I am writing from the beautiful Tampa Bay area, where my New Believers Sabbath School class loves to have class at parks near the beach sometimes.
The Sabbath school should be one of the greatest instrumentalities, and the most effectual, in bringing souls to Christ.-Ellen White, Counsels on Sabbath School Works, Page 10
A few seasoned Adventists think of Sabbath School as a place where they like to “spar” and debate with their fellow seasoned Adventist friends about the 144,000 being a symbolic or literal number, or whether Jesus came with a prelapsarian nature or postlapsarian nature. Surprisingly enough, that is not the purpose of Sabbath School. The purpose of Sabbath school is to introduce people to Jesus who do not know Him.
While the worship service is orientated for believers, the Sabbath School is designed for evangelism. There were no Sabbath Schools as such in Bible times. Seventh-day Adventists got the idea for Sabbath School from the protestant Sunday Schools which began in Great Britain in the 1780’s as a way to teach poor children to read and learn the Bible.* As the Bible Worker for the Tampa First Seventh-day Adventist Church, I lead out in our New Believer’s Sabbath School class. The sole purpose of this class is to lead new believer’s or seekers to Jesus.
What Makes a New Believer’s SS Class Different From All The Rest?
1. Curriculum: While we have at times used the regular SS quarterly, when it is based on themes for evangelism, we mostly use lessons to help introduce people to Jesus and basic Bible teachings. our class has enjoyed the In Light of the Cross Study Guides, which are also available with the New Living Translation and inSpanish. These lessons present our basic Bible teachings in the light of the cross, and avoid legalism while preserving Bible standards. I have heard from other churches in Florida as well as a few around the world telling me these lessons have been greatly appreciated in their classes for new believers. I developed the New Living Translation edition, when I realized how many of my immigrant Bible students were having trouble reading English, let alone 17th century English. We have also used the Growth Group Dialogues by Pastor Denis Sand.
2. Setting: While Sabbath Schools are not found in the Bible home churches are. We try to give our classroom a home feeling, with comfortable chairs or couches. We sit in a circle, which encourages members to feel comfortable sharing questions related to the study. When you sit in rows with the speaker up front, it makes people feel like they are in the worship service, and should not talk or ask questions. I have visited churches where the Sabbath School was is the sanctuary, and I left feeling like I heard two sermons and had no Sabbath School.
3. Conversation: We begin each class with the members sharing one high, which is something good that happened that week, and one low, which is something not so good that happened that week. Or we just ask for praise reports and prayer requests. I have assigned a member to write down the prayer requests and e-mail them to the class in the middle of the week to remind us to keep praying for them. At one time we had a praise team leader who led out in a couple of songs before our study time, but they left us to start their own young adult class which is growing by leaps and bounds. Often times we will use ice breaker questions to lead into the study. This does not detract from the study time. People learn more from a study when they feel like they are a part of it, and have invested themselves into the lesson. Conversation time is important to the study. Jesus did not learn about His interests while He was lecturing them, but rather while He was visiting with them. Earlier this year I was holding a prophecy seminar, which was basically a lecture. I invited my prophecy seminar members to join a Bible study growth group I was starting, and am I glad I did! The prophecy members mentioned how much better we were all getting to know and understand each other in the Bible study group. That never would have happened in the prophecy class where I lecture, and yet it’s very important to understand people’s backgrounds and ways of thinking when discussing something as crucial as Prophecy. So now you can see why conversation time is so important in a new believer’s Sabbath School class. So what happens when a new believer becomes a seasoned believer? We have a spiritual gifts Sabbath school class where the teacher gives my new members an invite when they are not so new anymore. This helps them find where they are best orientated to serve in the church. I like the teacher of the next class inviting them instead of me, as I could never ask someone to leave my class. I love them too much and of course we always remain friends! Now some take the invite, others, after baptism go looking for a new class on their own. Still others remain in my class as mentors and even co-facilitators. I think it is important to keep some seasoned members in my new believer’s class to help mentor the new ones.
4. Social: The new believer’s class is a family. We study together, pray together, and socialize together. The New Believer’s class is for all ages. We have socials where teens and senior citizens are playing games together and forming friendships that flow over into Bible study. One week, when I was preaching elsewhere and no adults would volunteer to teach the class, I had a middle school girl lead out. When I came back the next week, I found out that she had brought muffins for everyone and led out in a tremendous Bible study presentation. Suddenly I was not the most popular teacher anymore as she could teach and bake! Outside of class we go to classical concerts together, ball games and enjoy lunches and get togethers in each others homes.
If your church does not already have a class for new believers or seekers, you may ask God if He wants you to start one. Why not talk to your pastor and Sabbath School superintendent about it today? But remember, all Sabbath Schools are intended to be used to win souls for Jesus. Are you making sure your class is seeker friendly and winning souls for Jesus?