Sabbath School Alive! is the initiative of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists (GC) to revitalize Sabbath Schools worldwide. What should be an indispensable dimension of the worship experience has become, in many spheres, relegated to an optional pre-game show for the church service. A significant impetus for this campaign comes from the pen of inspiration: “The Sabbath School should be one of the greatest instrumentalities, and the most effectual, in bringing souls to Christ” (Ellen White, Counsels on Sabbath School Work, p. 10).
Three Legs of Stability
Sabbath School Alive! highlights three fundamental components of a thriving dynamic:
Bible Study and Prayer—The foundation of Sabbath School. Members are challenged to dig deep into God’s empowering Word. Teachers are prompted to base their teaching and example on the Bible and yearn to win others to Christ. Everyone needs to take seriously the importance of personal and intercessory prayer. “Never should the Bible be studied without prayer” (White, Steps to Christ, p. 91).
Fellowship—The format of Sabbath School. The environment should support conversations, not sermons. The bonds between the members are more meaningful when they burst the classroom walls and materialize into social interactions and outreach efforts, such as visiting those who have been regularly absent or experiencing hardships.
Mission—The focus of Sabbath School. Churches should conduct a vibrant mission program, separate from the class study, that includes world mission updates, local outreach reports, and personal ministries training. These activities need to figure into everyone’s financial stewardship and constitute 10–15 minutes of praying, planning, and reporting at the beginning of class.
Ramon Canals, director of Sabbath School and Personal Ministries (SSPM) for the GC, has been eagerly captaining the Sabbath School Alive! campaign wherever he goes. In a training session at a local church in Maryland, he said, “Sabbath School is one of the most important institutions in the Seventh-day Adventist Church. It has a powerful influence in the lives of people.”
In a video conference with dozens of directors throughout the Inter-American Division, Canals exclaimed, “Sabbath School must be the happiest environment where we can encounter Jesus Christ. We need to be alive in Jesus as we preach the messages of the three angels, as we live to glorify God, to please God, to bear fruit, to grow in knowledge, be strong in God, and in joyful gratitude.”
Canals expressed even more ringing endorsements during the recent Virtual Global Campmeeting, themed “I Will Go.” He shared the account of Andrew from when he was ten years old. Andrew enjoyed going to Sabbath School with his family, studying the lessons, singing, and connecting with friends, but hearing overseas mission stories topped his list.
Andrew told Canals, “Sabbath School had a positive influence in my life as a young boy. It was in Sabbath School that I learned to develop a love for God, for the Bible, and for mission. As a child, I used to dream of becoming a missionary. Now, that dream has become a reality.” He and his wife, both physicians, currently serve overseas. Canals stressed the power and influence of Sabbath School through this testimonial.
Two of Canals’ colleagues complement his efforts through their respective roles within the SSPM department. Justin Kim, assistant director of GC SSPM, hosts InVerse (https://www.hopetv.org/inverse; https://www.inversebible.org/) and edits the accompanying young adult study guides. Though recognizing the value of modern technology, Kim touts going back to the basics. Though incorporating both primitive and present, the primary, practical charm of InVerse is its prompting of students to write the Bible passages and their assessments of them by hand. The motor skills employed deepens one’s connection with God’s Word in a manner that an electronic interface cannot replicate, as scientific evidence verifies.
Nina Atcheson, curriculum manager for GC SSPM, discussed Alive in Jesus (https://www.sabbathschoolpersonalministries.org/aliveinjesus), a Sabbath School program currently under development for children from birth to 18 years old. She asserted that Scripture is the foundation of this curriculum, with three pillars stemming from it: grace, character (development), and mission. She then delineated the various age-range stages of lessons, the nuances of their structures, and how they all reinforce the three pillars. With the meticulous attention currently poured into fine-tuning this program, the launch is set for the back half of 2024.
In a video trailer for Sabbath School Alive! several lay young people articulated what a vibrant program means to them. One young man shared his perspective as an instructor: “Sabbath School provides me with a platform for cultivating my gift of teaching and pushes me to be creative in my presentations, but more than that, it provides me with an opportunity to engage in meaningful discussion about the gospel.”
A young lady subtly, succinctly wove together the three fundamental components of a flourishing Sabbath School: “For me, it’s where I start my Sabbath. It’s like a forum where I can share what I’ve learned, invite my friends, and learn from the perspective of others.”
Another young man stressed the soul-winning element: “I always look forward to hearing mission stories during Sabbath School, of how the gospel is being spread around the world, churches being built, to outreach activities happening right here at home. Those stories… are actually inspiring our class right here to go out in the community and do the very same thing.”
The final testimonial came from a young lady who drove home the essence statement of Sabbath School Alive!: “Just as a healthy body needs a healthy heart, the body of Christ, the church, needs a vigorous, healthy heart—an active Sabbath School.”
For more information and useful resources, visit the official site, https://alive.adventist.org/. As a worthwhile bonus, go to Three Angels Broadcasting Network’s YouTube channel to watch their interview with Kameron Devasher, director of Sabbath School and Personal Ministries for the Michigan Conference (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=26_1udn3tIY&t=143s). He provides notable, demonstrative insight into how the global initiative is funneling down to the local levels; he also emphasizes how Sabbath School and personal ministries should be synergistically intertwined.