By Cyndee Ownbey
One of my favorite things about fall is the return of Bible study and small groups!
In many churches I've attended, that first Bible study session in the fall has felt like a family reunion. There's finally time to visit with and hug women that I have only seen across the sanctuary during the summer. We get to linger over cups of coffee and breakfast as we share what has transpired since we were last together.
Sometimes after a welcome-back-to-Bible study meeting, that sense of community can fade. Our time can become more about keeping our women on a schedule, rushing them from the coffee carafe to their groups, then to teaching and then back out the door. There's little time for connection unless they arrive early or stay late.
How can we cultivate continuous community throughout our Bible study and small group sessions?
I've got five ideas to share with you today to help you cultivate community:
- Name tags or name tents—There is just something special when someone calls you by name that makes you feel included and known. Women who are out sick or who have trouble remembering names will appreciate the visual assistance. Those who have names that are difficult to spell will appreciate you spelling their name correctly on their tag. Be sure to use name tags (or name tents if you’ll remain at tables the entire time) from the first meeting until the last meeting.
- Fellowships between meetings—Offer the option to continue conversations at a local restaurant after Bible study every other week. Be sure to select places that are budget and kid friendly. Invite women to participate in a service project or ladies' night out on a different day of the week. We can be more than just Bible study buddies.
- Communication between meetings—Encourage your Bible study leaders to contact their group members every week in-between meetings. An email, text, or handwritten note allows women to feel included and remembered. Consider including a homework reminder and, a word of encouragement. Reaching out between meetings will keep your women connected and almost always increases attendance.
- Share names and numbers—Encourage your women to contact one another by creating a database or class list with everyone's names and numbers. Make it easy for women to reach out to one another to follow up on a prayer request, ask a question, or connect for coffee. Make sure to receive permission before sharing their info.
- Prayer requests—Nothing unites a group like praying for each other. You may wish to pass around a notebook for everyone to record their prayer requests, collecting all of them to be emailed to the group later. Alternatively, you may want to have women partner up and share two or three requests, committing to pray over those requests for the next week.
Cultivating community beyond our weekly Bible study and small group meetings will yield much fruit as our women develop deeper relationships with one another.