My wife and I needed to change to an earlier time for Sunday School. We visited one class for our age group and decided we needed to check out the other one. We were welcomed warmly by the second class. My wife, a middle school math teacher, knew a couple of the ladies. I recognized some faces but knew no one.
Before the lesson started, the class secretary asked if we wanted to join the class. Even though we replied, “not yet,” we both liked being asked. We enjoyed the lesson and interaction with the group. Several took time to speak with us before we left the class.
Then on Monday, we received a call from one of the couples in the class asking if we would like to come over for a meal. I already had a commitment for that Thursday but we were open the next week. We enjoyed a great meal and some delightful conversation. We laughed and shared stories together. We discovered some mutual interests. One of those was a son close to the age of our youngest.
After visiting the class a couple more times, we joined the class. Looking back, we might have joined the class without the invitation for the meal. But the meal provided an important early relational connection (especially for me). In this particular class, I believe this was a spontaneous action. What I mean is that the class had not organized themselves to encourage members to invite guests for a meal. The couple did so out of their own interest. That is the ideal.
But we should not leave this to chance or whim. First impressions and connections are important. What if the couple had not been in town the week we first visited the class? Why not set up a rotation of class members willing to invite a guest for a meal. It can be in their home or at a restaurant (picking up the tab for the guests). The teacher could be in the rotation and on standby in case multiple couples attend the same week.
Then get to know the guests. Be interested. Listen. Give them your undivided attention. Put aside cell phones. Eat. Talk. Share stories. Share life. Smile. Laugh. Don’t be surprised when they show up in class the second and third time. Don’t be surprised when they join the class. This simple action can have a huge impact. Invite guests for a meal!
Darryl Wilson has served as Director of the Sunday School Department for the Kentucky Baptist Convention since 1997. He served as Minister of Education in churches in South Carolina and Kentucky. He is the author of The Sunday School Revolutionary!, a blog about life-changing Sunday School and small groups.