Jim Zackrison Director
The Sabbath School and Personal Ministries
Department was organized at the 1995 General Conference session in the Netherlands.
This was the first time that the world church had put these two units together
in a single department.
Two Units Working Together
These departments have many features in common. For instance,
both teach Bible study skills. Both teach skills on how to teach other people,
whether in giving a Bible study, holding a lay evangelistic effort, or some
other activity that includes a teaching component. Social skills through Friendship
Evangelism seminars are also taught. How to set up hospitality groups and greeting
committees at the door of the local church and how to make people feel welcome
are seminars offered by the department. Small group technology is a core strategy
of both sections of the department and is being used extensively.
Sabbath School has been part of the Seventh-day Adventist
Church since the 1860s. More than 11 million people worldwide currently attend.
Now Sabbath school faces the twenty-first century with a new determination to
be a continuing vital part of the world ministry of the church.
The Sabbath school is local church religious education that
builds faith and practice. Its primary function is to lead people to study the
Scriptures and to understand the fundamental doctrines of the Seventh-day Adventist
Church. It is designed to help church members, those who visit the church, and
new members learn how to transfer biblical principles into their everyday lifestyles.
The world Sabbath school does this by focusing on four primary purposes: study
of the Word, fellowship, community outreach, and world mission emphasis.
Fellowship is an important part of the Sabbath school. As
it was originally contemplated in the minds of the founders of the Adventist
Church, Sabbath school was to be a place where people could feel comfortable,
where they could study the Scriptures together, and where they could enjoy Christian
companionship. This would lead to furthering their own personal spirituality
and also inspire them to tell others about the church and its teachings.
Another major function of Sabbath school is world mission
emphasis. Sabbath School was the first entity within the church to focus on
raising offerings to further the work of the gospel around the world and has
been doing so ever since. It has become a major source of nontithe funding for
the world church and has helped in the establishment of hundreds of thousands
of Adventist churches globally.
World mission emphasis is conducted through audiovisual
programs, the three versions of mission quarterlies that are being used in an
expanding number of churches globally, and other ways that focus on the world
mission of the church.
One of the primary functions of the Sabbath school is the
development of the Bible study guides studied each week in churches throughout
the world. Their purpose is to guide people in the study of the Scriptures with
the hope that they will learn more about the Lord’s will for them. They are
developed around studies of books of the Bible as well as topical studies.
CQ and Cornerstone Connections. For the young adults of the church the Sabbath School Department develops the Collegiate Quarterly. It is produced in print media and placed
on the World Wide Web. In discussion-oriented format, including a teacher’s
guide, it leads to practical applications of the truths of the Bible.
Cornerstone Connections, a series of lessons designed
specifically for those of secondary school age, is based on major issues faced
by this age group. They learn biblical principles that mold the difference between
making decisions from the perspective of the contemporary environment in which
a person lives, and those based on what the Scriptures have to say.
GraceLink—The New Children’s Curriculum. One of the most exciting developments during the current
quinquennium is the new children’s Sabbath school curriculum. Developed by a
worldwide team of designers and authors, GraceLink is made up of more than 624
lessons based directly
on Bible stories. The stories are used to apply biblical
principles to everyday life through an interactive learning system. The children
participate in all the activities and learn by doing. Each lesson is built around
a concept called “total hour teaching.” The program time and the lesson of the
day both deal with the Bible story that is included in the material so it can
be learned, illustrated, practiced, and utilized in everyday life.
Many of the new materials are already in the hands of churches
around the world. Those still in the process of development will soon be in
your church. Junior/teen is in use now. Primary will be ready in January 2001,
kindergarten and beginners in January 2002.
This unit of the Sabbath School and Personal Ministries
Department includes those activities that have to do with outreach. Its statement
of purpose is “Motivating, training, and mobilizing members to accomplish the
world mission of the church.”
The key to accomplishing this purpose is built around a
number of factors. The first is the establishment of a system of lay congresses
in world divisions. The idea is that each local field will sponsor a lay congress
every year, each union every three years, each division every five years.
Lay congresses during this quinquennium have had an enormous
impact on the soul-winning initiatives of the people who have attended. The
motivation and enthusiasm attendees have carried back to their home churches
have resulted in significant church growth.
For example, the Northern Asia-Pacific Division held an
extremely successful lay congress in Korea that involved a number of unions.
The Southern Asia-Pacific Division held a major personal ministries and Sabbath
school convention that was attended by more than 70,000 people. The Trans-European
Division held a lay congress in the Netherlands in 1998 that was highly successful.
It particularly motivated a large number of young adults to rebuild the soul-winning
systems in their local churches.
The Inter-American Division’s “Festivals of the Laity” have
seen thousands upon thousands of people attending in different parts of the
division. The same story could be told in South America, the divisions of the
continent of Africa, and other parts of the world that have participated in
this plan. The North American Division has plans in 2002 for a division-wide
lay congress with an expected attendance of 15,000 people.
ONE GROUP OF WRITERS: (left to right, back row) Adrianna Femopase,
Argentina; Audrey Andersson, Sweden; Evelyn Omana, Venezuela; Denise
Ropka-Kasishche, Tennessee; Denise Prereya, California; Janet Rieger,
Australia; (front row) Eileen Dahl-Vermeer, Canada; Patricia A. Habada,
General Conference; Jackie Bishop, Rocky Mountain Conference, Colorado;
Rebecca O’Ffill, Maryland; Kathleen Beagles, General Conference
International Institute of Christian Ministries
Key to the training offered by the personal ministries unit
is the International Institute of Christian Ministries, which now has thousands
of graduates all over the world. This is not the same as a short weekend training
session. This is serious training in which those who enroll take 40 hours of
core classes, studying the basics of how to win people, how to give Bible studies,
how to interpret the Scriptures, and other fundamental skills needed by anyone
who does outreach. A student can specialize in personal lay witnessing, lay
evangelism, lay preaching, youth evangelism, or a number of other areas in which
they will become skilled in order to reach out effectively and bring people
into the church.
People trained by the International Institute of Christian
Ministries are becoming a major force in the soul-winning activities of the
Seventh-day Adventist Church globally.
Bible Correspondence Schools
During the current quinquennium the coordination of Bible
correspondence schools around the world was also assigned to the Sabbath School
and Personal Ministries Department, working in coordination with the Voice of
Prophecy, Adventist World Radio, It Is Written, ACGN, and other media programs.
Bible correspondence schools are a major soul-winning entity within the church.
In January 1998 a major meeting was held at the media center facilities of the
North American Division in Simi Valley, California, in which all of the world
church Bible correspondence school directors came together to lay plans for
the future. Since that time a Web page has been developed. People can now take
Bible correspondence courses on the Internet—a growing community of people that
offers a new media for winning souls. A new basic course called Discovery, specially
written to be easily translated and used on a massive basis in many languages
throughout the world, has been developed.
Bible correspondence schools are ready to move into the
twenty-first century with new enthusiasm for promulgating the Adventist message
Your Sabbath School and Personal Ministries Department is
on the move. You may have to run to keep up with it, but don’t lose out. The
resources are available. It is up to you to use them for the advancement of