Sabbath School and
dventist Sabbath school work began when James White wrote the first Sabbath school lessons in 1852. He organized the first regular Sabbath school in 1853 in Rochester, New York. Today, after 157 years, as many as 21 million members meet each Sabbath in more than 133,000 Sabbath schools around the world to participate in this worldwide ministry featuring Bible study, fellowship, community outreach, and mission.
During the 2005–2010 quinquennium, in harmony with the goal of the world church, the Sabbath School and Personal Ministries Department (SSPM) has made a positive contribution to Tell the World initiatives of the world church.
Under the leadership of Gary B. Swanson, associate director, who coordinates the production of Bible study guides and conducts training for Sabbath school leaders and teachers, the department promotes and provides resources for spiritual growth. Prayer, Bible study, and service form the essential core of discipleship throughout the Sabbath school curriculum for all ages. The department produces the children’s Sabbath school curriculum with Falvo Fowler serving as editor of beginner, kindergarten, and primary publications; Bonita Shields as editor of PowerPoints, Real Time Faith, and Cornerstone Connections; and Lyndelle Chiomenti as editor of CQ (Collegiate Quarterly). There has been a significant increase in the circulation of all Bible study guides as instruments for spiritual growth in this quinquennium. One important accomplishment we can see in this quinquennium is the translation of the children’s Sabbath school materials into French, Spanish, Arabic, and Chinese—all available online and ready to be accessed worldwide.
Sabbath School University, a weekly video broadcast by satellite and the Internet, has completed its eighth year of production. This 30-minute program engages viewers in the Sabbath school lesson for the week through a lively and provocative discussion among young adults.
Adventist Church members are involved in countless ministries to those in local communities
Sabbath School, in fact, has expanded its connection to the world church through an increased and intentional emphasis on multimedia. Twelve Web sites provide inspiration and resources for all ages through video and audio podcasts, animation, PowerPoint presentations, and downloadable Bible study guides and other printed documents.
In July 2010 Sabbath School will release a New Members Bible Study Guide for those who have recently joined the church. This series of four quarterly publications will introduce new members to the doctrines, traditions, and heritage of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.
Another Tell the World initiative is community involvement. Adventist Community Services is a major responsibility of SSPM. Under the leadership of May-Ellen Colon, the department promotes worldwide emphasis on community service, centering on the provision of training, resources, and organizational support.
Personal Ministries is a facet of the church whose origin can be traced to the beginning of Adventist history in the 1860s. It endeavors to inspire, motivate, equip, train, and mobilize all members for dynamic Christian service with the conviction that “the church of Christ is organized for service” (The Ministry of Healing, p. 148) and “every son and daughter of God is called to be a missionary; we are called to the service of God and our fellow men” (ibid., p. 395).
During the past five years the department has conducted considerable training in the areas of personal witness, city outreach, church planting, and evangelistic programs. One of the activities includes working with the North American Division (NAD) Adventist-Laymen’s Services and Industries in training and equipping members for DVD evangelism. In the past five years more than 40,000 people have been trained, and nearly 35,000 members from 13 divisions have been equipped with DVD players and discs. They have impacted 1.4 million people through their evangelistic activities.
Church members worldwide study the Bible using materials produced by SSPM
During the past five years the department has continued the production of “Reaching and Winning,” a growing series of learning guides providing specifically targeted outreach approaches for Anglicans, Evangelicals, Mormons, Pentecostals, Jehovah’s Witnesses, New Agers, Catholics, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, and secular people, with several more on the way. These are being made available to equip members to accomplish the Tell the World initiatives.
Also part of Personal Ministries is the International Institute of Christian Ministries (IICM), an umbrella under which various modes of training are offered within the purview of religious education, church leadership, global mission, and outreach. Through IICM, a special certification program for local church leadership, personal evangelism, and public evangelism has provided training in evangelism for thousands of lay members around the world. The results of lay training are featured at festivals of laity around the world, where outstanding lay members gather together to celebrate God’s blessings in helping them to win precious souls to the Lord. Some members have won thousands—and even tens of thousands—of souls.
Bible correspondence schools began in 1942. Today there are schools and affiliates in some 140 countries. Bible lessons are available in the languages and dialects of these countries. Kurt Johnson conducted advisories in various divisions with Bible school directors. A plan is in place to encourage the establishment of Internet Bible schools linked with the Bible correspondence school. The Voice of Prophecy Web site—www.biblestudies.com—links to or hosts Bible lessons in 46 languages from the world schools. A Bible correspondence school information Web site was launched to provide communication among world schools in regard to school locations, addresses, availability of Bible lessons, policies, and general communication. One highlight included the one millionth graduate in NAD from the “mother” of all the world Bible correspondence schools—the Voice of Prophecy Bible School at the Adventist Media Center in Simi Valley, California.
Many valuable resources in the area of SSPM also have been produced by the world divisions. The General Conference SSPM serves as a clearinghouse for these programs and materials. By the grace of God, SSPM has faithfully upheld the vision of the pioneers and is still moving forward to prepare more people for the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ.
This article was published June 24, 2010.