Rooted in scripture, a group covenant is really helpful tools for all Christian educators. Simply stated a group covenant is a special agreement between the members of a group. It clearly states how a group will relate to each other and spells out the “rules” they will follow as they work, learn, play and worship together.
September often marks the beginning of a new year of Sunday school, so it is a good time to sit down with your learning group and discuss how you want to live and act together.
Creating a group covenant with the children has several benefits.
- It draws the children together as a learning community.
- It provides opportunity for children to discuss the ways in which their group will live and act in community.
- It gives children ownership of the agreement, so the principals developed are more likely to be honored by them.
- Discipline will become easier as you can simply remind the children of the promises they have made to each other.
Begin by brainstorming ideas. Explain that you will be creating a group covenant. Describe a covenant as a special agreement that helps draw people together. Explain that you will be making an agreement about how you will live and act together as a group. Invite children to name hopes and behaviors they would like to include in their covenant. You may find it helpful to ask questions such as
- How would you like to be treated when you come to this group?
- What kinds of behavior upset or hurt you?
- How do you think newcomers and visitors would like to be treated?
- How can we show respect to each other?
Try to let the children take the lead on this discussion. If you feel that something really important has been missed, then suggest it, but it is better if the children feel they are the authors of the agreement. Accept all suggestions respectfully and record each one on a large sticky note. Once all suggestions have been made, group them by topic. Now you are ready to help the children draw up a rough draft. You may want to start with an opening phrase such as, “As a community of Jesus’ followers we will..”
Keep the following in mind.
- Keep the covenant short. It will help to combine similar suggestions.
- Keep the language simple.
- Try to phrase the covenant in terms of positive behavior. You may have to help the children to rephrase any “do not” suggestions. For example, “Listen while others are speaking” instead of “do not interrupt.”
Read through the rough draft together, making sure everyone understands what has been written. Make any necessary changes. When the group is satisfied print out a final copy on a large piece of poster board. Leave some space for later additions.
Now have each member of the group sign it. You may also wish to type up the covenant and mail each child a copy along with a note of affirmation.
Display the covenant in a prominent place in the learning area, so it can be seen each time the group gathers. Every newcomer should be encouraged to sign it. Don’t be afraid to revisit the covenant if it becomes apparent that something needs to be added. Don’t forget to point out when the group is living out its covenant. Children respond well to affirmation and like to celebrate their accomplishments.