According to the inspired blueprint, Seventh-day Adventist churches are not only to function as places of worship and sermonizing but they are to be instruction centers where the membership can learn to be practical and efficient workers for Christ. Much counsel is given to us by the Lord's messenger as to the desire of the Lord for His church. Adult education is becoming more and more popular, and if we are alert we will stress this important phase of true church development.
The people have had too much sermonizing; but have they been taught how to labor for those for whom Christ died? Has a line of labor been devised and placed before them in such a way that each has seen the necessity of taking part in the work? —Testimonies, vol. 6, p. 431.
Many would be willing to work if they were taught how to begin. They need to be instructed and encouraged. Every church should be a training school for Christian workers. Its members should be taught how to give Bible readings, how to conduct and teach Sabbath-school classes, how best to help the poor and to care for the sick, how to work for the unconverted. There should be schools of health, cooking schools, and classes in various lines of Christian help work. There should not only be teaching, but actual work under experienced instructors.—The Ministry of Healing, p. 149. (Italics supplied.)
Organizing a Study Institute
Realizing the importance of giving more adequate instruction to our faithful lay members, it was decided to promote a study institute that was to function for a period of eighteen weeks. It was planned to offer six courses of study that would be practical and helpful to the program of heralding the gospel to our community. Also, the spiritual edification of our members was considered. Thus some classes were planned that would tend to build faith in God and His church.
Of course, the first problem to be met in such a venture is to find qualified persons to serve as instructors. In the larger churches this is not so difficult as it might be in some places where our constituency is limited. However, excellent instructors should be available from the following professional groups: ministers, Bible instructors, academy and church school teachers, doctors and dentists, nurses, and laymen of exceptional talent who could serve well as teachers.
From our experience, we found that those who were asked to help in this educational project for the church cooperated enthusiastically. All the instructors labored diligently and efficiently to make the study institute a success. Of course, such a projeCt needs to be planned well in advance to give the instructors ample time to plan and prepare for the courses they are to teach.
The Schedule of a Study Institute
The time and day that would be best for a study institute may vary with each church. We scheduled ours for Wednesday evening, the time of our regular midweek service. Thus, we did not have an additional meeting, and it was of interest that our weekly attendance was tripled.
The evening was divided into two 45-minute periods, with a 20-minute devotional time between the two class periods. The first class period was from 7:30 to 8:15 P.M. Then followed the devotional period from 8:20 to 8:40, and the second class period met from 8:45 to 9:30. It is imperative that all classes begin and close according to schedule.
The church members were invited to select two courses of study—one for the first period and one for the second period. We offered six courses, which gave most persons a choice in the area of their interests. Many who had not been out to the midweek service for years came faithfully to the classes.
Courses Of Study Offered
The courses of study offered in our institute were varied so that the appeal to the entire church would be enlarged. They are listed in order as given, the first three being taught in the first period, while the last three were offered in the second period.
"Denominational History and the Gift of Prophecy." This class was taught by our academy Bible teacher and covered the early history of our denomination and the place of the prophetic gift in our movement. The textbook used was Lessons in Denominational History, published by the Department of Education of the General Conference. This proved to be a most popular class.
"How to Give Bible Studies" was taught by our Bible instructor. Training Light Bearers, which is published by the Review and Herald Publishing Association, was used as a textbook. One chapter was covered each evening, and each one in the class gave a Bible study before the group.
"The Soul-winning Sabbath School" was taught by our conference Sabbath school secretary, and was especially directed to those who work with youth. There was no textbook, but a series of ten films was shown to the class. There were some excellent discussions in this class, in which the whole group participated.
"Objections to Bible Doctrines" was a class taught by the minister of the church. This was a lecture-type course where the doctrines of Seventh-day Adventists were discussed in the light of objections that non-Adventists raise. Those who looked forward to giving Bible studies were especially interested in this class.
"Red Cross First Aid" was directed by a graduate nurse, who is a member of the church. She used as her textbook the regular material that is furnished by the American Red Cross. This was also a popular course.
"Vacation Bible School and Crafts" was taught by a lay member who was especially efficient in working with boys and girls. Each year our church sponsors a large Vacation Bible School, and in promoting this class we were training adults to help in this type of missionary work. A variety of crafts such as basketry, figurine painting, tri-chem textile painting, and crepe-paper work were offered. This class had no textbook, but was conducted more on the plan of a workshop.
Many people expressed their appreciation for the instruction received. It was a most worthwhile church project. Such an institute might well be an annual occasion for our larger churches in order to train Seventh-day Adventists to be more efficient in living and witnessing for Christ.