Leaders in the adult division of Sabbath School do not necessarily have an easier task than those who minister to children. No, they do not wipe little noses and make potty stops, but they must attend to the needs of their participants. Needs common to all adults include these:
- Personal growth
Let’s take a closer look at these needs as they relate to Sabbath School.
Respect speaks to adults’ dependence on other people. Taken to an extreme, dependent adults will conform to the group simply to be accepted, hiding their feelings or beliefs. This experience is commonly referred to as “losing one’s self.”
Respect shows up in common interactions:
- Teachers show respect for class members in the way they react to members’ comments in class.
- Superintendents show respect by showing that they value their teachers’ time when they schedule and coordinate Sabbath School Council meetings and teachers’ meetings.
- Secretaries show respect to members in accurately recording their attendance and offerings.
- Members show respect to leaders and other members by not being overly independent, valuing other people’s opinions and experience as well as their own.
Self-expression. Adults are also egocentric. At the negative end, self-centeredness can keep a person linked to the past or progressing at a snail’s pace in their spiritual or social growth. For example, the encouragement of Sabbath School teachers and classmates can help adults move forward in applying spiritual values to their personal lifestyles. Many adults have heartaches, and the lessons discussed in Sabbath School can help provide direction that supports healing and growth.
Regardless of how new to the faith adult members are or how dysfunctional their past has been, they have something to offer. They have experiences that are foreign to longtime members. And while appropriate sharing in a public environment must be encouraged, many longtime members would never learn how to reach out to the lost were it not for the insights of these new members, shared during the public discussions during the Bible studies on Sabbath morning.
Personal growth. When attempting to gain experience with handling the Bible or in participating in new areas of church ministry, both new and longtime members need encouragement. New members’ incorrect responses and incorrect pronunciation of terms and names, for example, should be handled in a way that encourages continued participation in discussions. In addition, all members, but especially leaders, should refrain from displaying undue pride in education or experience that sends any other member into hiding, feeling a need to limit their participation in discussions or ministry.
High on the list of a worst-case scenario for adults is “looking stupid.” Most adults cringe at the thought of revealing their ignorance. They abhor the idea of being publicly criticized or sensing that they are being talked about behind their back.
Along the same vein, longtime members whose participation shows a lack of growth must be gently, patiently encouraged to allow the Holy Spirit to show them new ways of thinking and reacting. Developing team projects and pairing people of similar interests but varying experience provide opportunities for such needed growth.
Sabbath School leaders can encourage adults to participate in Christian education and get involved in Christian service by meeting their needs for respect, self-expression, and personal growth.
© 2014 General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists