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Christmas, COVID, and Sunday School

Keep your class engaged -- especially if they're in COVID-isolation.

I read something humorous while researching this post:

"Don't Let Christmas Ruin Your Sunday School Plans!" Many classes tend to take a break for Christmas (and that might go 2-3 Sundays), which can put a real hamper on any momentum that had been building in the fall. Stay in touch with class members and get together, even if informally and not on Sunday mornings.

Well, that was the gist of the article. What was funny to me is that that was written pre-COVID. If we had trouble falling out of touch during Christmas without COVID, then this year could be a disaster!

And that's what I was looking for -- ideas other churches have had about keeping their Sunday School engaged during a COVID Christmas. Sadly, I didn't find much on that. What I did find is stuff that we should all know well. But there's nothing wrong with having a summary of the basics.

Situation: some/many of your class members are uncomfortable getting together in a group, but you still want to reach out to them for Christmas. What can you do?

Let's start with the applause. It is fantastic that you care about the class members who are being reclusive (or quarantined). You should! Remember my site "mantra": discipleship happens best in relationships, and relationships happen best in small groups. And relationships don't happen well at all if they get regularly interrupted during some of the most emotionally significant times of the year (like the Christmas holidays). The relationships that are being built in your group need to be sustained -- especially during Christmas.

So, how can you do that? These answers are pretty simple.

Get together online. I know that many people are sick of Zoom. But if that's your option for "seeing" somebody, then keep using it! A more recent article about churches and COVID said that rising comfort levels with programs like Zoom is a good thing. It gave this advice:

  • If your class keeps meeting during Christmas break, make it available on Zoom and share the link with everyone in your class.

  • If your class takes a break on any Sunday, appoint someone to host a non-Sunday-morning informal online get together.

(I know this sounds weird to the leaders in our church. We don't take a break from Sunday School! But I'll share this post with leaders in other churches, and some of them might take breaks.) Some things about these Zoom meetings. If you have class members traveling, or perhaps with guests in the home, be sensitive to that. There's nothing wrong with having a short Bible study. And if you're organizing something not on Sunday morning, it can be informal -- have someone share a short devotional and not a full-blown Bible study. Getting together at all is better than not getting together, no matter how short; it's okay to work around busy schedules.

Get together informally. This follows the same logic as above. Perhaps some people don't want to come to the church building because they don't want to be in a room with a bunch of other people. Well, maybe they would be willing to sit and talk with one or two families on a front porch. This can be short, short, short; the point is to be making face contact with friends.

Be sensitive to those who don't want to share a meal with anyone else. Our experience coming out of Thanksgiving is that a lot of "close contact" happened over the dinner table. If 15 minutes is that person's comfort limit, then 15 minutes is enough.

Exchange Cards and Gifts. This is so simple and yet still so effective. Assign people in your class to send a card and/or small gift to those class members who might be feeling left out. If 4 or 5 class members would send 4 or 5 cards, that would take care of many classes.

[Aside on "who?" This is always a sticky question. There may be people on your roll who don't want to come to your class. I discussed them in my article on Class Roles. But -- if they're still on your roll, there's no harm in sending them a Christmas card. (If you think they would be mortally offended even by that, maybe's it's time to move them to a "watchcare" list.) However, there may be people on the margins of your group who would really appreciate something more than a card. You kinda know who those people are. Reach out to them. Send them a Christmas ornament. Do a class craft project and send them one. But try to include as many people as reasonable. You don't want to create hard feelings by leaving someone out from a project intended to build community!]

If your class does a gift exchange "white elephant style", you may have to modify that; change it to some kind of "secret santa" and be clear about the rules. Find out which class members want to participate, give some guidelines (Christmas ornaments, ugly sweaters, nativity sets) and secretly assign each person to someone else who will anonymously leave them a gift outside their door. That's still fun, even if it's not as person-to-person.

Send Home a Christmas Activity. Obviously, this idea was originally designed for kids' ministries. But I love it! How you do this will entirely depend on the family situations of your class members. Some churches are sending home scripts for families to put on their own "living nativity". Some are sending home kits to recreate some object lessons used in Sunday School. (Our Cornerstone Preschool has done stuff like that.) Some are sending home ideas (ad even supplies) for fun Christmas crafts.

Honestly, a lot of that doesn't have to involve a mailout. You can post Pinterest links to your class Facebook page (or for our church, a class Realm page). In one class, I read that different members/families read parts of the Christmas story, and someone stitched them all together into an awesome group video that they posted to Facebook. There are plenty of things you can do to engage your members in group activities.

At the Very Least, Make a Call. Don't downplay the simple starting point: make a phone call to those class members you haven't seen. See how they're doing. Tell them you miss them. Wish them a Merry Christmas. You can't go wrong with that.


Like I said -- this was a simple list. Perhaps COVID has restricted ideas enough that the basics are the best. Engage your class members this season (or have a structured way for them to engage one another). In our church, our Sunday School has held pretty strong. That should make this a lot easier than in churches where most of their members have stopped coming! You have a good point of contact with class members, and together you should have a good sense of who is in need of some extra TLC. Merry Christmas and God bless you!

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