Sunday, January 27, 2013

The Perfect Sabbath School

Having posted
Steve's First Sabbath on Spectrum has generated some discussion. It is interesting that in their reposting they titled it "The Perfect Sabbath School: A Story" which tells you something about even the editor's view of Sabbath School. I didn't intend the story to be about the "perfect" Sabbath School class but just one that was working. We have a global Sabbath School crisis which revolves around a loss of identity and purpose.

Many people no longer attend adult Sabbath School. This is not because the people don’t need Sabbath School but because most Sabbath School leaders don’t know what needs Sabbath School is meant to meet. 

This story is not a new idea for Sabbath School. It is built on the four aspects of Sabbath School that are being taught on paper and in workshops by Sabbath School directors from the General right down to the local Conference.

The four aspects are: Fellowship, Outreach, Bible Study, and Mission. There are many ways to word these four things. In effect they are IN, OUT, UP and FAR OUT. I call them Nurture, Evangelism, Worship, and World - the “NEW World Sabbath School.”

The reason people are no longer coming to Sabbath School is because these four aspects have been lost sight of. In various churches different aspects are forgotten.

When Sabbath School leaders forget that Sabbath School is meant to be a place of nurture they avoid personal discussion because it “wastes time.” They don’t ask about people’s lives because the “people just talk about themselves instead of God’s Word!”

When Sabbath School leaders forget that Sabbath School is meant to be a launching pad for local evangelism they stop asking, “What acts of service have we done this week?” And when they stop asking, the people understand that those outreach activities are not important to Sabbath School. It’s not that people stop doing outreach, they just don’t talk about it. And the power of their testimony, both for them and the Sabbath School, is lost.

When Sabbath School teachers forget that Sabbath School is meant to be a time of holistic worship, they abandon the prelims. Singing together is gone. Reports of various kinds (drawing people together as a church) are gone. So far, I have not seen a Sabbath School that has abandoned Bible Study. This, as Adventists, is the one thing we hold on to with gusto. But without the rest of Sabbath School, it’s just another sermon.

When Sabbath School leaders forget that Sabbath School is meant to be about World Mission they stop showing Adventist Mission Videos (Mission Spotlight) and stop reading the mission story because it “wastes time.” If a missionary comes to town (or comes home) they give them a sermon slot instead of asking them to report during Sabbath School.

Many Sabbath Schools around the globe are rediscovering the power of being a holistic Sabbath School Class. They are valuing fellowship, outreach, Bible study and mission equally. They are becoming NEW World Sabbath School Classes. And they are finding that people are coming back to Sabbath School because they need it!

Sabbath School isn't meant to be perfect, just intentional.

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