"Ways to Connect and Care Beyond the Classroom" is one of our Teaching Training Handouts. See more!
While it was written in the first months of COVID-19 Pandemic which shut down "in-person" Sunday Schools and churches across the country, it is the sort of outreach ministry we hope every Sunday School leader and teacher is regularly taking part in, virus or no virus.
That said, many of us are wondering what teaching is going to look like this summer and fall. Many are suggesting we use this time to reconnect with kids and families in pastoral ways. So perhaps the following 13 Ways was written "for just such a time as this."
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The following is an updated version of the original PDF. It has more info about some of the ways. You will also see additional suggestions below it posted by members.
We invite you to POST your suggestions and best practices!
Connecting and Caring Beyond the Classroom
One of the best things about being a Sunday School teacher happens when we connect with students outside of the classroom. The kid running up to you in the hallway with news they can’t wait to share. The impish wave across the pews or restaurant. The high-five at the game. These connections not only feel like a moment in the Kingdom of God, they are an awesome opportunity. For in addition to being teachers, we are role models and caregivers --“God making his appeal through us.” (2 Cor 5:20).
And lest we forget, God is also making his appeal to us through them.
Rather than being "one more thing to do," an intentional plan of outreach is actually one of the "secret sauces" of a successful teaching ministry. Reaching kids where they are can help make kids better students in the classroom, and keep kids coming back year after year. It also makes us better teachers as we get to know our students and their families.
Below is a “starter list” of ideas for connecting beyond the classroom. We hope you will discuss it, adapt it, and expand it with your own great plans.
- Ask your church office for a classroom roster with the addresses, phone numbers, names of parents, and student birthdays. Add notes about each student’s interests. This roster can also be an excellent prayer prompt.
- Review your church's safe-children policies and make sure parents are aware of your outreach plans.
- Use the power of your cellphone to collect numbers, mark special dates, send reminders, and take and share classroom photos with parents and those older students who have their own phones. (Get parental permission and always copy a parent on every communication.)
- Never pass up an opportunity to greet your students (and their parents) at church events and ask how they’re doing.
- Create a plan for brief “doorstep visits” with your students and a parents and don't go empty-handed. Bring details about an upcoming event, a fun photo and story about a recent lesson, and a food item your student will appreciate. For example, call ahead and ask them "Chocolate or Vanilla?"
- Make plans to attend a special event in the life of each of your students during the year. Bring a member of your family or a fellow teacher with you. Ask parents to keep you in the loop about upcoming school events, games, recitals, grade-level "graduations," and the like. Doing so sends a powerful message to both the student and family.
- Drop in on your students’ church fellowship events to join in a game, chaperone, or help serve.
- Plan a class picnic or outing and ask someone else to be in charge of it so you can focus on being with the kids. This is one of those "old fashioned" ideas we used to do more often because they worked.
- Send a personal note via "snailmail" to thank a student for their participation on a particular Sunday, or at other times to congratulate, console, or encourage.
- Use social video apps such as Facebook Live or Messenger’s “Rooms” to connect with groups of students during breaks or to broadcast your class to those who cannot attend due to an illness or other circumstance.
- Pay attention to unusual or extended absences and kids with health problems. Get information from your pastor, parents, and classmates. Ask for an opportunity to drop by with some classroom materials (such as a bag of art supplies and printables from lessons they missed).
- Look for church service opportunities that you can ask a student or two to help you with. For example, invite a student and parent to help you pack groceries for the pantry, or collect the offering in worship, or help with “Hanging of the Greens,” or set up a game at the church picnic.
- Help your students see you as you normally are, not just as a “dressed up teacher.” Wear your favorite team’s jersey to a class. Bring in your favorite snack. Share appropriate details about your life, interests, and especially your pets.
Challenges and Plans
Numbers and geography can be challenging. And not every teacher has the time or temperament for regular outreach (so they will have to get creative). To those who make the effort, the rewards can be immediate and uplifting.
You don't have to overthink this. Just get your roster, decide on how you want to connect, let parents know, and pick some dates on the calendar to let God make your appeal through you!
Looking forward to seeing what some of you have done to reach your kids beyond the classroom!