Meeting Felt Needs

Sabbath School facilitators have challenges that seem fairly equally divided between relating to their students and learning teaching skills. Let me illustrate what I mean.

While preparing her class plans at home, Facilitator Puzzled sorted aloud her “problems” with Brother Jones: “He’s always present. But he still refuses to look my way when I ask a question. Trying to introduce a little variety into the class routine ruins the day for Brother Jones. He just wants the standard, age-old process—nothing new.”

On Sabbath morning Facilitator Frustrated stood before his class, on the left side of the sanctuary near the organ, thinking: These people just want to socialize. Forever talking: “Let’s get together this evening! Let’s eat together in the park! Want to get together Wednesday night?” What will visitors think? I’ve got to get them out of the sanctuary!

In the fellowship hall Facilitator Burdened rubbed her shoulder and nervously eyed the clock. Her thoughts raced: I’m glad that I have enough resource material to stretch to the end of the class. My stack of resources are getting heavier and heavier. But I could have left some of that stuff at home.

In a quiet corner of the church Facilitator Adapted smiled and leaned back in his seat. OK, he thought, we’re going in that direction, are we? Sister Involved has gotten them interested in another social need. They’ll get to put their Bible study into practice, and so will I.

A Closer Look
What’s going on here? From the clues given, I’d say that these facilitators are reacting to the various “audiences” of their Sabbath School students. Everyone’s priorities for Sabbath School attendance are not the same.

Let’s Apply the Learning Styles
Facilitator Puzzled. Does Brother Jones really not study his Sabbath School lesson, or does he just choose to support his facilitator through the body language of smiles, selective eye contact, and regular attendance? The facilitator’s descriptions suggest that Brother Jones prefers the traditional classroom approach.

Sabbath School Audiences
1. Fellowship—Church family relationships are very important to this group, and they prefer interaction that extends beyond the church gatherings.
2. Action—These members want to use within the community what they have learned and strategize about applications in class.
3. Study—Give them facts, facts, facts—in a variety of formats—and a content-savvy facilitator.
4. Traditional—To them “Hold fast to that which is good” means stay with what has worked in their church history: time, place, content.

Facilitator Frustrated is right! This fellowship-style class should be where participants would be more comfortable. The class facilitator could reduce much of his Sabbath morning stress by facilitating their planning for extracurricular fellowship.

Facilitator Burdened appears to have a study audience. Let’s give her kudos for supplying her students with classtime resources and sharing opportunities. And she could put those “leftover” resources to good use by assigning homework and then budgeting time for their reports.

Facilitator Adapted may just be following his natural temperament, or he has learned to benefit from his action-oriented students.

All facilitators must continue to explore the felt needs of their class members.

Faith Crumbly
© 2014 General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists