I began my ministry at a time when Sabbath School attendance was not a problem. Sabbath School in the churches I pastored was always well attended. The classes were engaging, exciting, and meaningful. Sadly, that is not now the case in some areas. Some believe that Sabbath School is not a strong tool for spiritual education, that it is predictable and boring, and that it has lost its focus on mission.
If you have been a Seventh-day Adventist long enough, you have probably heard the saying, “Sabbath School is the heart of the church.” It might sound like a cliché, but it is an undeniable truth. Not only is Sabbath School the heart of the church, but its importance in the life of the believer cannot be overestimated. Sabbath School is the golden thread that keeps the Seventh-day Adventist Church united theologically and missiologically.
Sabbath School is the very basis of our Christian growth; it is the daily, weekly, continuous focus on God’s Word that leads an individual, and the church collective, to grow in spiritual strength. Your role as a pastor in emphasizing Sabbath School, and Sabbath School attendance, is vital if the individual and the church are to flourish in spiritual growth and biblical understanding.
Here are three keys to bring life to your Sabbath School:
1. Bible study and prayer
Sabbath School is the perfect set-ting to rediscover the power of Bible study and prayer. Encourage members to make the Sabbath School class participatory, prayerfully reading the Bible and discussing the lesson as a group. The teaching time is not the preaching time. The teacher should not preach a sermon but assist in the study and understanding of the Bible text, reviewing the main points and encouraging members to engage in individual Bible study during the week.
Sometimes people stop attending Sabbath School and no one notices. One of the advantages of a small Sabbath School class is that the teacher knows who is missing and can develop plans to visit, pray for, and care for missing or hurting members, giving territory assignments. The Sabbath School class should discuss ways to minister to church family needs—inactive members, youth, families, women, and other groups—and should spend time together praying for these needs.
Remember, Sabbath School was organized for missionary purposes. Teach your members to pray for and discuss ways of reaching your community, your city, and the world to fulfill the gospel commission. Plans should be made and implemented to prepare the soil of the heart, plant the seed, cultivate spiritual interests, and harvest decisions for the kingdom of God. The goal should be to make disciples of Jesus who stay in the church rather than just baptizing members. Youth can be involved through passing out tracts, praying for neighbors, prayer walking, and preaching at home or abroad. The best support we can give our youth is teaching them to work for the Master.
In addition to these three main components, here are more practical ideas to bring life to your Sabbath School:
Make Sabbath School attractive and engaging
- Include prayer sessions as part of Sabbath School; perhaps a special prayer session 15 to 30 minutes before Sabbath School begins. Make it meaningful and exciting.
- Keep the Sabbath School program simple, spiritual, and relevant. Each Sabbath could be like an evangelistic meeting with an attractive, well-planned program. This approach will definitely improve Sabbath School attendance.
- Establish TMI—Total Member Involvement—Sabbath School groups. These groups will meet during the week in addition to Sabbath morning.
- Develop a strong mission emphasis.
One way to do this is through the Mission Spotlight program. These free videos can be downloaded from am.adventistmission.org/mission-spotlight. The inspiring stories will help promote mission offerings that are so needed throughout the world.
Declare one day each quarter “Friends Day”
- Set a goal of 10 to 50 friends attending, the number depending on church size. Some churches can aim for 100 friends.
- Every friend who comes to church that Sabbath will get a gift—such as a book or a magazine—and a meal.
- Offer one-day seminars on several relevant topics: family, finances, fitness, friendship.
Sabbath School must be important to you as a pastor if it is going to be important to your members. As you pray, plan, and implement these ideas, you will discover the Holy Spirit breathing new life into your Sabbath School and into your church and empowering you to guide your congregation in the process of spiritual and numerical growth