If you ask almost any adult about the impact of church school on his or her growth, he or she will not tell you about books or curriculum or Bible stories or anything like that. The central memory is of the teacher, learning is meeting. This poses problems for the characteristically American way of thinking about education for competence even in the church. Meeting never made anybody competent. Surely we need competence, unless we mean to dismantle much of our made world. But our business is not competence. It is meeting. We are learning slowly and late that education for competence without education as meeting promises us deadly values and scary options. And anyway, one can’t become “competent” in morality. But one can have life-changing meetings that open one to new kinds of existence. And that surely is what church education must be about…
from Living Toward A Vision by Walter Brueggemann
I wanted to share the quote above with you because it really spoke to me over the last few months after Teddy Ray sent it to me.
In a nutshell, Brueggemann says that the greatest gift we can give to one of our group members is a relationship. Now, please don’t hear me saying we shouldn’t prepare and bring a quality lesson each week for that is important. But the most important part of people being transformed is not the quality of the curriculum but the depth of the relationship.
As we begin a new season of Sunday School, I want to remind us all of a few vital aspects of building relationships. Much of what I am about to say is already taking place within our classes, but I believe we all could stand to spend some time thinking through and maybe even freshening up our approach.
We need to create space for our class to build relationships. I believe that we need to be getting together a minimum of 4-6 times per year outside of Sunday morning if we are to signicantly grow our relationships with each other. Maybe that is a bi-monthly lunch, cook-out or dinner club? Perhaps you choose to attend a ballgame or arts event? I trust that you will know what works best for your class. And I challenge us all to intentionally plan, or have a group within your class plan, 4-6 social gatherings each year.
Intentionally and regularly connecting with the members of our class is also important. Whatever that looks like for you is fine. I know that the Friendship class has a weekly email prayer list that has become a “must read” for class members and is a way to keep them involved in each other’s lives during the week. Again, you will know what works best for your group but it is vital we have contact on a regular basis outside the Sunday morning time slot. So often, regular attendance may only be 2 out of 4 Sundays each month. How we keep these folks engaged while they are away is the key to keeping them engaged and attending when they are in town.
Making time to pray for our class by name is an act of servant leadership. Maybe you take a picture of the class and use it as a reminder to pray for people by name? Perhaps you make a list and rotate through the group on a quarterly basis? My encouragement is to make praying for your group a regular part of your devotional time if it isn’t already for you.
Now, let me pull the curtain back and tell you why I’ve chosen these three aspects of relationship building to focus on. They are the three I struggle with the most! So it is part for accountability and part because I am probably not too alone in my struggle that I highlight these areas. I know that we can together work toward creating a place where “neighbors become friends and friends become family.” If we do that, this year will have been a huge success as I’m convinced we will make disciples of Jesus Christ as a result.
Published by Todd Nelson
I'm one of the pastors at First United Methodist Church in Lexington, Kentucky where I've served for the past thirteen years. The sub-title of this blog is "Grace is no accident" which happens to be the defining reality of my life. God's grace (gift) is the reason we have breath in our lungs and hope in our hearts.
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