o “Most of the barriers to the gospel are not theological; they are social.” – Donald McGavran, founder of the modern church growth movement
o “Most people who are opposed to the gospel are not opposed to ice cream” – Juan Carlos Ortiz
o “It is a myth that most adults attend Sunday School primarily to learn. People attend for fellowship and friends.” – Dick Murray in Strengthening The Adult Sunday School Class
It pains me to admit it, but the Sunday School classes that grew the most in the churches I served were the ones that made parties a priority. I always wanted my Sunday School classes to major on Bible study, and I felt that if the teachers presented a great lesson each Sunday, that would be enough to grow great classes. I learned, though, that it’s not just about having a quality Bible study. People want relationships, and they are looking for classes in which they can build lasting friendships. Fellowships are fun, and they can help people assimilate into the life of the church through the Sunday School.
3 Reasons Why Parties are Powerful
1. A prospect becomes a part of your group before he steps a foot into your classroom. Many adults are lonely and looking for friends. Gallup poles have found that 40% of Americans have feelings of “intense loneliness.” Assimilation can begin the moment a prospect accepts an invitation to attend a class fellowship…even before they accept an invitation to attend the class’s Bible study. The prospect becomes part of the group before they become part of the group. As they form friendships, they will be drawn to the Bible study their friends attend.
2. People appreciate an invitation to a party. Too many phone calls, cards, and letters can be awkward for the teacher and the prospect. Teachers and outreach leaders often feel a degree of awkwardness when it comes to contacting absentees, but it’s a lot easier to contact chronic absentees when you are inviting them to a fun social event. The class party can be a great way to help absentees reengage with the members of the class.
3. Fellowships give inactive members an opportunity to get back into the groove. People may think the walls will fall in if they come to your class after being gone for a long time. What will they tell people? What will people think? Fellowships give chronic absentees a way to blend back into the class without looking overly conspicuous. Think, “slow and steady wins the race” when trying to get absentees to reconnect with your class.
If you want to build great groups in Sunday School, remember that quality, relevant, inspiring Bible study is a big part of a class’s recipe for success. People appreciate learning how the Bible addresses the issues they are facing. But don’t forget to encourage your teachers to strike a balance between excellence in the classroom and fun and games outside the class experience. People are looking for friends, and most of us love to have fun. So get serious about having fun through class fellowships!
1) Expect – expect teachers to have regular fellowships – make this a part of your leadership covenant…do this during the enlistment phase and set the expectation early! Most teachers can lead their classes to have a regular monthly or quarterly fellowship with little trouble.
2) Enlist – You’ll need a class fellowship leader. Exodus 18 contains the story of Moses and Jethro. Moses was too busy conducting court to possibly meet the needs of all the people. Jethro gave him great advice: delegate! The same advice will work for you if you are an adult teacher- delegate the responsibility for parties to a member of the class…you don’t have to do it all as the teacher.
3) Evaluate – as an adult class teacher, evaluate your fellowships each quarter…which ones were well-attended? Which ones were really fun? Which ones attracted prospects? Change things up the next quarter and try some new party ideas, but find the formula that works for your class.
4) Share – if you come across a fellowship idea that really hits a home run, share the success you’ve experienced with your fellow teachers. Do this at your church’s regular time for teacher training. You’ll help other teachers see that they, too, can copy your idea and invigorate their class. You’ll also pick up ideas from fellow teachers you can use as you plan your class parties.
5) Budget – Ask your church staff if there is a budget to help you pay for class fellowships. It’s worth a lot to a church to help people connect with people, so perhaps your staff can support your fellowships by giving you a small budget for each one, or perhaps they can provide childcare to make it easy on parents to attend. Ask if the church can provide the plates, cups, napkins, and cutlery.
6) Invite – Don’t forget to invite inactive members, prospects, and your church staff!! If regular attenders are the only ones coming to your parties, something’s wrong! Make sure you are thinking about reaching out to a variety of other people who would love to connect with people in your class.