Growing Churches Through Classes.1

There can be no question that all aspects of structured local church life, regardless of departmental designations, have but one purpose—growth of the family of God into healthy citizens of the kingdom so that Jesus will greet as many “happy and fulfilled” persons as possible when He returns!

The largest “room” is the “room for improvement,” so it has been said. This being said, I am swift to disagree with the self-imposed “Sabbath School morticians” who declare that Sabbath School is dead. While some local Sabbath School systems may not be, at this time, manifesting all the signs of “abundant inspiration capacity” (life), there is tremendous hope for all! The Holy Ghost, who manages ministry on earth and therefore “the room for improvement” and who does not preside over the dead, is able to diagnose and “treat the ailing” local Sabbath Schools back to health! He does this in the “room for improvement.”

This truth is clearly demonstrated by the continuing growing and developing Sabbath Schools in our division. One treatment process that is practiced in “the room for improvement” is the sharing of ideas, as illustrated by the hundreds of “outcomes” from our 2009 North American Division Adult Sabbath School Summit that are available at This material will describe a few concepts designed to facilitate “life,” therefore, “growth” in your local Sabbath School that will complement the vast array of concepts that comprise these pages.

We begin with a series of questions:

  • What if we structured Sabbath School to address the “baseline evangelism and nurture” agenda of the local congregation?
  • What if we “formatted time usage in Sabbath School” to accomplish this?
  • What if we made Sabbath School “so meaningful to people” that they would rush to their Sabbath School classes?
  • What if “the spirit of positive, joyful, Sabbath School” lasted all week?
  • (not a question—perhaps make this a new paragraph)

The relational approach is encouraged because in the Sabbath School process we are dealing first with people and their needs, just as Jesus did, as documented in The Ministry of Healing, page 143.

There is no question that we fully subscribe to the four goals of Sabbath School as placed before us by the Sabbath School/Personal Ministries Department of the General Conference: Bible Study, Fellowship, Outreach, and World Mission Emphasis. While not an officially stated part of the goals, experience has demonstrated that when local Sabbath School processes incorporate intentional emphasis in the area of nurture ministry (functions/activities/methods that speak directly to the “heart needs” of the people) that attendance, personal growth, excitement, and ministry productivity increases. Why? Because nurture ministry speaks to the heartfelt needs of the person as well as to the mind.

Thus, we are dedicated to transitioning our traditional system of “Sabbath Schools” that are populated by Sabbath School classes with “teachers” (who, for some, at times, fail to realize that their designated function is not to preach) into a system punctuated by multiple small-group families (heretofore identified as classes), led by facilitators (persons whose role is to help initiate the start of the small-group process, and to keep it going). Their role is to holistically “ignite” Bible study, a nurture-centered atmosphere, fellowship activities, prayer ministry, reclamation focus, and outreach that is in sync with the local congregation mission statement.

Just imagine (and this is written for the benefit of some who are not at this time experiencing this joy!) a main morning appointment each week (among possibly others) to meet with Jesus in “family reunion” format with your loving, caring, praying, outreaching small group family to celebrate Jesus and what He is doing in lives! What a powerful prospect for you. The blessing is that this that has been shared, and that will be shared is not an isolated theory—it is a joyful reality for a growing number of Sabbath School families!

Next, we will detail suggestions regarding ways to structure time to permit these things—and much more! I pray many blessed Sabbath School small-group family relational adventures for you and the community in which you worship!

J. Alfred Johnson II
© 2014 General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists