October 31, 2009, was a high day for the small group of believers in Grande Prairie who received company status and recognition by the Alberta Seventh-day Adventist Conference. Pastor John Adams, Sabbath School and Personal Ministries Director of the Alberta Conference. was present for the occasion and he challenged the group of approximately 20 members to shine for Jesus in the city of Grande Prairie.
Making Sabbath School Biblical, Soul Winning and Relevant once again.
Sabbath School in the North American Division is in trouble, if not dying. The general consensus by leaders and members alike in many of our churches is that Sabbath School is not relevant to most people today; it is out dated, predictable, and serves minimal purpose in today’s society.
It is with this in mind that the North American Division organized a division-wide Sabbath School Workshop for leaders and other invited guests. In the spring of 2009, over 600 people responded to learn how to improve Sabbath School in their conferences and churches. We were not disappointed--by the conclusion of the one-day workshop, just about everyone was excited and pleased with what we had heard. Mr & Mrs Chris Blake, the key presenters, talked about making SS relevant, soul winning and biblical once again. Showing that early Adventists saw SS as the main vehicle to train and evangelize church members and the key service of the day.
Upon returning to the Alberta Conference, I have endeavored to train as many churches as possible.
The Lighthouse Seventh-day Adventist Company, a daughter church of the Grand Prairie Seventh-day Adventist Church under the leadership of Pastor Shawn Brummund, is the only group that has put this training into practice so far; here is their story.
The Lighthouse Story
The first Sabbath of October, Pastor John Adams came up to the Lighthouse Company and presented a new concept of ministry-driven Sabbath School. It was a totally new concept for all of us. We had been having wonderful music and a lively lesson study as our Sabbath School, but felt we would like to be more active as a church group in ministry. We had no idea how to start or what to do. With the presentation, it lit the fire of enthusiasm in the leaders and planning started.
All of the leaders of the Sabbath School wanted to be involved with this, so it was difficult to have two Sabbath School classes. We started having the new one in another room and found many people didn’t really attend, and some of the leaders felt they had to stay back in the traditional Sabbath School. At a business meeting in November, it was discussed, and we decided to try it in the main Sabbath School until the end of March, 2010, to give it a fair trial. At that time, anyone wanting a traditional Sabbath School would be able to join together for that purpose.
We outlined the five components we would have: prayer ministry, money ministry, time ministry, social ministry, and Bible study ministry. The first month we tried to get different people to lead out for just one time in the different areas to see if they would like it. Volunteers were a little scarce, so we drafted a few people, and then others volunteered. In the end, we have four people who will do the prayer ministry part, which takes almost half of the Sabbath School time. Our treasurer leads out in time ministry and money ministry and reports on social ministry.
We had three regular teachers for the lesson. One was uncomfortable being a part of the ministry based Sabbath School, but three new people have agreed to begin teaching the lesson part of the Sabbath School. Because of the ministries in the Sabbath School, we don’t have as much time for the lesson. Each teacher, as they are studying, finds one or two points that really speak to them and develop the study around those points. It didn’t seem so overwhelming, so more people are willing to try it.
The first Sabbath, everyone, except the two leaders, were afraid to say or do anything. We started out with our prayer ministry, and soon it became one of the most exciting parts of the Sabbath School. We have only seven prayer requests per Sabbath. We write them on the board with who brought them forward and then ask for a volunteer to pray for that request. It seems to put us in touch with each other and our lives. We have a lot of requests for illnesses, and find out how God has answered the prayers. Many times we find the people recuperate so much faster than anticipated. One member asked for prayer for a previous boss, who just that Thursday learned he had terminal cancer. The next week we asked how he was doing, and the Lord had laid him to rest that Tuesday morning without suffering. We never know how the Lord will answer prayers. We have a book where we write down all prayer requests, who brought them forward, and who prayed for them. One of the prayer requests came from our children. They would like 100 children to come to their Sabbath School. The Lord’s hand is not short, so it is on our prayer list.
The money ministry part has been so exciting. We set up a Sabbath School Project offering. When we take the Sabbath School offering, we have two plates passed around, each one labeled. We ask if anyone knows of any needs. Many times when needs are brought forward, we need more information about the specific needs and how we can help, so a decision is not made instantly. We had a need brought of a dad, who wanted to take his three children to see their grandparents for Christmas but didn’t have fuel money. We voted to give him $200. The member that knew him met him at a local restaurant, took him an envelope with the check in it, and wished him "Merry Christmas," no strings attached. We had one of our members who had to have a malignant tumour removed on his kidney and was struggling financially. At a hospital visit, one of our leaders met a friend of his who told us part of the story we didn’t know. She gave our leader $150 to put with the class’s help for this family. The class voted to give another $350 to help him out, with the idea that if he needs more it will be brought forward.
