They Take Them by Surprise

A church member peered into the dark sanctuary of the Triadelphia church in Clarksville, Maryland, one Sabbath early in May 2004. “Is the electricity out?” he asked a deacon who replied, “No. We’re having Sabbath School in a cave this morning. You can go inside and join the group, but you will have to leave your Bible and lesson quarterly on the table by the door.” The puzzled member looked at the pile of Bibles and lesson quarterlies on the table, and then added his to the pile.

As he cautiously entered the sanctuary, his eyes adjusted to the dim light coming from two lanterns. He walked past some green bushes that marked the perimeter of a smaller section of the sanctuary. He had arrived at Sabbath School, and it was the first Sabbath of the month, “family Sabbath.”

When Sabbath School members entered the cave that morning in May, they entered a simulation of a mountain cave and an end-of-time experience. They were asked to imagine themselves to be on the run:

  • That they had hiked many miles to the cave site.
  • That they had worn their clothing for many days.
  • That they had fled, unable to gather songbooks, Bibles, or quarterlies.
  • That they had not eaten much.
  • That danger surrounded them.

What happened?
“Storing Treasure” was the theme for the month of May, and the focus was on memorization. So without previous notice or rehearsal, members were invited to stretch their memories. And they did:

  • Participants sang their favorite songs without books or overhead slides to prompt them, and without instrumental accompaniment.
  • Members recited four favorite Scriptures. One of the children quoted Psalm 91.
  • Members who are former missionaries shared their memories of mission service.
  • Members recalled Bible stories that illustrated God’s presence and deliverance. It was an eye-opener to many—some amazed at how many songs they actually did know by memory, and others resolving to learn more Bible texts. Many members shared that being reminded of the practical realities to be experienced just prior to Jesus’ coming soon was very important to them.

Programs for first Sabbaths of every month are “family Sabbaths.” Adults, youth, and children come together for worship and praise. When the program is completed, members go to regular Bible study groups in the usual locations.

At the end of the program the theme for the month was introduced. Members were encouraged to concentrate on memorizing Scripture or Spirit of Prophecy, or a hymn, or some uplifting poetry during the rest of the month in preparation for a special Memory Recital planned for the last Sabbath in May.

The leaders of the adult Sabbath School at Triadelphia have enjoyed planning, working, and praying together with the goal of revitalizing this important part of the Sabbath morning worship service. They are determined that Sabbath School be kept alive and that new ideas and methods be tried so that the church and community will be blessed and will benefit as originally intended. Keeping the four main purposes of Sabbath School ever in mind: study of Scriptures, fellowship, training and witness, and stewardship, they have sought to plan programs accordingly and at the same time make Sabbath School lively and fun. Having Family Sabbath School once a month has the added joy of children being present to join in the quizzes, music, leadership parts, skits, and projects.

© 2014 General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists