Before we know it, the air will be turning cool, leaves will fall, the Thanksgiving turkeys will go on sale, and the twelfth month of people's calendars will start filling up with holiday parties, kids' school programs, year-end work reviews, and performances of The Nutcracker. And with all those busy days and late Saturday nights, more people will be staying nestled all snug in their beds rather than getting up and ready for church in time for Sunday school.
The routine gets displaced by the special, especially at Christmastime, so why not do something extra-special with your Sunday school classes and small groups so that Bible study and Christian formation doesn't fall by the wayside during Advent? Here are a few ideas:
Everyone knows free food is a draw, but we're talking even bigger than free coffee and danish before Sunday school. For the four Sundays of Advent, serve a big breakfast and do Sunday school over bacon and eggs. But here's the twist: scramble the classes up by encouraging people to sit at different tables and do the lesson or discussion with their table-mates. Many classes and small groups have Christmas parties during December, so use the morning time to encourage people to get to know someone new.
Lunch & Serve
Rather than meeting for Sunday school before worship, gather afterwards to enjoy your study discussion over lunch together before going out to serve somewhere together. Brown-bag or pot-luck it at the church to save going out each week, and then car pool to sort cans at a homeless shelter, wrap presents at a toy giveaway, or shop together for Angel Tree gifts. A mission-oriented study like A Different Kind of Christmas would be a perfect fit to get your group in an other-focused frame of mind before going out to serve the Birthday Boy in those in need.
Share the Joy
Have your classes meet elsewhere during Advent to share fellowship and enriching discussion with others, in jails, battered-women's shelters, nursing homes, etc. Choose a study without too much emphasis on outreach and service, since these people's mobility is clearly limited. One centered simply on the nativity story from scripture will be most accessible to people with diverse church backgrounds (or none at all). Lectionary-based Preparing the Way covers Advent scriptures from the Old Testament, Gospels, and Epistles.
Making your Sunday school or small group sessions a special event in themselves during December will help keep interest and energy high, and help put the emphasis on our relationships with Jesus, our fellow Christians, and those in need during the season of Christ's birth.