A young couple in our city is struggling, as the father has cancer and had to have surgery on January 5, 2010. The mother is also struggling with an illness. We decided we would like to help. The people who knew them said they would get more information. As it turned out, their place of employment decided to help them as well by raising over $1200 to get them through Christmas and January. They will keep us informed if they need our help in February.
A family lost their entire house, including all their shoes, in a house fire Christmas morning. Grandparents were visiting and their daughter and child were there as well, but no one was hurt. We have sent out a scout to find out what the immediate need is, as we want to help. Insurance helps, but often the money doesn’t come for a long time.
A young man, one of our members knows and who comes to Sabbath School occasionally, was sleeping on the floor because he had no bed. The young member had a queen bed he could donate, but no bedding. The Sabbath School voted to spend $120 on sheets and mattress pad. Someone had two new pillows to donate; someone else had a comforter; and we were ready to go. Just as we were getting ready to delivery, a friend of his bought him a new bed and brought it over to him. So we have a bed and no need for it. A lady had to quickly leave her home and was sleeping on the floor as were her children. The bed was delivered to her. She had bedding, so we still have the money, which will be used elsewhere as the need arises.
A member of our company is in nursing school and was cut back to four working hours a week so she is unable to pay her rent. We will decide this week how we want to help her. The need is brought forward and we vote on how much to spend and when. People pledge to put in the money and it comes in. We are a small group of about 20 regular members, and we have close to $500 in our projects account, and more comes in weekly. Our other offerings are not suffering at all. The Lord blesses us so much.
Time ministry doesn’t seem to happen as often. The member with the kidney operation has someone check on his driveway every time it snows to make sure it is shoveled. We went out one evening and gathered seven large bins of food for the Salvation Army Food Bank. One Sabbath afternoon we went caroling to some people who were shut in and some senior lodges. They were all so happy to see us. On Sunday, we are gathering together to frame in the basement of one of our members. His home is used to minister to so many people, and we would like to help him make it more useable. When we hear of a need, we make a plan, but often we find the need fulfilled in other ways, so we wait.
We try to turn many activities into part of the social ministry of the Sabbath School; eating together often; and playing together as well. We had Saturday night at the gym in December. One of our members owns a fitness gym; and we all met there on Saturday night to play on the equipment and get some exercise. It was wonderful. We have fellowship dinner every Sabbath so we get to know each other on a regular basis. We are becoming better at keeping our ears to the ground to listen for needs we can fill.
One of the biggest blessings is how it has brought us together as a team working for the Lord. Each one of us has also become more tuned in to the community around us, listening for needs as we interact with other people. Our focus is not on ourselves, but on who we can help. Being a new group we didn’t have much complaining anyway, but with our focus on others, we have so much more joy and encouragement to share with each other. We have people coming that are not members of the church, and they are our most active missionaries. We had a visitor from Ontario last Sabbath that was so impressed. “This is what Sabbath School is all about.” He is going home to start one in his church.
The Lord has truly blessed us much more than we feel we bless others. We want to be used by Him. We want to be His skin in Grande Prairie to touch people’s lives. There is no greater joy.
Up Coming Events
The Sabbath School Department of the Alberta Conference is presently negotiating with Chris and Yolanda Blake to conduct a workshop here in Alberta this fall about “Ministry-Driven Sabbath School”
In spring of this year we are hoping to conduct a workshop on “Children’s Ministries,” on how to enhance our children's Sabbath School through arts & crafts, music, and Biblical drama by bringing Bible stories alive and interesting.
During Camp meeting 2010, there will be a Sabbath School Training Program with Faith Crumbly from Review & Herald.
For more info contact Irma at 403 -342-5044 ext 232 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
For questions or enquiries re the above article, Linda may be reached at 780-864-4242 or email: email@example.com.
To obtain the book & DVD combination by Chris & Yolanda Blake, “Ministry Driven Sabbath School,” please contact the ABC 403-782- 4416.
Personal Ministries & Sabbath School