When you go to another person’s house, they often ask if you would like something to drink. It must be on the list of hospitality rules. We can help make our classrooms more inviting by offering water, coffee, or tea. Our little church talked about installing a water fountain, but that was an expense that still would not make our country water taste good. Someone brilliantly thought of buying one of those hot/cold water dispensers. So now all we have to do is buy the big water jugs and paper cups. There is always fresh coffee brewing in our classroom and a little bowl of mints. It is nice to have those little things available because it makes everyone feel more at home. And there are some people who just need their morning coffee to stay awake. You might be surprised who brings their own coffee cup to church and leaves it there to use every week.
This past year our church started having a family game night every third week of the month. We get together with our board games and finger foods and hang out together. It is nothing fancy. We don’t put a lot of effort into the food. We just get together and fellowship. It has been fun to get to better know some of the people I have attended church with for several years. And while we have not had anyone start coming to church because of it, we have had people come to the game night who do not regularly go to our church. You can do this with your Sunday school class, too. It does not have to look like what we do. It could be a breakfast, barbeque picnic at a park, eating out, etc. Whatever you do, do not make it stressful. Emphasize having fun together, and set it on a schedule so everyone knows when to come.
There are times in every person’s life when we just need to ask for help. If you are a parent with children still at home, you may be rushing from this event to that or just staying up all night with a teething baby. You may be caring for an elderly parent or going to a Saturday birthday party for your grandchildren. Maybe you want to go visit your children and worship with them one Sunday. We all have events in our lives that require our attention and make it harder to be ready to teach Sunday school with our eyes open. If you are feeling exhausted and overwhelmed, do not be afraid to ask someone else to teach. If you do not have an assistant Sunday school teacher, ask someone else in the class. Try to give them at least a week to prepare, and realize that your class will make it without you.
Not everyone in your group will be interested in coloring or doing something artsy, but you might be surprised to find out that doodling actually improves your recall by as much as 29%, according to a 2009 study by psychologist Jackie Andrade. Often meaningful connections are being made with what is said when we are actively doodling. And if your class members are drawing something that actually symbolizes a part of the lesson, they are even more likely to remember what was taught in the lesson. It is also beneficial to be able to write down a verse or thought that might otherwise be lost if there was not a place to write it. Set out some colored pencils or regular pencils and some paper and invite your class to doodle if they would like. Perhaps they will recall something during the week that they might otherwise have missed.
We all love our routines, but sometimes it is good to challenge our brains by doing something different. We all like to sit in the same spot and so do others, so we end up sitting by the same people which can lead us to interact to some extent with a smaller percentage of the group. A quick way to change things up and encourage new discussion is to change where your members sit. Divide your group up by gender or color of clothes or birthday months/seasons. Other ways to change things up could be to rearrange your classroom. Instead of rows of seating, bring in a table and gather around it. If your classroom is not very attractive, fix it up a bit with fresh paint and pictures. On a simpler scale, start the Scripture reading at the back of your class instead of the front, or move your prayer time to the beginning instead of the end.
If your classroom is anything like mine, it can sometimes be too quiet. You might be waiting for a response to a question, and nobody is willing to answer. Let’s face it, not everyone coming into your classroom is fully awake and ready to interact (maybe that’s just me). If you end up answering your own questions very often, give this a try. Break into small groups. You can do this a couple of different ways depending on your class size. For the small class, ask your members to turn to a partner and share what they think. For a larger class, you can divide into groups of three or four. This causes your members to interact more with each other and not just rely on the few members that are willing to answer. I do not recommend doing this for every question but more frequently on questions where there is not such a cut-and-dried answer.
Perhaps you already celebrate each class member’s birthday or anniversary, but if you do not, here are some reasons and ways to start celebrating. Everyone likes to be remembered and acknowledged on a birthday. Most everyone likes to eat. Now I am not suggesting you make a big deal with presents, cake, and ice cream, but I am suggesting giving a card and possibly bringing a coffee cake or donuts. One way to make this affordable for you as the teacher is to set up a class benevolence fund. You can ask your fellow class members to chip in as needed or suggest a certain amount to be given. If remembering when birthdays are is not your strong point, ask someone in your class to be responsible for this. Make it happen, because you show you care by remembering. And that’s an important step in building relationships. “People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care” (Zig Ziglar).