You're about to take your wife out for her birthday, and you check the mailbox on your way to your car. It's a card from your small group leader, wishing her a happy birthday. Or perhaps your youngest child is about to have tubes placed in her ears as a way of combating the numerous ear infections she has had lately. The night before the procedure, your small group leader calls, offering to take your third-grade son to school to help you get to the doctor's office on time.
It's nice to know the leader of your weekly adult Bible study has an appreciation for what's happening in your family's life and wants to assist you in the difficult world in which you live. Family care responsibility is at the center of what we're trying to achieve as teachers in Bible study. There's a good reason for that emphasis.
The Bible consistently affirms the family's strategic role in the kingdom of God. In the family, God establishes our most significant relationships and builds our character. The church and small group cannot take the place of the family. It's unrealistic to think you can meet the needs of adults by yourself. As much as possible, you need to partner with the family in your Bible teaching and leadership efforts. Once partnering is a priority, you discover many ways to do this. Here are some suggestions:
- Begin by recognizing the power of the family in building or possibly destroying, personal faith. Most of us can point to numerous ways our own faith was shaped by events and experiences within our families. Acknowledge the family's power and commit to partnering with the family in your teaching.
- Create a bank of information for each family represented in your class. It may be as simple as notes scribbled on a piece of paper or as detailed as a computer database. Tell the class you're doing this and why. Record facts about family members, ages, birthdays, anniversaries, moving histories and so forth. The collected information gives you valuable insight.
- Use the information you gather to note special events or circumstances in each learner's life. Simple things like an anniversary card or a phone call on a child's birthday can strengthen your role and place in the learner's family.
- Look for ways to meet and get acquainted with other family members. Going out to eat after church on Sunday can bring entire families together. Ballgames, school activities and church functions provide great opportunities for the interested teacher. You can learn a great deal about an adult by watching the children. Parents' anxiety, prides, hopes, fears and dreams for their children can account for unusual behavior demonstrated during the session.
- Inquire about the spiritual condition of family members. Many families have unsaved parents, spouses or children. Your learners will be happy to know you are praying for these individuals. This kind of information is extremely valuable as you lead your learners in Bible study.
- Encourage family enrichment activities. Many churches, associations and local ministries offer seminars within the community on marriage, parenting, finances and other family-related topics. Drawing attention to these during the session helps create an environment where the family is seen as valuable.
- Encourage adult learners to have a family Bible study time each week. A brief time once a week when the family gathers to study and discuss God's word can be a powerful activity with value far beyond that week's lesson. The time need not be long or complicated. The family can make the experience appropriate for children by using the Bible study portion of their small group and adapt it for use at home. Adults who live alone can strengthen family style relationships in a weekly study time with neighbors or other class members.