Helping Challenged Adult Students

How can I help our adult Sabbath School members who have physical challenges, a man who cannot read and a deaf woman, and those bench warmers?

John Urso
Local Elder
Waynesboro, Virginia

I am a sign language interpreter for a member in our Sabbath School who is deaf. Before I began interpreting for this member, she didn’t attend regularly. Now, from the beginning of Sabbath School to the lesson study, she can actively participate, so her attendance has improved.

I offer these suggestions: 

• If you want to learn sign language, courses in basic sign language, advanced sign language, and interpreting are fairly popular courses in junior colleges. The colleges may be able to give you referrals of capable students or teachers who would serve your Sabbath School if you don’t wish to take a course.

• Other routes for finding an interpreter are the local or government-supported agencies for deaf persons (listed in the telephone directory) and local churches or schools that provide services for their own members or students.

Doris J. Smith
Sabbath School Superintendent
Waynesboro, Virginia

When one of my friends joined the Seventh-day Adventist Church, she was very shy, nervous, and timid. She says that in her former denomination she was taught to sit, be quiet, and follow the leader. She became a real bench warmer! When she became a Seventh-day Adventist, she says she watched how the members interacted and worked with one another.

She was given positions in the Sabbath School. Although she knew nothing about those offices, the members and the pastor guided her through meetings, counseled her, and gave her much encouragement. Because the Sabbath School members cared for her and showed their faith in her, she is now a competent Sabbath School superintendent.

As a Sabbath School superintendent, I involve our members in dramatization and buzz sessions (sit in a circle and do direct questioning). I give them time to formulate answers. I always praise them for whatever answer they give me. Sometimes I use writing exercises. Sometimes I read the mission story while students listen and then write in one short paragraph what they hear. We do a lot of role playing in which members portray Bible characters or missionaries in foreign fields. This makes the reading relevant to them. We have plays and quizzes. Sometimes the members make up tunes to help themselves memorize Bible verses. One teacher I know tutors readers once a week.

We must be sensitive to all of our Sabbath School members’ needs. I advise this: Know yourself, your subject material, and your students so you can see how to get challenged members actively involved. They want to do something.

If challenged members and shy members are locked up in a shell, we can free them and empower them by giving them responsibilities in the class. Don’t allow them just to sit there. Even simple tasks give them ownership in the group. At one point one nonreader enjoyed distributing pencils and papers.

Where should you start? Take time to listen to these members and encourage them to become involved in whatever area their abilities and interests lie.

Carol Barron
© 2014 General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists