Saturday, April 21, 2012

Sabbath School/Sunday School: Should it continue?

The 2012 2nd Quarter Sabbath School Lesson 
Do you attend Sabbath school? Sunday School? If you don't attend or perhaps attend sparingly, why?
The reasons will vary and they may be legitimate or not but one thing is certain, it's not shocking nor new news. Sabbath school attendance has been steadily decreasing. Last year Barna published a series called The State of the Church  which stated, "Only one out of eight men (13%) attends such a meeting (sunday school) in a typical week." Women's involvement with Sunday school has decreased since 1991 to 17%.

I have attended Adventist churches from coast to coast, pastored for nearly 10 years now and grown up going to church and for that matter attending Sabbath school since I can remember. After saying all that, for the most part, once again I have personally noticed attendance has continued to plummet.

On any given Sabbath morning you can attend church during Sabbath school (usually at 9:30 or 10a.m.) and see a handful or two of people depending on the size of the church. Then when the worship service is shortly to begin you see many more begin to show up and even more once the worship service has begun.

So the question should be asked. Is Sabbath school viable? Is it serving its intended purpose? Do we even realize/know what the purpose of Sabbath school is?

Brief history/links of Sunday School & Sabbath School

Some may recall Sunday school was originally started to help young people who at the time (late 18th century early 19th) were working, as the educational system was not in place like it is today. These Sunday schools provided the education for these youths and also to adults.

If you have time read the wikipedia page regarding Sunday school.

Part of the history for Sabbath school can be found here. You can find the official Seventh-day Adventist Sabbath school/personal ministries site here.

Sabbath school seems to have been started as a place where a deeper study of the bible could be done. It eventually also became focused on helping a certain area of a mission field. (read the links above).

Sabbath school objectives:

Sabbath school originally had and still ideally has four main objectives.
1. Bible Study
2. Fellowship
3. Outreach
4. Missions

Thoughts and discussions points:
In taking a brief look at the history and objectives of Sabbath school every church needs to aks itself if Sabbath school is still succeeding with its intended objectives. In todays world many churches are implementing small groups with the same objectives but instead of meeting on Sabbath they meet during the week.

Obviously my church/denomination has invested a lot of time, money, and effort into developing Sabbath school resources, curriculum, and many other tools relegated to this ministry. One of the best things (in my opinion) they have done is create mobile apps and an ipad app for our quarterly lessons for free.

Sabbath school can be and has been a great place where children of all ages can learn about Jesus. Where great discussions have been had in the adult classes in regards to various bible truths. Yet the question still lingers why has attendance been decreasing?

Here's some of the reasons I've heard and or I've come to conclude why people don't attend Sabbath school.
1. They find it boring. (SS teachers aren't that good, can't control the discussions that either become to theological or very little in depth bible study.)
2. They may attend another bible study during the week, so why attend another on Saturday morning.
3. They can study the lesson on their own. They see the SS lesson as a devotional study. No need to discuss it with others.
4. They simply want to sleep in on their day off and come to church for the 'worship service' to 'hear the sermon.'
5. Lazy (not trying to be mean, but don't you think there's some truth to it?)
6. Spiritual apathy
7. Any combination of the above?

Conclusion & a few suggestions:
Though I'm not calling for Sabbath school to be done away with we must realize that the objectives for Sabbath school stated above, taken from the official website can be accomplished in different ways as a church other than Sabbath school. Again though this is NOT a call to do away with Sabbath school, we are to be good stewards of God's money and how we organize as a church. Since for most Adventist churches Sabbath school is still a very viable ministry, although attendance is showing that it may be on a life line in many places, we must re-evaluate this ministry (as we should all ministries) and its effectiveness.

A few suggestions:
1. Evaluate our Sabbath school teachers, how well they prepare and manage class room discussion.
2. Evaluate the children's division.
3. Have teachers get the email/phone numbers of the class to follow up when they don't come
4. Is your Sabbath school meeting the objectives (see above)
5. Perhaps seek to do a local mission project with your Sabbath school

So tell me what do you think about Sabbath school? Do you attend? Why or why not? How can it improve?


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