Growing Next-Level Sunday School Relationships

Monday 4th February, 2008

When relationships grow in a Sunday School class or small group, so many good things happen. People get cared for. Needs are met. Discussion deepens. Attendance becomes regular. Expectation increases. Encouragement is free-flowing. Trust grows. Positive accountability leads to greater application of God's truth. Encounters continue beyond the Bible study session.

But in many classes/groups, relationships are shallow. They never seem to get beyond the surface. People only know name, rank, and serial number. Awareness of needs is minimal. No time is invested beyond the Bible study session. In these cases, what can be done to move the superficial relationships to the next level?

Eric Metcalf has written an interesting blog post entitled Friends in Small Group? After acknowledging that all groups are different, Eric offers some tips on how to create deeper relationships. His tips are in all capitals followed by my commentary:

  • CONVERSATION OVER A MEAL. Eric suggests drawing names/numbers and going having couples get together over a meal. When a meal is shared, relationships can happen informally. Stories are shared. Affinities are discovered. This information about each other discovered away from the group deepens conversation during group sessions.
  • LEADER HAS TO GO FIRST. Eric is focusing here on vulnerability. If the group is to go deeper in sharing, frequently the leader must set the pace by being transparent and honest. As other group members realize that the group session is a safe place to share, they will feel comfortable to share prayer requests where they are hurting or struggling and even bring this into conversation and group discussion.
  • PLAN A SERVICE PROJECT TOGETHER. I've talked about this before, but you get to know people in different ways when you serve together with them. Some people (especially men) can feel more comfortable serving/working together than in a social setting. Even the planning can bring out people's input in new ways.
  • JUST ASK QUESTIONS ABOUT EACH OTHER. Eric suggests not doing the planned study for the day and asking questions about group members, including testimony and spiritual progress questions. I would suggest adding this into the plans for every Bible study session, especially in the early weeks of a new group or when guests are present or new members have joined. This can be planned as part of the agenda for fellowship activities as well.
  • HAVE THE WHOLE GROUP GO OUT FOR A MEAL TOGETHER. Encourage them to sit with someone they don't know as well. Or don't. Just as the what was said above about conversation over a meal applies to individuals, it applies to the group. People discover new things about each other which deepens relationships. Food, fun, and fellowship connect.
  • WRITE A GROUP COVENANT TOGETHER. As a group discusses the elements of a group covenant, group members will hear each other's opinions. They will come together around a plan. They will listen to one another's perspectives. The finished project will be a sign of togetherness. It will deepen relationships by bringing expectation and relational boundaries to a group.

Besides these six tips, what suggestions would you have for growing next-level relationships? Josh Hunt would suggest the party. What else would you add? Press the Comments button below and share your tip. And don't allow relationships to stay on the surface. Be revolutionary.

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