At a recent meeting, I ran into a friend that I had not seen in quite some time. I almost didn’t recognize him, because he had lost almost one hundred pounds since our paths last crossed. After complimenting him on this great change in his life, I inquired about the method he had used to get rid of the weight. I expected him to credit a new diet plan, tell me he joined a gym, or rave about the latest set of workout videos. Instead, he said very simply, “I just started watching what I eat and exercising at home every day”. His response reminded me of this principle: Simple efforts can bring about significant effects.
Most things still come back to the basics and enjoying great group life is no different. While many want to look for the next big trick, your group’s community can improve significantly just by making some simple intentional efforts.
Get to Know Each Other. Let class members fill out a family profile sheet with information about work, hobbies/interests, favorites, places you’ve lived, etc. Highlight a family each week in a class email, post it on a Facebook page, or print it in a class directory. Pray especially for them during that week. Recruit people to share their testimonies over a period of several weeks. Take a few moments to not only pray specifically for each other but also to brag on the good stuff.
Provide Time for Interaction in Class. Plan your lessons with intentional times for people to get into smaller groups and answer questions, look at passages of Scripture, or complete a learning activity. Community is hard to build when everyone always faces the front and never in front of a face.
Name Tags. Wear them. Love them.
Contact Each Other During the Week. Sure, you should contact absentees and guests. But the regulars want to stay connected, too. With so many ways to communicate today, it has never been easier or taken less time to stay in touch.
Come Up Big During Crisis. Organize and implement a ministry care strategy for your group so that when these moments regrettably occur, people are ready to act. Times of need are when friendships are forged.
Get Together Outside of Class. Have a formal fellowship, serve on a work project together, grab a burger together after church, sit at a concert together, watch the big game on TV together, attend a community event together, . . . it doesn’t matter what you do, just do it together.
Utilize Groups Within the Group. Depending on the size of your class, much of the above can only be handled effectively when done by smaller segments of the group. Smaller groups within the group allow large classes to have the best of both worlds.
There are few shortcuts or secrets to building community, just simple strategies that make a difference.
David Bond serves as Adult Sunday School Strategist for the Evangelism and Church Growth Team of the Arkansas Baptist State Convention.