Transformational Church process has reminded our churches about the importance of relational intentionality. Churches that practice this element follow through on a basic need of humanity – relationship.
God made us as relational beings. In fact, most of us believe being made in the “image of God” has a relational component. God made us to relate to Him and to relate to each other.
And look at the life of Jesus! He is constantly building relationships with people – his chosen disciples, his friends like Lazarus, Martha, and Mary, strangers like Zacchaeus and the Samaritan woman, and the list goes on.
Despite the reality of the Fall, our relational need remains. John Donne, the poet, even reminded us that no person is an island unto themselves. We need each other. We long for a place to belong.
The old television show, Cheers, theme song echoed the need for people to know us by name and know the importance of our personal journeys. If a bar in Boston can have that theme song, surely we in our Bible study groups can catch the significance of helping people belong also.
Relational intentionality reminds us that a sense of belonging does not just happen. Our Bible study groups must be intentional in connecting to people in our regular routines and in out of the way places just like Jesus. Relationships don’t just happen; they take work!
So as we think about our Bible study groups, here is an acrostic to help us think about our intentional plans to help people belong to our groups:
- Bonding with someone creates a gateway into positive relationships. Take the time to find out what are the interests, hobbies, strengths, work settings, hometown, family setting, and other personal things to create a bond with them. Connect them to people who have similar backgrounds. Don’t take for granted that people know each other.
- Elevate the importance of care groups in your Bible study group in order to show that you care about a person whether they are a guest or a regular member! Make sure everyone is assigned to someone for follow-up contact.
- Learn the language of social media. While social media will not take the place of face to face encounters, it does give us an opportunity to make immediate contacts and be relational.
- Open chair principle from Lyman Coleman is a great one to practice. Have an open chair you pray for each week and think about with whom you can build a relationship and bring to your Bible study group.
- Name tags make a difference. Help guests know everyone in the group. Regulars may know everyone by name, but think how challenging it is for a guest.
- Guest language is more appealing than visitor language. We treat guests with much greater value than an unexpected visitor. Treat all people as guests rather than visitors and watch the difference!
Relationships make a difference in introducing someone to Jesus. Be intentional and watch the difference it makes!
Prayer – Lord, open our eyes to people as you see them. Help us to treat them with the love and respect that they deserve. Make our Bible Study group a place to belong and where people come to know you in new and fresh ways. Amen!
Ken Kessler is the Team Leader for the Empowering Leaders Team of the Baptist General Association of Virginia.