Growing Churches Through Classes.2

How can we get more joyful, fulfilled, productive people involved in our Sabbath Schools? It is possible for congregations to address baseline components of their evangelism and nurture agendas through creatively administrated and relationally driven Sabbath School Ministries.

In the earlier component of the “Growing Churches Through Classes,” we affirmed our support of the very appropriate “skeletal structure” of the Sabbath School process as indicated by the Four Goals of Sabbath School. These, stated by the Sabbath School/Personal Ministries Department of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, are: Bible Study, Fellowship, Outreach, and World Mission.

We were even so bold as to suggest that an essential ingredient of this process must include a strong emphasis on nurture. This nurture is the element/factor that creates atmospheres in which people feel wanted, needed, cared for, appreciated, and valued. This “nurture-bathed” cycle has a way of facilitating the meeting of the felt needs of people. In turn, persons so benefited tend to be comfortable with the desire to expose those within the circles of their influence to the same environment. Hence, growth in positively charged Sabbath Schools.

The previously described outcomes, people having their needs met and desiring to expose others to the same environments, takes place most readily in atmospheres that have intentional “relational” structuring; that is to say, atmospheres that emphasize meeting the needs of people as part of the process of accomplishing the goals of the kingdom.

On the basis of this philosophy, last time we addressed the questions:

  1. What if we structured Sabbath School to address the baseline evangelism and to nurture the agenda of the congregation?
  2. What if we formatted time usage to accomplish this goal?
  3. What if we made Sabbath School so meaningful to people, they would rush to Sabbath School?
  4. What if the spirit of positive, joyful Sabbath School lasted all week?

A major consideration in our adjustment to a Sabbath School pro forma, that is, more relationally focused, can be an examination of how we are allocating our time budget for this ministry on Sabbath morning. With a shift to meeting the needs of people, your group may wish to think in terms of allocating more time for the masses to “personally interact” in the process. Therefore, we suggest that a minimizing of program time be enacted, and that time for the people to come together to relate with each other regarding the real agenda be maximized!

Spoken plainly, try giving the Small Group Families (a more meaningful relational name for “classes”) the bulk of the Sabbath morning time. Be honest. How many in your congregation are flooding in to experience the superintendent’s remarks, special music, and song service?

Consider devising a plan that moves people most readily into the atmospheres of their “Small Group Families” that are led by caring facilitators (not teachers) who are trained to understand that their function is to initiate and encourage (facilitate) the flow of a small group process. This process includes study, nurture, fellowship, prayer emphasis, reclamation, and outreach planning.

Nurture emphasis can begin with the question “What kind of week did you have?” All kinds of strengthening opportunities will surface. Because most Sabbath School members primarily have an opportunity to view the backs of the heads of one another, monthly fellowship gatherings could be planned. Relaxed interaction will assist productivity and “familiness” in the group.

Take time for a special prayer emphasis. Try “reclamation without contact” as a group: Pray for the persons you want Jesus to reclaim (without contacting them), and watch our Lord work! Results are documented! Plan a Small Group Family “outreach project” together, and notice how our Lord will strengthen and win new family members. Of course, review principles from the Bible lesson that have had a direct motivating impact on Small Group Family members.

Dear reader, this demonstrated process is so powerfully exciting and stimulating that your congregation is bound to classify this process of investing the bulk of its allotted time in Small Group Family interaction as a wise investment. Experiment with these ideas.

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