Twelve ways to create community in your group

Life is a better life when it is lived together.

Sunday School is not school. Your class is not a class. You are not a teacher who imparts information.

Groups--Sunday School style or home groups--are a microcosm of the church and are the main place where we live out church life together. Here are twelve tips on turning your group into a hot-house of community.

1. Vision cast

Everything starts with vision. Vision from the pastor. Vision from the Sunday School teacher. The vision is that group is not just about delivering content. It is not just about studying the Bible. It is also about getting to know one another. It is about community. It is about love. We can't love each other if we don't know each other. Group is about getting to know God and each other.

2. Arrange the chairs

Circles are better than rows.

3. Ask Good Questions

Question and answer is the best way to teach adults. I believe in this so much I write three fresh, new lessons a week. For details, see www.joshhunt.com/vault.htm

4. Begin with a Get-to-know-you time

You can do this one of three or four ways.

  • Start with a get-to-know-you question. Here is an example. "Let's start today with everyone introducing themselves and what is your favorite kind of dessert." By opening the door of each person's life each week, you help to get to know each other, little by little. If I can, I try to relate this question to the topic of the day. If I can't think of a way, I still ask the question. Over time, people will learn a lot about each other; where they work, their favorite this, favorite that, birth order, kids, hobbies, and so forth.
  • Have one person give a five-minute overview of their life: where they were born, where they have lived, marriage, kids, and key points spiritually.
  • Allow the group to all ask one question of one person in the group.
  • Arrange the chairs so that people face each other in small group huddles of about four. Have some questions on the chairs. This way, as soon as people walk in they start talking. Or course, once the group really gets to know one another this kind of thing is unnecessary, and sometimes a nuisance.

5. End with prayer requests.

I don't start with prayer requests as they tend to go too long. We want to create community, but we don't want it to take the whole hour. Reserve some time at the end of the hour for prayer requests.

6. Be vulnerable

If you want people to open up and be honest, you have to open up and be honest. They will not do what you do not do, no matter how much you talk about it.

Of course, like many things in life, balance is of the essence. There is such a thing as sharing too much with too many. Most groups, however, err on the side of being too formal and stuffy. Tell us what is happening, really.

7. Party

Sunday morning is only part of group life. Groups need to get together other times as well. I recommend you have a once a month "all skate" party where you invite every member and every prospect. I also recommend that you have a number of other events as time allows. Have people  into your home. Go out to lunch with them. Go eat after church. Enjoy sporting events together.

8. Mission projects.

It is not enough to learn together and play together, and talk together. Do things together. Go on mission trips together. Work together. Build together. Travel together. Look for ways to accomplish things for God together. Help each other move. Shared common experiences build community.

9. Open your home

It is hard to imagine having a friend that I had not been in his home and he had not been in mine. There is something about sharing life together in each other's homes that builds community.

10. Tell your story

We don't just have one story. We have dozens. Tell yours. All of yours:

  • Having kids story.
  • Spiritual highlights story.
  • Spiritual struggles story.
  • Career story.
  • Geographical story.
  • How you learned to be consistent in your quiet time story.
  • How you discovered your spiritual gifts story.

11. Be there for each other

In every life the rains will come. Sooner or later they will come to the people in your group. When the rains come, hold an umbrella for a friend.

Or course, it is not the rains that are the problem. It is the storms--the really bad storms. Eventually, the really bad storms--the train wrecks will come to everyone. When they do, be there for each other. Do all you can, but mostly be there.

Be at the hospital. Be at the funeral home. Be there. Take the time. Take the trip. Pay the price. Be there.

If money is the need, take up an offering. Share the burdens of life together. Watch the kids. Clean the house. Fix the meals. Do what you can. Be there. 

12. Eat

There is something about eating together. Eat often. Eat a lot. Studies prove that the more unhealthy the food, the better the community. (I just made that up.)

Create a calendar where people can sign up to bring snacks. Go to lunch after church. Have food with your fellowships.

 

Sunday School is not a school. It is not a class. It is a microcosm of the church. Be the church to each other. Don't just go to church; be the church. Do what churches do. Do all the one another stuff:

  • Love one another
  • Serve one another
  • Bear with one another
  • Admonish one another
  • Forgive one another
  • Listen to one another
  • Encourage one another.

Life is a better life when it is lived together.