In no other part of the church’s Sabbath morning activities is the ministry of the laity more vital than in the Sabbath School class.
In the class setting there is an interchange of ideas that is non-threatening, a sharing of faith and biblical instruction. Friendships are made in the circle of fellowship; a sense of community is built up. Questions are asked and answered in an informal setting.
For most of the Sabbath service the visitor or member listens – to the prayer, special music, and the sermon. He or she may participate in the congregational singing, but the main opportunity for sharing comes in the Sabbath School class. As a Sabbath School class facilitator, you have a sacred responsibility to share your personal experience, as well as knowledge. “Those who teach in Sabbath School must have their hearts warmed and invigorated by the truth of God, being not hearers only, but also doers of the Word. They should be nourished in Christ as the branches are nourished in the vine” (Ellen G. White, Counsels on Sabbath School Work, page 94). You can’t share with others what you have not experienced yourself.
Duties of the Adult Sabbath School Facilitator
The duties of an adult Sabbath School facilitator or class leader are:
- Preparation. Before opening God’s Word to teach, there should be more preparation than a brief perusal on Friday night. A good habit to establish is to spend a concentrated hour on Sabbath afternoon becoming familiar with the main points of the new lesson. During the rest of the week you can dig for more material.
- Helping everyone feel welcome. At the beginning of each class meeting, it is essential to make newcomers, as well as regular members, feel welcome. A simple question like “What has your week been like?” can help everyone to feel cared for so they can let go of the worries of the week and concentrate on Bible study. A good question with new people is “Where is your church home?” It can give you a lot of information and help you to know how best to minister to them. Keep some extra quarterlies on hand to give to those who may not have one and invite newcomers to participate in the lesson study. If your church has a fellowship dinner, invite them to attend. A good missionary project for your family would be to invite visitors to your home for Sabbath dinner. A sumptuous feast isn’t necessary to make the guest feel at home. The fellowship and sharing will do that.
- Serving as the “undershepherd” of the class. The Sabbath School class is the most important fellowship unit in the church. For most of your class members it is the primary place where they receive support and friendship. It is your responsibility as the facilitator to enable this to happen. It is recommended that you have a “shepherding time” or “sharing time” preceding the lesson discussion. Announcements can be made regarding plans. You can ask about missing members. Often those in the class will have information about these persons and some can be asked to make personal visits. In cases of illness, arrangements can be made to visit the person, perhaps to supply a warm meal or volunteer to help with housework or childcare. This time of sharing opens the door for better participation in the discussion part of the class.
- Prayer. The opening of hearts to the Holy Spirit is essential to each successful class meeting. And as the class members pray for one another, they come closer to each other and are enabled to bear one another’s burdens. It is important to take time to ask for the prayer requests of those present. You should offer prayer at the beginning and end of each class, ask a class member do so, or ask the group to pray together in twos or threes. In smaller classes it may be appropriate at times to have a season of prayer in which everyone has opportunity to pray.
- Guiding class members to learn and grow. The important thing for your class members to learn is the practical application of Bible truth. Sabbath School is not so much a place to learn facts and abstract doctrines, but to grow in Christian living. Help them to make specific applications of the lesson each week in practical issues they face everyday. Key discussion questions are: "What difference does this topic make in how you live your life?" "How would you explain this truth to a friend who does not attend any church?"
- Starting on time. Nothing is more discouraging for a Sabbath School class than to be assembled and wonder where the facilitator is. You should be one of the first to arrive at the classroom. This gives you time to greet individuals and see that everything is in readiness. In case of emergency or illness, preparation should be made for a substitute facilitator. You have the responsibility to see that the Sabbath School superintendent is notified and that a substitute has been provided if you must be absent.
Responsibilities in the Local Church, by the Church Resources Consortium, North American Division of Seventh-day Adventist Church. Copyright © 1997, Revised 2010. Permission to copy for local church use.