We all know that prayer is a critical component of the Christian life. Let’s make sure it is an important part of our class time, too. Begin class by asking for prayer requests. Keep a list of the requests where you can add to them each week. This could be kept on the wall for all to see as a reminder to pray and praise God for His answered prayers. You should also try to minister to any of the needs as you can. Send cards, deliver cookies, make phone calls, and do not feel like you have to do this all by yourself. Ask other class members to help. Make sure you take these prayer requests home and pray for the needs during the week. Begin regularly praying for each other and see what God will do! “Continue in prayer, and watch in the same with thanksgiving” (Col. 4:2).
I may be wrong, but I doubt that teaching Sunday school is the only thing that occupies your time. If you are like most of the lay workers in the church I know, you have got quite a bit going on besides preparing for this lesson. In the busyness of life, we can often get the job done on our own strength, and then we wonder why our ministry is not very fruitful. Take time to ask the Holy Spirit to guide you as it says in John 16:13, “When he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth.” Ask Him to lead you into all truth as you lead your class members. Ask Him to be your Guide, and depend on Him to do the work you cannot do. “Holy Spirit, be my Guide. Holy Spirit, my door’s open wide. Make me to know Thy will divine; Holy Spirit, be Thou mine” (Mildred Cope).
Sometimes we need to skip our Sunday school lesson and do something more important. I am not advocating that you not come prepared to teach so you just find other things to occupy your lesson time. So, do not put this down and show up unprepared. What I am saying is there may be times when you need to get out of whatever routine you are normally in and let the Holy Spirit work. If there is a pressing need in your community, a class member’s loved one is critically ill, a spiritual need is presented for either a class member or someone else, or any other need is presented, skip the lesson and pray. Nothing we can say through our lesson is more important or powerful than prayer. All too often, we do not give enough time to the things in our lives that concern us. God cares and wants us to bring our needs to Him. So change your plans. Pray.
Part of building the church comes with reaching out to others who are not yet part of the Body of Christ. One way you can reach out to others and build your Sunday school class community is to pick a project to do as a class. The possibilities for this kind of ministry seem endless. You can work together to serve the homeless, clean up an elderly or needy neighbor’s yard, visit the nursing home on a regular basis, fundraise for a special need with a spaghetti supper, clean a city park, have a food pounding for a new neighbor or family in need, make blankets for orphans, etc. If you look closely at the people who live in your church’s community, I am sure you can find a way to reach out to others and be an extension of Jesus. “The highest form of worship is the worship of unselfish Christian service” (Billy Graham).
Have you ever been in a class where you really wanted to ask a question, but felt like you were the only one who did not know the answer? Sometimes it can be a bit intimidating to ask for clarification when we do not understand something. One way to help your class members to not feel awkward asking questions is to admit that you do not know it all either. If while preparing your lesson you run across something you do not know, share that with your class members. If you are teaching class and someone does ask a question and you do not know the answer, readily admit it. You can look up an answer together or you can commit to finding an answer before next Sunday. There may be times when there really is not an answer and you can admit that, too. You may be surprised how more open your class members become when they realize you do not know it all.
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.