A few Sunday afternoons ago, I had the rare opportunity to sit in “my” chair in our den to watch golf on television. The young players on the PGA tour are amazing athletes. With eight holes to play in the 72-hole tournament that I watched, nine players were either tied for or within four shots of the lead. Even the “old guys,” Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson, were in the hunt. After nearly two and a half enjoyable hours spent glued to the TV, I asked myself, “Why don’t I do this more often?”
There was a time, many years ago, that I not only watched golf, but I played golf — but never like these guys. Shot after shot, approach after approach landed so near the flag that little was left to do but give a gentle tap of the ball into the cup to complete the hole. Those of us who fancy ourselves to be golfers call that kind of putt a “gimme.” In other words, the ball is so close to the hole and the chance of missing the putt is so remote that one need not even tap it in. Just “give me” credit for having made it without my having to go through the tedium of tapping the ball into the cup. Thus, a “gimme.”
Sabbath School attendance for Seventh-day Adventists at one time was a “gimme.” It was automatic. It was a foregone conclusion. There was no question that we’d be in Sabbath School on Sabbath morning. We called it “the church at study.” And, even though we may not be there exactly for the 9:15 a.m. bell, we weren’t too far from those hallowed grounds when the first cords of “Don’t Forget the Sabbath” rang out.
Times have changed.
The Bible admonishes us in 2 Timothy 2:15: “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.”
Sabbath School affords us the opportunity to do just that, to study — with all ages, at all levels of instruction, from Cradle Roll to adult. So, how and when did Sabbath School lose its importance, its relevance? The lessons are riveting; the authors are first-class; the Holy Spirit, without a doubt, has directed each presentation. And, with Sabbath School Lesson apps readily available (and free) on our electronic devices, any break in the day becomes the perfect time to study. Content, inspired creativity, convenience: Why then is Sabbath School attendance in such decline? The question begs a personal response from each of us, “Why don’t I do this more often?” No doubt we each can offer reasons for this downturn in Sabbath School participation, and maybe even purport possible solutions to this critical topic.
Ellen G. White’s writings also have much to say regarding the value of Sabbath School. Here is a sampling from Testimonies on Sabbath-School Work, 20:
“The Sabbath School should be one of the greatest instrumentalities, and the most effectual, in bringing souls to Christ.”
“No one can labor in the Sabbath School or in the temperance work without reaping a bountiful harvest, not only in the end of the world, but in the present life. In the very effort to enlighten and bless others, his own views will become clearer and broader. The more we endeavor to explain the truth to others, with a love for souls, the plainer will it become to ourselves. It ever opens with new beauty and force to the understanding of the expounder.”
I humbly offer my rather simplistic approach to boosting Sabbath School attendance:
1. Download a Sabbath School app on your phone and get a quarterly from your church. When the quarterly is not available or close at hand, the phone is your backup. And, 99 out of 100 of us probably already have a Bible app on our phone.
2. Get into the habit of studying your lesson daily, or as often as you can, even if you have to double up some days. Don’t become discouraged if you miss a day. In your study, highlight two or three points that you would like to focus on when you get to class.
3. Welcome in the Sabbath on Friday evening with prayer and worship.
4. Resist the temptation to stay up late on Friday night.
5. Be pleasant on Sabbath morning. Everyone in your household may not be a “morning person.” Don’t start the day dragging the family to church. Make it an adventure. I, personally, have ruined many a Sabbath mornings being overzealous about getting to Sabbath School on time.
For those who conduct/plan/teach Sabbath School, I offer this bit of advice:
1. Use different study approaches to stir interest among the members. Do not allow your program to become dull, lifeless, or, worse yet, another preaching service.
2. Invite people to participate in Sabbath School and not just be spectators in the gallery. Encourage members to get in the game, to hit the links!
3. Involve the young people at all levels. Our youth, young adults, and millennials are very gifted and talented.
4. Don’t assume that “if you build it, they will come.” Invite people to join you. And, invite them to invite someone else.
The ministry of Sabbath School is still vital to the health of God’s remnant Church. Don’t let it die. See you at Sabbath School!
Southern Union | September 2018