Time Will Tell

A group of conference leaders watched the clock, so to speak, for 90 minutes during one of my workshops at the North American Division “Learning to Lead” convention in January. In my hotel room I typed my notes from this workshop for this editorial. So here’s that time-focused report.

What Time Is Sabbath School?

  • 8:00 - “Half past 9:00” is too late for many morning people.
  • 9:30 - The traditional meeting hour continues to draw only an average of 30 percent of members, according to the participants surveyed.
  • 10:00 - This time gives attendees precious extra minutes to sleep and/or to get ready for daylong activities.
  • 11:00 - Sixty percent of Norwegian members attend on-time at this hour, according to their Sabbath School director, Finn Myklebust.

Some pastors in the North American Division use this preaching time slot for “all-day” Sabbath School once a month, once a quarter, or as an occasional special feature.

  • 11:30 - Jim Kincaid of the Alaska Conference reported that this time slot contributed to a 130 percent increase in attendance at the Midtown Christian Fellowship in Anchorage, one of seven Adventist churches in the city.
  • Afternoon or evening - Choices range from having a potluck dinner, full Sabbath School combo, to meeting just prior to sunset. Some of this group dedicate Sabbath morning to community outreach. Others simply want more group lesson study and they attend both.

Friday night and weeknights: Roy Patterson, South Central Conference director, noted that some young adults like this alternative to rising on Sabbath morning. Other members reportedly commit the early-morning Sabbath hours to community outreach projects.

Other places: The fellowship hall, nooks and crannies at church, homes, the city park, backyards, community centers, etc.

Agenda: The lesson study centers on the traditional Bible study lesson topics and materials. Mission reports and the program are in the mix but not necessarily in the traditional way. Innovations include having the Sabbath School program and mission report at vesper hour or at the youth meeting as a means of connecting with people who don’t attend Sabbath School and/or for occasional Sabbath School promotion.

Administration: Time options are addressed through the normal channels: superintendent, Sabbath School Council, and church board. This maintains credibility and accountability. The general superintendent may participate only in the 9:30 a.m. session. Assistant superintendents may be members of the optional groups, or leaders of the optional groups may be voted in as assistant superintendents. Supplies, offerings, and reports are handled through the Sabbath School secretary.

Why? The bottom line is having all members productively engaged in regular Bible study and outreach. So local leaders who want to get members to Sabbath School on time help them find times and places they can live with—and love.

Faith Johnson Crumbly
© 2014 General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists