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Why the Church Needs Sabbath School — 66 Comments

  1. I agree with much of what you said. I have promoted Sabbath School many years. I schedule the teachers in each class. As you have noticed I'm sure, changes have made a drastic impact on our membership. I am a terrible saver. I have quarterlies from 2004 at least. The changes that some pastors engage in is more as I would classify as entertainment. We have changed over the years the lesson time occupies a full hour rather than the preliminaries from past decades. As you have noted sadly enough, some members opt to omit Sabbath school but do attend the church service. The class that I attend is for the older generation,and we have mentioned some of the same observations as you. Our hind sight from the distant past is somewhat startling .

    • Thanks Paul, I find that the majority of attendees are seniors. In many churches only seniors will be in place when Sabbath school begins. We've got work to do. Thanks!

      • I find what Curtis says to be true at our church. I also find that the beginning of the SS after the song service tend to be nothing but a time for someone to get up and preach a short sermon. I along with a retired SDA minister think that the time would be better spent in the lesson study. How would you suggest we that we get the church board to go along with deleting everything except the song service and have a longer lesson study time. Also do any other readers think this would help?

        • Ronald, I understand your frustration. If right now you are getting short sermons, would you not just be getting longer sermons if you deleted everything but song service? It sounds like there needs to be some teacher facilitation training.

          I sometimes visit a church that has no preliminaries. It loses a little in a sense of community (no mission reports, class features, etc). I don't mind preliminaries as long as they're done right and not made the main focus of our SS time. The core of why we gather should always be Bible study.

          I'll be interested in hearing what others think as well. Thanks!

          • Too many preliminaries will destroy the power of a sermon or SS class(loose paraphrase from GW). The SS school is just that, a school. The object is the study to learn, not to be entertained. There is too much "entertainment", but most enjoy it since the past few generations have been influenced by the worldly ways and now feel it is needed. In the meanwhile, many are lacking even a basic knowledge of God's Word and our fundamental beliefs. Few can adequately defend the truth from error, or even detect error. For this reason, many errors have crept into our fellowships until they seem to be something else.

            As with Israel of old, we have the mixed multitude and their ways among us at every level, and though we increase in "numbers", it seems that few have the vision and focus of the pioneers who were led to build up this movement and herald it's urgent message to the world, while withdrawing from it's perilous influence.

            Concerning missions; I would love to see a weekly service just for that purpose, and not just reading someone else's experience, but training every member to have their own. Some good counsel exists for this subject. Still, the SS members can be encouraged to support missions, which the weekly meeting will help promote in practical ways. Imagine, congregations of active missionaries!

        • Hello Ronald,

          We have a small church and we keep everything simple. At 9:30 AM, we have song service, then a short mission story, mission offering and then lesson study. Our lesson study runs from 9:55 AM or 10 AM to 10:45 AM or 11 AM. We discuss and look at Bible verses and concepts from the lesson and try to make the ideas meaningful and understandable. Everyone contributes. As the teacher I do direct and make sure everyone reads Bible verses and everyone contributes.
          Maybe you need to get the church attendees to agree that such a format is helpful and then everyone bring the ideas to the church board.

  2. Thank you,am also an untrained teacher,was just asked to teach the Sabbath School,but am glad it has made me love to read the lesson and the Scriptures. If you have lessons for Sabbath School Teachers(on how to teach and make the lesson understandable)..

    • Also be sure to read, "Give them Something to Talk About" to help in preparation to teach.

      I suggest studying the lesson three times, each time with a prayer for the Holy Spirit's leading:
      1) Study to hear what God has to say to you in the lesson
      2) Study again to understand the author's main point in the lesson. (That may be different from the message directed at you.)
      3) Study again to see the main lesson(s) important to your class. This will usually be the main point in the lesson, but it may be a particular aspect of the main point. And you may know things about class members that will make some things less or more important than others.

      Then write down the questions that will lead your class to conclude what you would like them to conclude, based on your Spirit-led study. After a while you'll become good at this, and you won't be thrown off when classes veer in a different direction. Something is not "off-topic" if it addresses the needs of one or more class members. However, don't let yourself be drawn into someone's truly off-topic hobby horse or negative thinking. When you meet that, you can just say, "That's an interesting thought, and I'll be happy to discuss this with you after our services." The point is NOT to be drawn into an argument, but to defuse it by suggesting dialogue AFTER the class.

      • From time to time I have been asked to teach a SS class. I have done tons of preparations including powerpoints, props, etc. But nothing has been as effective as using the simple Bible-based outline from Hope Sabbath School. Every single time that I have followed that simple outline (which btw totally aligns with the SS lesson) members comment on what a blessing the study has been.

        • Thank you for sharing your experience.

          And watching the Hope Sabbath School presentation is excellent Sabbath School teacher training as well. Note that the teacher consistently encourages class participation and does not lecture.

          I'm wondering whether their PowerPoint Bible texts are put up on the fly by a very good PPT operator. It is helpful for a TV audience. But PowerPoint is not necessary in a local Sabbath School. In fact, it seems to me that a PPT presentation would be a handicap in teaching your own Sabbath School class because it would prevent you from reacting and going with the flow of a local discussion.

          In my experience, I have learned something from class members every time I have taught a Sabbath School class. And I think we should aim for that result by asking the Holy Spirit to inspire all of us - class members and teachers alike - so we can learn from each other. It works for me and our class, and if you try it, I believe it will work for you and your class.

          • Didn't Jesus use "Power Point"? The power of pointing to a simple illustration (sowing seeds, buying a pearl, finding a treasure, helping a dying man along the road) that would make a powerful point stick in the minds of people and bring the Truth within the grasp of even a child.

            Truly, a Teacher worthy of the title.

          • Not at all, Robert! 🙂 Jesus was not tied to a screen and technology, which can be merely distracting if not done extremely well.

            (I recognize the point you are making, and I agree with it, but my point is that technology is not necessary and may be a hindrance at times.)

            Jesus drew verbal moving pictures of ordinary life and drew lessons from them for His audience. We can still do the same wherever we are, and we don't have to be tied to technology either.

            By its nature, PowerPoint is ideal for lectures, and that's what it's designed for. It's seldom helpful in a moving discussion, unless particular illustrations are held ready to be used or not used. And I believe our Sabbath School classes should normally be moving discussions that are adaptable to member needs.

            • I got your point, Robert. Yes, Christ's illustrations were better than "PowerPoint." 🙂

              But your remark could be interpreted either way - as justification for PowerPoint presentations or to say that electronic PowerPoint presentations are not needed. And I suppose that either interpretation is good, depending on the situation. I just wanted to emphasize that Sabbath School classes may not be the best place to use electronic PowerPoint presentations. 🙂

              Electronic communication leaves much to be desired - especially when there's no face-to-face to go with it, as on this blog ...

              A Happy Sabbath to you! 🙂

    • Mandla I am glad that you have the opportunity to help moderate a Sabbath School class. The main function is to allow class participation with questions and discussions, and the Quarterly as a guide. I coordinate 8 different leaders in two classes on a rotating basis. I feel that allows a different perspective and style, that is more appealing to all of the members. As I have said before, Sabbath School is an important portion, if not the most meaningful, of our entire church service.

  3. I would address one of the issues mentioned above, and ask Why would there be a lack of genuine interest in Sabbath School and it's main purpose: Bible study?

    "Because of iniquity, the love of many will wax cold". Can there be any other reason? Can there be a complete absence of iniquity in the life that shuns the Rest that Jesus promises to those who take His yoke upon themselves? Alone, we can only be sinners at best. Yes, the excuses always lay the blame on others, but the Bible tells us the true reason doesn't it? A revival of genuine faith in the life is the only remedy for many issues such as this. Such faith comes from an earnest searching of the Word of God in order to understand and follow it. Take the yoke, find the Rest. This will lead to the experience of exclaiming with the prophet; "Thy Words were found and I did eat them. And Thy Word was unto me the joy and rejoicing of my heart, for I am called by Thy name O LORD God of hosts!"

    I would also suggest that the Gift of teaching is given by the Spirit when it fills the life that is presented to God as a living sacrifice. The Spirit never comes without it's promised Fruit and Gifts. Employ all the "training" you might wish to provide, but without the Gift of the Spirit, what could be the only possible result? Learn/teach how to receive the Spirit. Believe the promises of God and act in faith.

    • I know a lot of people who do not attend Sabbath School and I hesitate to even suggest that their reason for not attending is iniquity. I agree that there is a general downward trend in Sabbath School attendance and that some of that may be attributed to lack of spirituality. On the other hand, in our area, I have seen a number of small groups spring up that meet together for the dual purpose of Bible study and socialization on week-day evenings. They choose to do so because they like the informality of such meetings and the abiility to choose topics that are relevant to them.

      I myself am a great believer in Sabbath School and enjoy the camaraderie of a good discussion with fellow believers but I am also aware that the traditional Sabbath School format and selection of topics does not suit everyone.

      Part of the problem is that we have this "one-size-fit-all" mentality and do not allow for individual, and even collective differences. I remember the time when the South Pacific Division produced their own Sabbath School Lessons and actually had them printed before a certain higher power stepped in and said that they could not do that. I managed to get hold of one of the offending Lesson Study Guides and was amazed that anyone could find fault in it.

      Jeremiah 16:16 has a very interesting idea that needs to be considered in relationship to Sabbath School:

      "Behold, I will send for many fishers, saith the Lord, and they shall fish them; and after will I send for many hunters, and they shall hunt them from every mountain, and from every hill, and out of the holes of the rocks."

      There is nothing wrong with varying the methods that we use to encourage Bible study.

      • Maurice, you shared some really good points. Certainly, one size does not fit all. What I hope teachers realize is that regardless of the published lesson topic, there is a way to craft the discussion in a way that makes it relevant and useful to the class members. As teachers, our job is not just to recite back the contents of the quarterly. Let's find the theme of the lesson, hear what God is placing on our hearts, and build our discussions around that. There is no law that says a teacher must teach by following the lesson guide daily outline. On the contrary, I encourage all teachers to move away from rereading the quarterly lesson to their class. Let's be more intentional about Bible study, not lesson review. Thanks

      • Let me point back to my comment above, and the fact I commented only on the matter of interest, not attendance. (Due to circumstances I cannot control, I don't "attend" a physical class at this time, yet my interest is great and increases with each lesson)

        Our personal interest will not be dictated by any teacher or class, but by our own interest in the things of God. Only sin can separate us from God and His Word, and not anything/anyone else. If we love only one thing of this world more than God, our interest in His Word will die. Eve was perfect in every way except in coveting a forbidden fruit. Look at our world as a result. One little thing can bring eternal death, which starts with departing from the Word of God and running to hide when it comes near to us.

        Sin kills any interest in God's Word. (sure, many sin and still love to debate, ponder theories and such, but personal interest/study that leads to forsaking sin and living to serve God with the whole heart will die if one sin is cherished)

    • Robert, the enemy of man will do all he can to make Bible study seem unnecessary and not very enjoyable. I realize that members in the classes I lead may not have opened their Bibles all week. That is between them and God. However, I want to use every opportunity I have to present the beauty of the scriptures to those who are in class. If I can be a force of one to make the Bible relevant with just my class, that will go a long way to helping others to find the beauty in its study. We, as teachers, certainly need more of the Spirit. As a result of being more Christlike we can't help but draw others to Him. Our classes should be as a light on a hill, not pointing people to us, but to Him. Thanks.

  4. What if a different class member was assigned the lesson each week. Let that member direct the class with his or her guidance of fellow students

    • Bev, in response to Mandla, I mentioned the method that I use, is our 8 Sabbath School leaders are scheduled to lead out in two separate classes on a rotating basis. This allows for variety of interest and participation.

  5. Curtis, I decided to track the wider discussion to discover whether the burden I shared under your topic "Give them something to talk about" is being explored elsewhere.

    I really appreciate your heart felt emphasis on the meaning of Sabbath School in study the Word of God. You are correct that the agenda and culture of the SDA Church on Baptisms for growth/increased in membership is so absorbing that it dwarfs the developing an agenda or culture for growth in Jesus Christ.

    In Evangelism, as with Sabbath school, the preacher or teacher (or priest) is the studious authority on the Word of God. The result? An intelligent 48 yr old who is very studious and innovative in his profession of air conditioning recently shared his reason for not attending Church for a few months: he found an SDA teacher who is incredibly beyond anyone he has ever heard, and have been attending the Bible studies taught by this Bible Teacher. What was he learning? Among other "truth": The Holy Spirit is a part of God and Jesus Christ. There is only God the Father and God the Word. There is no person called the Holy Spirit.

    You stated your burden well in the paragraph on "done right": "Done right, it would lead to church growth and mission. Done right, it would give us guidance on how to make an impact in our lives, homes, and communities. But it’s the done right part that seems so vexing."

    So what is "done right" that would lead to "church growth and mission"? The definition of the goal "church growth" consequently defines "done right". So we are back to a quantitative/numerical factor: number of baptisms. Checkmate (never mind chess symbolism)!

    I agree that the cultural vision is blurred, that Pastors do not give equal emphasis to SS, that teachers are not adequately prepared, that SS membership in most places is often less than 50% of Divine service membership. Is "done right" discussed in those issues?

    Curtis, your presentation included a 'bull's eye'/'checkmate'quote from the Spirit of Prophecy that answers what is "done right":
    “If Christians would earnestly search the scriptures more hearts would burn with the vivid truths therein revealed. Their hopes would brighten with the precious promises strewn like pearls all along through the sacred writings."

    Amjahd's comment under "Give them something to think about", and Maurice in this discussion directly responded to this imperative: God's people need to be studying the Word of God. Teachers must be prepared, but the genius of Sabbath School is not continued acculturation into dependence on the genius Teacher or genius Pastor, according to the Word of God: "Study to show thyself approved unto God". The means every single member of the Church.

    So how does the Church, from GC to Pastor to SS Teacher to Member, respond to God's imperative?
    Can we share not only thoughts, but God's Word and quotes from the Spirit of Prophecy?

    • Hurford, you shared a lot to digest but let me just respond to the teacher portion right now. We, as teachers, must be Bible students/readers. I honestly believe that being a Bible teacher is just as much a blessing to the teacher as the students because if we are sincere about our role, we must study our Bibles to prepare. Preparation is more than using a highlighter to underline passages in a quarterly. It's studying the theme of the lesson, deciding on a takeaway for the class and building appropriate question to guide the class from beginning to end.

      One of our goals is that as we share Bible truths we will help those who perhaps rarely open their Bibles, to do so during class and learn something. As a teacher, I only lead my classes with my Bible. I study the quarterly thoroughly but when I stand up to teach, it is with my Bible only. I strongly encourage all teachers to teach in this manner. To do so takes a lot of preparation but the rewards both for the teacher and class, are well worth the effort.

      • Yes! And when using Ellen as part of the preparation study, don't bring long quotes, but rather, bring the thought from Scripture, as Ellen has urged all to do when presenting Truth. Knowing your class members well helps in preparation and more prayer than study is vital.

  6. I once joined a class where the members were loud and out of control each trying be heard at the same time and the lesson always got out of control as soon as it started. I began to pray for this class and at the same time i diligently studied the lessons. And God gave me a lot of insights that every time i spoke the class would freeze for i always had something deep to teach. By and by that class was transformed that when i left that church it was one of the best behaved and well organized classes at that church. So let us pray for our classes and let us study diligently, a class where people are learning will always be interesting. I also agree that in many churches the leadership does not pay much attention to what goes on in the classes. Some elders during Sabbath school are seen calling each other and organizing other things which they pay more attention to. It is also good to have a teachers meeting where teachers would meet to discuss the weeks lesson before going for classes, but above all we must pray for our classes and for individual members in our class. We will surely see the hand of God. Let us remember we have an enemy who works even from within us.

  7. This is an interesting discussion- but let's not presume that some do not attend SS due to lack of interest. I am carer for my husband and at the present time it is only possible to leave him alone for a couple of hours.
    This gives me time to usually attend church as SS is too early for me to get away. I would dearly love to attend but have had to be innovative and find other ways to be involved. I get up at 6am and spend an hour every morning in studying SS lesson and reading the comments left by others, Sabbath morning I watch the Hope SS on Youtube and Sabbath afternoon I watch some of the sermons on Youtube that are posted by different churches. So I may be a member of the biggest SS class of all!!!
    This forum is a life line for me, it gives me fresh points of view, I feel involved as though I even know some of the regular contributors. So many thanks and may others who may be in a similar situation to me avail themselves of the technology that brings SS right into the home. God bless all.

    • Attendance and lack of interest are not always related. I think some took my comment as addressing both, but I only addressed lack of interest, as a close reading will confirm. Many will attend(out of duty?) while having/showing no interest at all. Sometimes we cannot find a truly beneficial class, but never should that affect interest of those who love the Lord and cherish His Word. Hope SS has become a blessing for many who live where a Spirit-led, Bible-based class is difficult to find. God has provided for those who are very interested while in difficult circumstances.

  8. I'm not a big fan of "teaching" people how to be "teachers." This presumes that man has something spiritual to impart to others. I often LEAD Sabbath School class but don't consider myself a "teacher." The Teacher is the Holy Spirit and before I begin to lead the study, I always invite the real Teacher to join us and to lead us to all truth.

    The effective disciples and missionaries in historic times were not generally the priests and Ph.D.'s of the day but fisherman, tax-collectors and misfits (like me). We presume too much when we think we "save" others by "teaching" them about Jesus when in fact it is entirely the work of the Holy Spirit who convicts, teaches and leads us to ALL truth (John 16:13). Submission to the Holy Spirit will make us effective guides and leaders and this is what I aspire to when I lead a Sabbath School class.

    Everything we do to help others know Jesus better should always point to Him, not us.

    • Sieg, I'm curious how you interpret these verses (just to name a few):
      Matthew 28:20 Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you
      Acts 15:35 Paul also and Barnabas continued in Antioch, teaching and preaching the word of the Lord, with many others also.
      Colossians 1:28 Whom we preach, warning every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom; that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus:

      • Hi Curtis. Without the Holy Spirit, we can't teach anyone anything besides human folly. The disciples realized this at Pentecost. When will we finally realize this?

      • I find agreement in the points each of you are making. Jesus taught the disciples how to be effective witnesses, Paul taught Timothy and Titus those things that would make them better pastor/teachers. Yet, the bulk of the teaching in the passages your shared Curtis are teaching the Gospel to the lost, and not about specifically teaching teachers, though it is not excluded.

        I believe what Sieg is referring to is the oft emphasis on methods/gimmicks vs teaching how to be filled with the Spirit and Word of God through personal surrender and effort toward studying to show one's self approved unto God. Teaching is a gift of the Spirit, and the formal training, when needed, should always acknowledge this with more than a mere mention at best, and all instruction will keep this aspect in sharp focus, teaching the soul to exercise faith in the promises of God, and not placing all their trust in men.

        There is a balance between what both of you are saying.

        • Yes Robert, I understood Sieg's opening remark about teaching teachers. I also perceived a reluctance to use the term teachers. I understand the role that the Holy Spirit must play in anything we do. However, that does not negate that there are teachers who teach. That doesn't take away anything from the spiritual reality. While I do agree that we need to increase our ability to be "facilitators", we should embrace the role as teachers and plan to teach, not just coordinate. Thanks

          • Thanks Curtis and Robert for your insightful comments. I believe we are largely in agreement. My major point echoes Robert’s comments inasmuch as teaching is a gift from God (1 Cor. 12:28-30) and when we allow the Holy Spirit to use us to "teach" others, it is the Holy Spirit, not human-trained teachers that are witnessing and discipling (Matt 10:20).

            I am uncomfortable with the implication that with proper training, anyone can be a "teacher." This presumes that man, not God, bestows the gift of teaching. Can we likewise train others how to prophecy?

            We are clearly shown (1 Cor. 12:29-30) that God decides who can teach ("Are all apostles? are all prophets? are all teachers? are all workers of miracles? Have all the gifts of healing? do all speak with tongues? do all interpret?").

            God bestows gifts (e.g., prophecy, teaching, speaking in tongues). In humbleness, we surrender to being used by the Holy Spirit to use these God-given gifts for His glory. We can't create or train teachers any more than we can create or train prophets. Just think of the error much or world believes because of the "teachers" that were chosen and trained by man.

            My reluctance to the use of the term "teachers" reflected only my discomfort with assuming that we, not God, can choose them, train them and make them fit for His use.

          • I wonder whether it might not be more helpful to have class "facilitators" rather than "teachers." This might be helpful for several reasons:
            1) Too many people have the idea that "teachers" ought to lecture or at least be fountains of wisdom. This thought tends to create a lecture/listener atmosphere.
            2) Since teaching is listed as one of the "differing" gifts of the Spirit, it follows that not everyone has the gift to teach - a fact that is painfully evident in too many Sabbath School classes.
            3) I believe people can be taught to "facilitate" a Sabbath School class. A good teacher may be able to do more that a good facilitator, but class members will most certainly gain more from a good facilitator than a poor "teacher." (I believe all good teachers will facilitate discussion to some degree.)
            4) I like the term "facilitator" because the idea of drawing others out to express their ideas is intrinsic in the term. It doesn't give the false idea that the "teacher" is to be the fount of wisdom while class members listen.
            5) I don't like the term "coordinator" nearly as well because, to me, it gives the idea of simply coordinating the sharing of class members without the added idea of consciously drawing out the members and guiding the discussion towards a goal. I have seen too many "coordinated" classes that did not seem to have a point or purpose other than to let everyone speak. While that is usually preferable to a monologue, genuine facilitation of a discussion with a purpose is much better.

            What do you think, Curtis. Can we compromise on "facilitator"?

          • Well stated Inge. I think this may be one of the problems only alluded to above. To wit, Sabbath School classes that are boring, uninspired, poorly attended or lacking in participation may result from making "teachers" of those who don't have that particular gift. Often and for a variety of reasons, the people who are asked to lead Sabbath School class or preach simply aren't gifted in that area.

            It is often quite easy to see who has the gift of preaching and who doesn't and is just filling in because the Pastor is unavailable. This is not to say that these people aren't gifted in other areas as surely they are as a member of the body (1 Cor. 12:12, 1 Cor. 12:14)).

            I think we error when, metaphorically speaking, we attempt to teach the "ear" to be an "eye" or the "hand" to fill in as a "foot" (1 Cor. 12:14-21).

            I like the idea of "facilitator" as well.

          • Inge, I agree with your summation. I encourage the term facilitator but in doing so, I want to emphasize that we should be teaching something - not just keeping conversations going.
            I view the superintendent's role as coordinator, but not the class leaders.

          • Inge, it is my personal view that teacher is the correct term and function, as long as it is understood as seen in the Example of Jesus and His methods. The wrong understanding of what a teacher is must be corrected with the proper understanding of this Gift. We can never spend too much time learning of Jesus, and through surrender of our will to His, may reflect more and more of His likeness, claiming the promises of God and crucifying self. Only when self is fully resigned can the Holy Spirit enable it to fulfill the will of God as a teacher in the manner of Christ. The gift of teaching, when genuine, cannot be hid. It will reveal itself in the manner of Christ who "made Himself of no reputation", but lived to serve others. A teacher is a servant of God for the purpose of saving souls for the kingdom. Any other motive will fail of the gift, no matter how well "trained" by men. The Holy Spirit alone can impart this gift, and in the process may use others to help refine it.

            Those who are gifted by the Spirit to stand as teachers stand in the place of Jesus, and will be enabled to benefit others as He did. Yes, a true teacher will be a facilitator of learning, but not limited to that role. (In my thinking, a facilitator for a class would be one who makes sure the chairs are set up, heat/AC turned on as needed, the podium and mic(if needed for a larger class), the whiteboard(if used) the powerpoint program ready to go when needed and the remote in the teacher's possession, etc, leaving the teacher to focus on their task without undue distractions.)

            Not wanting to have a discussion over the meaning of words only, but Jesus was called "teacher" and has commissioned His witnesses to "teach" others to observe all He has commanded them, and teaching is among the gifts He has given the church, which we must seek to utilize to the utmost.

            p.s. I have attended "discussion" classes which were nothing more than chitchat sessions of "well I think...", instead of "God's word says...". I have heard strange things presented as acceptable because God's Word was left entirely out of the discussion as people consulted their own feelings and preferences.

  9. Sabbath Greetings! I'm so thankful for this forum. I know that there are some members who have genuine reasons for not attending Sabbath School(those who give emergency care/care for love ones etc.). But as to the points that were made earlier; there are members who'll sleep in late and come to divine service. I think this kind of routine is evident of our spiritual connection. I'm not judging but if we have to go to work we'll make the effort but most times we give God our "leftovers".
    This forum has been a blessing for me. My motive for attending SS has changed because I realized that I'm the one benefiting. As much as I may contribute with my points, I'm learning from here as well as others in my class. As my brother stated earlier- prayer is a key ingredient. Additionally, the enemy is at work to thwart the work of God. I've not met anyone from this forum on a face basis but I've come to know the "Regulars" and each have a way of coming across with points that causes me/us to think and even dig deeper in the word.
    For the most part anything any of us contribute here will witness for or against us because we are been used for the cause of God.
    I can say that when I came here first I was going thru a very dark period in my life and as SS Teacher I lost interest-not wanting to teach but as I continue to tap in every week I got stronger and look forward to the pearl of truths and now everyone here is my family.
    In any work of God our priority must be in alignment with the leading of the HolySpirit- Without God we can do nothing! Blessings!

    • Thank you so much for sharing, Nikki!

      For those of us who regularly contribute our time and effort to make this blog what it is, testimonies like yours make it all worthwhile. 🙂

      May you continue to grow in the Lord until you reach full maturity in reflecting the character of Christ.

  10. I have been a class teacher/discussion leader on and off and in different countries due to my travel.

    Being a teacher is very beneficial to your own spiritual growth but that is if you read the bible, study the lesson and pray for discernment. With this my best time was when I taught (that word again) baptism class for four years in a row. Each year as I read the lesson and the bible and worked with my classes I learnt much and kept adding notes to the teacher's manual, so much that in the end I could make up a sermon anytime with the help of my manual for bible doctrines! That is, I benefited greatly spiritually.

    Teaching adult class is a challenge largely because most members do not read let alone study the lesson, even when study guides are freely given or are available on line. Most members do not prepare, and some feel they know it all already. Thus, the distinction earlier stated between attendance and interest is deep. The best time I have had with adult class was when I lead a group that also met during the week for bible study. Most came prepared and I was able to use the Hope SS lesson guide effectively with them. I tried that in another church; it did not work as most members came to class having not read the lesson, and expecting a lecture.

    In one country my class teacher would ask us to close the study guide and focus on four or so questions he would have prepared from the lesson. It made us all read the lesson and it was wonderful. So as a discussion leader and class member I see that when we all read the lesson it helps to focus on key messages or questions in the lesson, making it more interesting. By the way, there are many other churches now who read our study guides!! A good thing, and hopefully one that will inspire us to read it. Imagine if such asked you a question from your own publication and you had no clue!!

    • Godfrey, you mentioned the challenge teachers have because their students do no study the lesson. I want to suggest that a teacher should never teach in a way that is dependent upon the attendees studying the material beforehand. Teachers should teach/facilitate in a way that if a stranger walked in off of the street, the discussion would be easy to follow and understandable. As teachers, we have to shift away from depending on the quarterly DURING the class discussion (I study it thoroughly to prepare). We should develop a teaching plan that relies on using our Bibles (alone) to go through the points of interest of the weekly lesson. Sabbath school/ Bible study, must be more than a recitation of the daily lessons. I call that just repeating what we already know to people who already know it. It's ok to approach our lesson study time in a different way 🙂

  11. A simple plan of engagement is to ask particular class members to have a few thoughts to present on a particular part of the lesson prepared beforehand. Delegation is a very useful tool for encouraging involvement and encourages study during the week.

    We also need to spare a thought for those who have hearing/speech difficulties where involvement is difficult. I cannot take part in Sabbath School lesson discussions now because of loss of hearing. I still go and listen as intently as I can, but I often miss the nuance of a discussion as it switches from one participant to another. It is one of the frustrations of inheriting a family weakness!

    • There are several sites on the Internet that give some history of the development of the Sabbath School (Google: Sabbath School History). The general consensus appears to be that James White started them off as a replacement and extension of the idea of Sunday School. As far as having it before the Church Service is concerned; I think that just grew. I don't think there is anything sacrosanct about having it before the church service. I know of several congregations who do it the other way around and apart from upsetting the local conference leaders, they have functioned like that for many years. I know of some churches who have tried to change the order and met with considerable opposition simply because it upset the status quo. There may be very good reasons for either changing or not changing the order, but none of them are seriously spiritual issues.

    • I am going to address the question from the perspective of the history of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. As most of our readers recognize, our church grew out of the Millerite movement and the subsequent disappointment when Christ did not return in October 22, 1944.

      After this disappointment, most believers went back to their former churches and renounced their former belief in the soon return of Jesus. Some even renounced their belief in Christ. But a small core of believers could not deny the leading of the Holy Spirit in their lives. They were deeply disappointed and puzzled why Jesus did not come when they expected. So they began to study the Bible together in earnest in their homes. They did not have a church or a church service (which is how we tend to designate a service characterized by prayer and preaching). After a while bands of believers met in various places with the same object of studying the Bible together. And some of those who had studied longest went around to these various groups meeting in homes to share what they had learned.

      When the Seventh-day Adventist Church was finally organized in 1860, the habit of studying the Bible together in groups was firmly established. In fact a regular Sabbath School had already been organized in 1853 by James White. Thus this practice, which paralleled the Sunday Schools in other churches was naturally incorporated into the weekly Sabbath services.

      There's an interesting series of articles beginning with this one:

      I think it might be well to consider whether a different plan might work better in some areas. For instance, parents with young children might find it easier to attend a praise and preaching service followed by Sabbath School, because it's easier for children to sit still earlier in the day when they can look forward to Sabbath School with various activities.

      Now I'm going to ask you a question, Eunice: What do you think of the plan of group study before a praise and preaching service every Sabbath?

  12. I've been thinking about the wide variety I've observed in the order of services as I've traveled and aged. I have no opinion, just questions. My thought was that there is no right or wrong here because, as you've explained, much of what is done is based on tradition. I'm sad to see comments that equate attendance with sincerity or desire to know God.

  13. I have been a teacher off and on for over 20 years. One time I got to church and was given a paper telling me I had to go through the whole lesson (each day). I could spend 7 minutes on each day. Normally I pray for the Holy Spirit to lead and guide us. I told the pastor I could not do that this week because if the Holy Spirit impressed someone to speak at 6 3/4 minutes, I would have to cut them off because we had to be on to the next days lesson. Guess what? The rules were changed. You can not tell the Holy Spirit what time it can impress people what to say.

    • Gordon, that's the first time I've heard of a request like that. I'm glad that was determined to be unreasonable. That would be equivalent to telling a preacher he could only spend x amount of time on a particular part of his sermon.

  14. I have had a similar experience to Gordon Simanton. When I first started teaching about 3 years ago, I worked out I only had 6 minutes to cover a day's lesson to allow for a possible congregation comment. I asked the senior deacon if this was right, he merely said 'there is not much time' That was the only 'instruction' I have ever had for Sabbath School! Godbless today too. A Stolz

  15. A couple of times it has been mentioned about having enough time to get through each day's lesson. There is no rule that says that must be done. Actually, there are no rules. Please don't feel locked into "reviewing" each day's lesson with your class. Turn your class into a real Bible study by using the theme of the lesson and developing questions you can use for the discussion. Ask good questions, get multiple answers, have members read verses you determine appropriate and then discuss those verses by asking related questions. Simply trying to follow the daily lesson plan when leading a class is often too predictable and many times boring. Yes?

  16. Curtis, judging by all the comments, I believe you have hit a church people 'nerve'.
    I have experienced negativity when I was baptised into the SDA church. It seemed to me the Pastor just regarded me as a statistic for his benefit only. Never once was I asked if I had any questions, how I was feeling, or any such thing after baptism. It has been a very lonely and unsettling experience. I am amazed that I am as an untrained person in the position to teach/lead Sabbath school where I live. I stand before a captive audience (those that are present) with again, no support from the Pastor/s in any way, for any of us. Another very lonely experience: I am very glad that one of our younger Informational Technology smart church members introduced me to Sabbath School Net. I found this forum for myself, and all the wonderful resources it has.

    So I wonder if the Pastors’ initial seminary training has been with the wrong focus. Have they been trained to believe they are to be ‘all wise and knowledgeable’ and do all the talking and explaining? When I really wonder if they should have been trained and concentrate, to make US – their congregation – to be ‘all wise and knowledgeable’ and to do all the talking and explaining to each other, our families, neighbours, and communities’! I think there is a wide scope her, before or after service. Sabbath School is an excellent place to start. Godbless today, Mrs A Stolz.

    • Mrs. Stolz, I'm sorry to hear about your experience. I wish it was an isolated case. I'm glad to know you are doing what you can with what you have. God is certainly blessing your efforts and commitment.

      You touch on the role our leader's and I don't know the origin, but I know the reality is that we have placed our pastors on pedestals that are not in anyone's best interest. Many churches cannot make a move or decision unless directed by the pastor. Whatever the pastor emphasizes, that is what the church does. In the best case scenario, that still creates an atmosphere of dependency on a man. From the pastor's viewpoint, I imagine that load is often hard to bear.

      I do wish our universities would have a course on the importance and relevance of Sabbath school. Maybe that would at least put it on the radar.

      I'm glad you found this site. Thanks for stopping by.

      • Even a causal reading of "Gospel Workers" and/or "Testimonies to Ministers" will reveal our present peril. I have no idea how it has become like this, only that it has. You both speak to a real concern, and I pray there will be a generation of pastors who know their God-given work and faithfully perform it. In the meanwhile, God raises up individuals who will carry forward the work of "pastoring" His precious flock.

  17. i am glad of the discussion and i really learn something. as for my opinion, not attending Sabbath school or just coming for the divine service is not good. we should make ourself an example to our children.

  18. I may have been misunderstood in my earlier comment: I did not suggest that SS be deleted only take the time to ADD to the lesson study time. ie. 9:15 start song service, then have prayer and a few minutes for welcome, tell where the lesson study groups meet then separate for study, thus adding 10 to 15 minutes, or more, to class study. More time is needed for true discussion. The programs now are why many don't come. This time could be used to increase the time for group discussion and more time for the teachers to help others to understand what they were supposed to study during the week. Getting members to study is the real problem which is the sign of the times that Jesus is Coming SOON!

    • Ronald, I am not sure if this will answer your question but in our church we have several options run as small groups. eg Regular Sabbath School; and several groups that run with no preliminaries what so ever - just lesson study for the whole time. While I enjoy the group I belong to, I recognise that a) it does not suit everyone, and b) it does not address the apparent general malaise of fewer people attending or actively being involved in Sabbath School.

      The one initiative that I have seen that holds some hope is where members of a group actively decide on what and how they are going to study and organise some preparation by group members for the next week. If that idea could take root it has some potential but it would be the end of the "one lesson for the whole world" approach that we now have.

      • Maurice, I like that options are offered and people are allowed to choose what they might prefer. The last fellowship I attended regularly never allowed (the small core group who controlled all that was done) even a 2nd class as an alternative to the main class with rotating teachers, some of which often spent much or most of the lesson time on pet subjects and would start the actual lesson study 5 minutes before time to end class to prepare for worship. There were other issues as well that too often were given more "air time" than the lesson or the opposing position(which happens to be the official Church's position). It's sad that the SS class is too often discouraging and disappointing to attend. I realize, at least in part, why we remain on this sinful world, simply from the condition of too many SS's. It's not the only reason, but isn't this a valid measure of our condition overall?

        As for groups organizing to study "something else", why not, but why not at another time, while keeping the unity that the SS lesson gives us? When traveling, it's nice to fit right in with the lesson being discussed. Also, I have felt strongly that God is leading His church in a specific way through the lessons provided(IF they are truly studied diligently, and not just read and the author's/editor's opinions merely accepted without proving them). God is in this manner proving every professed believer.

        I am in a group that meets every Tuesday evening to study Daniel and the Revelation. If we did that on Sabbath we would be missing the timely lessons the rest of the world church is studying. If "our own time"(Who gives it to us?) is too precious to give up for the Lord's work, are we honestly His Servants?

  19. I have been involved in teaching/leading SS classes for 40+ years. I presently attend and weekly participate in a large (60-100) class led by a "facilitator". Last Sabbath he didn't get to Sunday's lesson with all of the general questions & comments. The local conference has Sabbath school training seminars every 3 months..which are attended by a small percentage of Sabbath school teachers. When I lead a class, I tell the class to consider the class as a spiritual potluck and encourage them to look at the lesson and bring one point that is impressive or puzzling. My experience also is that pastors do not mentor Sabbath school teachers. I would say to let the mission emphasis be just 1 Sabbath a month (Mission Spotlight or a NON boring mission story)Maximize the class time. Sing just first & last stanzas of hymns, and make sure the piano player does not have iron poor blood (slow). I usually see that people don't show up until class time which is a hint.
    Think about this.. with 7000 waking minutes each week and where most spend almost all of that time with worldly events, what kind of appetite do SDA members have for bible or SS lesson study?
    Statistic show that 90% of churchgoers have never read the whole bible once in their lives.
    One of the most memorable & joyful events in my life was when I substituted, a few years ago, for the main teacher and a middle aged lady visitor came up after the class and told me that my class, that Sabbath, was the best she had ever heard in her life.


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