By Tod Tanner
God has uniquely designed each of us for connection with Him and others.
Prior to Eve being formed from Adam’s rib God said, “It is not good for man to be alone” (Genesis 2:18).
As we continue to navigate social distancing, self-quarantines, masks, etc. the church has an opportunity to offer connection that’s desired—and needed.
If we are going to discuss the importance of connecting, we must have a definition of “connection” so we’re on the same page.
The type of connection we’re wired for is more than a fist bump, a handshake, or a hug.
To be connected means to be joined with others in heart or purpose. It means to be united in pursuit of a common objective. And many leaders fear this is an endangered component of church life.
In a recent Lifeway Research survey, Protestant pastors indicated keeping their scattered church members connected was one of their biggest areas of concern.
The question now becomes, How do we stay connected in this COVID season? One bit of good news is that we already have a tool that will help us answer this vital question: Sunday School.
Some might call it life groups, Bible fellowships, community groups, or something else. Regardless of what we call it, the fact remains: We don’t have to start another ministry to meet the obvious need.
Let’s look at a few practical ways we can use Sunday School to stay connected with each other.
1. Reconnect with worship service-only members.
Arthur Flake, whom some might say is the father of modern day Sunday School, said every church member should be on a Bible study roll.
The reality, however, is that this might not be the case. So, let’s use this season of lack of connection and isolation to reconnect with those within the church family who have disconnected from the life of the church.
Another bit of good news related to this is that it’s easy to gather information on. Members who aren’t tied to a group.
Every church has some type of database system that keeps up with church membership as well as Bible study enrollment.
All one has to do is generate a report of those who are members of the church, but not enrolled in a group.
Those on the report are then assigned to the appropriate Bible study group and a phone call is made or a letter is sent.
2. Get social.
By this phrase I’m not suggesting you rely solely on social media to connect people (although it can be a useful tool to employ).
What I’m saying is this: We might not be able to break bread together right now, but we can still find ways to enjoy each other’s company.
Many churches have returned to worship and a few are even starting to relaunch their groups ministry.
Now would be a great time to have a small group or Sunday School class social immediately after worship while embracing needed protocols in order to ensure safety.
The group could plan on meeting at a local park or on church property if the campus has a place for this.
The social could also be multi-generational if one of the age groups is leading out in the planning.
For example, the students could plan on meeting right after church for a bring-your-own-food picnic on any given Sunday.
Since it can be inconvenient for parents to drive home only to return a short while later to pick up their middle schooler, the parents could be a part of the picnic, too.
This allows various families to connect with each other.
3. Engage in a missional endeavor together.
To be missional means to be motivated by the gospel to meet the needs of others. People tend to be open to the gospel message at a time of crisis.
The crisis might be personal, like the passing of a loved one. Other times it might be cultural, like stress associated with a pandemic.
We don’t have to look too far to find a host of professions that are feeling the stress associated with COVID. Jesus told His followers, “You are the salt of the earth . . . you are the light of the world” (Matthew 5:13-14).
The circumstances that we currently find ourselves in allows us as Bible study groups to live out this truth on a daily basis.
It is easy to make statements like this while providing a hearty “amen” in our hearts and minds. The key, however, is not just the “amen,” but also the actions to back it up.
So, what does it look like for your Bible study group to adopt a school, a teacher, the local fire station, or the police station?
Simply contact them, ask them what they need and let them know that your Bible study group wants to meet that need.
We as the Body of Christ have an amazing opportunity in front of us.
We understand that we’ve been made in God’s image and therefore we’re made for relationship with Him and others. In this era of isolation, the church can offer connection.
We already have the tool developed in our Bible study ministries.
Let’s empower our groups to reconnect with disconnected church members, to socialize while practicing social distancing, and to meet the needs of those within our own community.
TOD TANNER is pastor to families at The Gathering at 840 in Franklin, Tennessee.