. Anything that might interest at least half of your members is a reason to get together. Relationships are fostered as we spend time together. The more time together, the stronger the bond. I know a group who grew together in their twenties while starting young families. Almost thirty years later they still hang out, fellowship, and care for one another – thirty some plus their children and now grandchildren.
2. Do missions together
Mentioned above doing missions projects together will cultivate a stronger bond than sitting together in a Bible study classroom. I encourage study groups/classes to quarterly mission’s project, not collecting socks or shoeboxes, but something that the group does for some people group outside the church where they actually meet and work together, cleaning yards and homes, construction projects, feeding the homeless, visiting nursing homes, hospitals and more.
3. Be motivators
Each of the first two above are motivators for fostering relationships. They are also motivators for growing in scripture and Christlikeness. Motivation comes from within a person but is generated by outside influences. As people grow together in relationships (outside influences) the motivation factors (internal) are stirred and stimulated.
4. Care for one another
There is nothing on earth that will foster relationships greater than showing others that you care. Demonstrating that you care comes in all sizes and shapes and can be as simple as a text, a postcard, or phone call. It is also mowing someone’s grass or preparing a meal for a family in need. We each have various opportunities each day to show that we care. That is Christlikeness.
As we round the corner closing out the third quarter of 2023, what will you do to foster new relationships through your Bible study groups?