Ways Sunday School Can Encourage Friendship-Development

Friday 13th April, 2007

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Over the years, I have seen a number of research projects that have affirmed the importance of friends for church members to remain active. I read one recently where the average number of church friends for active church members was 7 while the average number of church friends for dropouts was 2.

Wow! Which is at play here? Do more friends lead to church members staying active in church? Or are active church members more likely to make friends? I believe the answer is yes. It is both, but I believe that there are ways a church (and specifically Sunday School) can encourage friendship-development.

Obviously, the best friendships are not forced; they happen spontaneously. One person, couple, or family discovers or decides they want to spend time with another. Time is the commodity of friendship-development--not only at the beginning but ongoing. When no time is spent together, friendships seldom develop, progress, or continue.

If the best friendships are spontaneous, how can Sunday School provide the medium in which they may be more likely to occur? Frequently, planned friendship-development experiences (fellowships, projects, trips, groups, events, etc.) are the occasions for affinities, personalities, and interests to be discovered. They give people the opportunities to discover things they like about others. They give people time together in a planned experience. For some relationships, planned times together lead to the desire to be together even when someone else has not planned for them to be together.

What are a few of the hundreds of ways that Sunday School can intentionally encourage friendship-development? Consider the following, and then press the comments button below to leave your ideas:

  • meals as a class at church, in a home, at a restaurant, etc.;
  • fun activities such as hay rides, amusement parks, hikes, etc.;
  • recreational activities such as bowling, softball, skating, etc.;
  • ministry projects such as taking food to the needy, working on a Habitat house, raking leaves for the elderly, etc.;
  • trips to see nature, dramas, musical experiences, speakers, etc.;
  • outreach efforts such as visitation, community surveys, giving water at soccer games, beach reach, etc.;
  • retreats (weekend) and camps (week-long) for spiritual development and recreational enjoyment;
  • discipleship experiences such as a study about parenting, finances, cults, sharing your faith, etc.;
  • mentoring and/or accountability relationships;
  • prayer partnerships;
  • and the list goes on an on!

Revolutionary Sunday School classes never neglect friendship-development. They are intentional. They encourage and plan for it to happen. For more information about the importance of relationships, check out this article by Topper Reid on LifeWay's website, Relationships Are Still "In." Don't allow class members to dropout simply due to lack of friends. Be revolutionary!

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