Give Your Classes an Identity

 Adult Sabbath School classes are identified traditionally in two ways.

  1. Geographical location: Over there in the pastor’s study, in the fellowship hall. Guest reactions: Where is “over there”? What is a fellowship hall, and where is it?
  2. Teacher’s name: Jimmy Ware’s class, Brother Smith’s class, etc. Guest reactions: Who is Brother Smith? Whose brother is he? Will he give me permission to join his group without a reservation? Whom do I ask? Smith -- my boss is named Smith, and I have had enough Smiths for one week!

The name gain 

Naming classes gives members a sense of identity, ownership, and mission, as members gain the importance of being part of a mini-organization. It is, therefore, easier to buy ownership into that mission and become actively involved in promoting that missions. The class becomes an active small group instead of just a collection of individuals who happen to meet in the same place for a few minutes on Sabbath morning.

Let the class choose its own name. It may reflect the age of the group of the class, the nature of the membership, their mission, their focus (the attitude of the Bereans toward Bible study), or any number of ideas.

In the box is a list of names of classes gleaned from church bulletins around the world. Other classes take the names of Bible characters, the Israelite tribes, or some Biblical event. People become creative when they have the opportunity to name their own class and develop its mission.

What if people don’t want a name? 

Some people cite opinions based on such invalid theories as “Everyone ought to be together” or “Classes like that study only liberal theological ideas.” They may argue that class identity builds pride, forms cliques, diminishes the authority of the teacher, or any number of unfounded beliefs based on fragmentary comments that have stuck in their minds. And since these members have never been a member of a named class, they assume those opinions are facts.

Move on 

It’s true. There are classes that have been together for years. Some are literally the “Jimmy Ware’s class” because he is a good teacher and people want to be in his class. On the other hand, some classes represent members’ power bases in the church and have become a political ongoing mechanism to introduce the organizations rather than Sabbath School classes. In all three cases, leave well enough alone and form some new classes.

But the new naming is not complete until you have developed an ongoing mechanism to introduce the classes -- by name, location, and mission -- to the congregation and your guests.

Class Names From Around the World

Career Class
Agape Fellowship
Seekers of Salvation
New Life
New Vision
Loyal Men

James W. Zackrison
© 2006 General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists