The Sabbath school, the primary religious education program of the Church, has four purposes: study of the Scripture, fellowship, community outreach, and world mission emphasis. The General Conference Sabbath School and Personal Ministries Department distributes the Sabbath school Bible study guide for all age levels, provides designs for Sabbath school programming within the context of the various world division cultures, provides resources and training systems for Sabbath school teachers, and promotes world mission Sabbath school offerings.
“The Sabbath school is an important branch of the missionary work, not only because it gives to young and old a knowledge of God’s Word, but because it awakens in them a love for its sacred truths, and a desire to study them for themselves; above all, it teaches them to regulate their lives by its holy teachings.”—CSW 10, 11.
“The Sabbath school, if rightly conducted, is one of God’s great instrumentalities to bring souls to a knowledge of the truth.”—CSW 115.
Officers of the Sabbath School Council—The church elects Sabbath school officers and members of the Sabbath school council. Officers include the superintendent and any assistant superintendents; secretary and any assistant secretaries; a leader for each division, including adult and extension divisions; children’s ministries coordinator and/or Vacation Bible School director; and Investment secretary.
The officers, teachers, and all Sabbath school members should cooperate with other departments in all outreach (missionary) work, as well as carrying on Sabbath school evangelism by means of regular Sabbath school classes and such activities as Decision Days, pastors’ Bible classes, Community Guest Days, Vacation Bible Schools, and branch Sabbath schools, including Neighborhood Bible Clubs and Story Hours.
The Sabbath school council is the administrative body of the Sabbath school. It consists of the superintendent (who serves as chairperson), any assistant superintendents, secretary (who serves as secretary), any assistant secretaries, division leaders, Investment secretary, personal ministries leader, children’s ministries coordinator and/or Vacation Bible School director, an elder (appointed by the board or by the board of elders), and the pastor.
As soon as possible after the officers are elected, the superintendent should call a council meeting to appoint, as needed for the various divisions, other officers who do not serve as members of the council. These may include assistant division leaders, division secretaries, music directors, pianists and/or organists, and greeters.
In addition to the appointed officers listed above, the council studies the need of all divisions and groups and appoints teachers whose names are submitted to the board for approval. To maintain both the integrity of the Sabbath school lesson curriculum and the quality of teaching, the council should exercise great care in choosing teachers. Particularly when selecting teachers for the children’s divisions, the council should consult with division leaders. All teachers shall be members of the church in regular standing.
The council is responsible for the successful operation of the entire Sabbath school through the superintendent. The council should meet regularly as needed. The council should ensure that program helps and materials, including the Sabbath school Bible study guide prepared by the General Conference, are supplied in sufficient quantities.
Sabbath School Superintendent and Other Sabbath School Officers—The superintendent is the leading officer of the Sabbath school and should begin planning for its smooth and effective operation as soon as elected. The superintendent should support the plans and emphases of the conference Sabbath school department and should implement decisions of the Sabbath school council concerning the operation of the Sabbath school. The church may elect one or more assistant superintendents.
The secretary should complete the quarterly report on the appropriate form immediately after the last Sabbath of the quarter and mail it before the deadline to the conference Sabbath school and personal ministries directors. The secretary also should place a copy in the secretary’s permanent file, give copies to the superintendent and the pastor, and present it at the business meeting.
The Investment secretary promotes the Investment plan for mission support in all Sabbath school divisions and keeps all members informed as the program progresses.
The Vacation Bible School (VBS) director leads in organizing, promoting, and launching community evangelism through the annual VBS. The church may assign this responsibility to the children’s ministries coordinator.
The council may appoint a music director for the Sabbath school in consultation with division leaders. As an expression of worship, music should glorify God. Singers and other musicians should be as carefully selected as are the leaders for other parts of the Sabbath school service and should be measured by the same standards. (See pp. 92, 144.) The council also may appoint pianists and organists for the divisions.
Sabbath School Division Leaders—The church board elects a leader for each division. The Sabbath school council may appoint assistant division leaders as needed. The Sabbath School Handbook, available from the Adventist Book Center or the conference Sabbath school department, contains information about all divisions, from beginners through adult and the extension division, which cares for those unable to attend Sabbath school.
Sabbath School Teachers—The Sabbath school council chooses and the church board approves Sabbath school teachers. They should have an aptitude for teaching and be willing to study ways to improve their teaching abilities. They should be diligent in preparation, regular and punctual in attendance, and examples in the daily study of the Sabbath school Bible study guide.
The council should make special effort to select teachers for children and youth who have an interest in those age levels and ability to meet their needs. Everyone involved in work with the children’s divisions must meet Church and legal standards and requirements, such as background checks or certification. Local church leaders should consult with the conference, which will ascertain and advise as to what background checks and certifications are available and/or required. (See Notes, #7, pp. 168. 169.) All teachers should be encouraged to participate in the teacher training courses available through the conference Sabbath school department.
Every Sabbath school should have a weekly teachers’ meeting.
Realizing that “none but those who have fortified the mind with the truths of the Bible will stand through the last great conflict” (GC 593, 594), Sabbath school leaders should strongly encourage regular systematic study of the Word. The Sabbath school Bible study guide is designed to encourage daily feasting on the Word, a practice that has done much to maintain unity throughout the Church. Every member should have access to the appropriate age-level Sabbath school Bible study guide published by the General Conference and/or division. Similarly, every leader and teacher should have access to the helps produced for the various Sabbath school divisions by the General Conference and/or division.
Teachers should have at least 30 minutes during which to teach their classes.
Sabbath School Offerings—The Sabbath school secretary should accurately record Sabbath school offerings and pass them on to the treasurer as soon as possible. Extension division offerings should be added to the regular Sabbath school offerings. Many Sabbath schools take offerings for Sabbath school expense. With the exception of that expense fund, all Sabbath school offerings are for the support of the mission fields and are to be passed on in their entirety by the treasurer to the conference. These funds include the regular weekly Sabbath school offering, the Thirteenth Sabbath Offering, Sabbath School Investment, and Birthday-Thank Offering. Each is to be identified as a separate fund in the financial system of the church. Mission funds are distributed according to policy. No mission funds may be retained by the church or conference.
The Sabbath school expense offering and the mission offering, where the calendar of offerings is being used, shall not be taken as one offering and divided according to an agreed-upon formula or percentage. The offerings may be taken as combined offering where the church is operating under a division-approved combined offering plan.
Resources—For Sabbath school and personal ministries resources, see Notes, #13, p. 170.