Church growth, discipleship, and retention are topics of vital interest today. As a pastor, you continue to look for ways of growing your church as well as discipling and retaining the members you have. While much helpful material is available on these topics, I believe one of the best, most effective (but often overlooked) tools in growing and maintaining a vibrant, healthy, missional, active church is the Sabbath School.
Sabbath School offers a time of growing together unlike any other. It’s a time for singing, sharing, learning about mission both in our local communities and abroad, fellowship, and studying the Bible together. It should be a time of interaction, encouragement, and growth for everyone—from the youngest to the most senior member or guest.
One of my fondest memories of Sabbath School was when I was in the junior class at the Seventh-day Adventist church in Takoma Park, Maryland. I remember numerous people who invested so much time into our young lives. We had people assisting us with investment projects and donating money to help us. We had a Sabbath School orchestra in which many of us participated every Sabbath morning.
My favorite time was the Sabbath School lesson study, taught by a superb teacher, Harry Baerg. Mr. Baerg was an artist at the Review and Herald who specialized in nature and illustrated animal stories. He always had wonderful illustrations from nature for us during our lesson study, and he made a strong impact on my young life.
I thank God for dedicated Sabbath School teachers who are investing in both young and older lives. Their investment is not forgotten, and we thank the Lord for these wonderful teachers who are sharing their talents each Sabbath.
Sabbath School is a vital aspect of evangelism and is of benefit to all ages.
“The Sabbath school,” we are told, “should be one of the greatest instrumentalities, and the most effectual, in bringing souls to Christ.”1
If you have not already done so, I encourage every pastor to have a pastor’s Sabbath School class for those who are preparing for baptism or were recently baptized. The blessing of such a class can be tremendous.
Furthermore, we are reminded that during Sabbath School, we have a special privilege of cooperating with heavenly angels.
“There is a broad field in Sabbath school work, that needs to be diligently cultivated, and that is to inspire our youth to give themselves wholly to the Lord, to be used by Him in His cause. There should be zealous, faithful workers in our Sabbath schools, who will watch and discern upon whom the Spirit of God is moving, and cooperate with the angels of God in winning souls for Christ. There are sacred responsibilities entrusted to Sabbath school workers, and the Sabbath school should be the place where, through a living connection with God, men and women, youth and children, may be so fitted up that they shall be a strength and blessing to the church.”2
I am delighted that Ministry magazine is publishing this special issue focusing on the role of the pastor in Sabbath School. You, as a church leader, have the wonderful opportunity of guiding your church into recognizing the value of developing meaningful, inspiring, relevant Sabbath Schools filled with fellowship, interactive Bible study, mission, and more each week.
This, of course, is not always easy. It takes time, consistent effort, and dedication, but the rewards are well worth the investment! And through-out this special issue of Ministry, you will find a solid, biblical foundation, meaningful articles, and practical tools in helping you as a pastor to encourage your church in participating in this God-given way of learning, fellowshiping, and growing together as the family of God.
May the Lord bless you as you lead and encourage His flock to learn and grow in Him through the study of His Word, and the powerful influence of Sabbath School—it’s the heart of the church! “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Tim. 2:15, NKJV). So, pastor—where is your heart?
1 Ellen G. White, Counsels on Sabbath School Work (Washington, DC: Review and Herald, Pub. Assn., 1938), 10.
2 White, Counsels on Sabbath School Work, 11.