What About Sabbath School Expense Offering?

Question: How can we get enough money to run our Sabbath School?

Answer: That's why we have an offering called Sabbath School expense offering, usually taken up every Sabbath. Some churches use what is called the “world budget,” and the amount allocated to Sabbath School expense is part of the overall budget. Some churches have a budget that allows them to hand out the Adult Sabbath School Bible Study Guide free, while other churches ask members to either purchase their own or give a specific offering to cover the expense of it.

In any case, the money to cover Sabbath School expense depends on the freewill offerings of the members. It is a matter of discipleship. And experience tells us that the more dynamic a Sabbath School is, the more money appears in the Sabbath School expense offering.

In a sermon preached in 1912, Russell H. Conwell told the story of what a little girl’s 57 cents accomplished.

As a Baptist minister in 1882, Conwell became pastor of a congregation in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The church membership began to grow so rapidly that tickets of admission had to be obtained weeks in advance to gain entrance to Sunday School classes and worship services. (Though this was not a Seventh-day Adventist Church, the principles underlying what happened apply to us also.)

Conwell related that one Sunday “little Hattie May Wiatt, who lived nearby, had brought her books and a contribution, and was standing by the gate, hesitating whether to go back home or wait and try to get in later.” Conwell saw Hattie May, picked her up in his arms, carried her through the crowd, and seated her in the Sunday School room in a chair back in a dark corner. Hattie May was thrilled to be inside but frightened by the crowded conditions.

The next morning the pastor ran into Hattie May near the church as she was on her way to school. He told her that “we are going to have a larger Sunday School room soon.” She replied, “I hope you will. It is so crowded that I am afraid to go there alone.” Conwell said, “Well, when we get the money with which to erect a school building, we are going to construct one large enough to get all the little children in, and we are going to begin very soon to raise the money for it.”

Not long after that conversation Hattie May became very sick. Though Conwell prayed with her, he had the feeling that the little girl’s recovery was not to be. Hattie May died soon afterward. But here’s what happened next.

At Hattie May’s funeral her mother handed Conwell a little bag containing 57 cents. The mother explained that after Hattie May’s conversation with the pastor about raising money for a larger Sunday School building, the little girl began saving up her contribution.

Conwell showed the 57 cents to the church and said it was the first gift toward a new Sunday School building. Then he got an idea: “I changed all the money into pennies and offered them for sale. I received about $250 for the 57 pennies, which were returned to me by the people who bought them. I then had them put in a frame where they could be seen and exhibited.” Enough additional money came in to buy a building next to the church, purchased in the name of the Wiatt Mite Society, organized in Hattie May’s memory.

The congregation continued to grow and obviously needed a larger facility. The church still had a rather substantial mortgage to pay off, but the members decided to build a new facility anyway. A neighbor had a lot for sale for $30,000 (about $700,000 in today's dollars). Conwell told the property owner that all the church had was Hattie May Wiatt’s 57 cents for a down payment. The man was so impressed by the story that he lowered the price to $25,000, took the 57 pennies as a down payment, and then gave them back to the pastor.

Ultimately, Hattie May’s 57 cents inspired and initiated the building of the Baptist Temple Church (the largest Protestant church in the U.S. when it opened in 1891), Temple University, and Samaritan Hospital (now Temple University Hospital).

Although Hattie May Wiatt’s life was short, her influence was multiplied and continues, because she offered God all that she had—57 cents.

So in further answer to the question about Sabbath School expense, the amount that is given depends on the level of discipleship of the Sabbath School members. Maybe your Sabbath School should try a Hattie May Wiatt type of offering sometime and see what happens!


  • Sabbath School expense offering is a very important offering.
  • The amount given depends on the level of the Sabbath School members’ discipleship.
  • Hattie May Wiatt is an example of what can be done when high-level discipleship is evident.
  • Use your creativity to present this story in Sabbath School.

© 2014 General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists