The Sabbath School is the primary religious education system of the Seventh-day Adventist Church and has four purposes: study of the Scripture, fellowship, community outreach, and world mission emphasis.
In cooperation with world divisions, the specific mission of the General Conference Sabbath School Department is to distribute the Sabbath School Bible Study Guide for all age levels, provide designs for Sabbath School programming within the context of the various world 104 CHURCH MANUAL] division cultures, provide resources and training systems for Sabbath School teachers, and promote 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."—Counsels on Sabbath School Work, pp. 10, 11.
"The Sabbath school, if rightly conducted, is one of God’s great instrumentalities to bring souls to a knowledge of the truth."—Counsels on Sabbath School Work, p. 115.
The officers, teachers, and entire Sabbath School membership should cooperate with the other departments of the church in all outreach (missionary) work and soul-saving activities, as well as energetically carrying on Sabbath School evangelism by means of the 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. In churches which have a Children’s Ministries Department, Vacation Bible Schools, children’s branch Sabbath Schools, Neighborhood Bible Clubs, and Story Hours will come under the direction of the Children’s Ministries Department. (See p. 129.) Likewise, all departments of the church should work together with the Sabbath School to make the work of the entire church as effective as possible.
The officers of the Sabbath School should be members of the local church. They are elected for one or two years as determined by the local church. (See p. 49.) The officers who serve as members of the Sabbath School Council are elected in the same manner and at the same time as the officers of the church. The list of Sabbath School officers and their assistants who are to be elected by the church is as follows: superintendent, with one or more assistants; secretary, with one or more assistants; a leader for each division, including the adult and extension divisions; Children’s Ministries coordinator and/or Vacation Bible School director; and Investment secretary.
Sabbath School Council—The Sabbath School Council is the administrative body of the Sabbath School. It consists of the following: superintendent (to serve as chairperson), assistant superintendent(s), secretary (to serve as secretary of the council), assistant secretaries, division leaders, Investment secretary, Personal Ministries leader, Children’s Ministries coordinator and/or Vacation Bible School director, an elder (appointed by the church board or by the board of elders), and the pastor. As soon as possible after the officers are elected, the [AUXILIARY ORGANIZATIONS OF THE CHURCH 105] superintendent should call a Sabbath School Council meeting to appoint, as needed for the various divisions, other officers who do not serve as members of the Sabbath School Council. These may include assistant division leaders, division secretaries, music directors, pianists and/or organists, and greeters.
In addition to the appointed officers listed in the paragraph above, the Sabbath School Council appoints the teachers for all divisions, who are then approved by the church board. Careful study should be given to the needs of all groups. It is advisable to consult with the division leaders, particularly when selecting teachers for the children’s divisions.
Because of the importance of maintaining the integrity of the truths being taught and maintaining a high quality of teaching, great care should be exercised in the choice of Sabbath School teachers. The time allotted for teaching should be at least thirty minutes. All teachers shall be members of the church in regular standing.
The Sabbath School Council is responsible for the successful operation of the entire Sabbath School through the leadership of its chairperson, the superintendent. The council should meet regularly as needed to affect proper coordination of the program for all divisions. 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 and in a timely manner.
Superintendent—The Sabbath School superintendent is the leading officer of the Sabbath School. As soon as the superintendent is elected, he/she should begin planning for the smooth and effective operation of the school. The superintendent should support the plans and emphases of the Sabbath School Department of the conference/mission/field. The superintendent is expected to abide by the decisions of the Sabbath School Council concerning the operation of the Sabbath School. (See Notes, #6, p. 135.)
Assistant Superintendent—One or more assistant superintendents may be elected to assist the superintendent as needed. The assistant(s) may be assigned specific responsibilities, such as: promoting Sabbath School evangelism and world missions; coordinating the weekly mission emphasis, and planning and promoting offering goals; fostering and coordinating evangelistic outreach plans and activities in the community; and caring for membership by checking Sabbath School records with the church membership records, and then making and implementing plans to increase Sabbath School attendance and membership. Such plans should encourage individual and class outreach to contact nonattending and new members. [106 CHURCH MANUAL]
Secretary—Faithfulness, accuracy, and Christian courtesy are especially necessary in the work of the secretary. (See Notes, #7, p. 136.)
Assistant Secretary—In the absence of the secretary, an assistant secretary assumes the responsibilities. The assistant secretary should be present at each Sabbath School service, ready to assist by doing whatever the superintendent or the secretary may require.
If desired, the assistant may act as secretary of the teachers’ meeting and report to the secretary any business that should be recorded.
Investment Secretary—The Investment secretary gives promotional leadership to the Investment Plan for mission support. He/She encourages investment activity in all divisions of the Sabbath School, keeping all members informed of progress.
Vacation Bible School Director—The Vacation Bible School director leads in organizing, promoting, and launching community evangelism through the annual Vacation Bible School. (In some churches this responsibility may be given to the Children’s Ministries coordinator.)
Music Director—A music director may be appointed by the Sabbath School Council to lead the music of the school and plan with the division leader for the presentation of this phase of worship each Sabbath.
As an expression of worship, care should be taken to provide music which will glorify God. Singers should be as carefully selected as are the workers for other parts of the Sabbath School service and should be measured by the same standards. Singers should be as carefully selected as are the workers for other parts of the Sabbath School service and should be measured by the same standards. (See p. 78.)
Pianist and/or Organist—In Sabbath Schools which use pianists and/or organists, such musicians are appointed by the Sabbath School Council.
Sabbath School Division Leaders—A leader is elected for each division of the Sabbath School by the church board. Assistants, as needed, may be appointed by the Sabbath School Council. More information on the age-related divisions, ranging from beginners through adult, is detailed in the Sabbath School Handbook which may be obtained from the Adventist Book Center or the conference/mission/field Sabbath School Department. [AUXILIARY ORGANIZATIONS OF THE CHURCH 107]
Duties of division leaders include arranging for the weekly program of the Sabbath School. Every division should follow the suggested schedule for that division as outlined in the Sabbath School Handbook and should always include a time for mission emphasis and for the Bible study discussion appropriate to the age level of those in that Sabbath School division. Division leaders need to be sure that there are adequate physical facilities and supplies of the Sabbath School Bible Study Guide and weekly papers for all members and visitors, as well as goal devices, charts, and other teaching aids as needed.
Extension Division—The extension division cares for those who are unable to attend Sabbath School because of age or infirmity. Special information on the work of the extension division leader may be found in the Sabbath School Handbook.
Sabbath School Teachers—All teachers are chosen by the Sabbath School Council and approved by the church board to serve for one year. These individuals should have an aptitude for teaching and be willing to study ways to improve their teaching ability. They should be diligent in their preparation, be regular and punctual in attendance, and set an example to the class in the daily study of the Sabbath School Bible Study Guide.
Special effort should be made to select teachers for children and youth from among those members who have their special interest at heart and who have the ability to meet their needs.
All teachers should be encouraged to participate in the teacher training courses published by the General Conference and/or division which are available through the conference/mission/field Sabbath School Department.
Sabbath School Teachers’ Meeting—It is recommended that every Sabbath School have a weekly teachers’ meeting. The superintendent should have charge, although someone else may be appointed to conduct the survey of the next Sabbath’s Bible study. The best results are obtained when the teachers’ meeting is held prior to the Sabbath, as this provides opportunity for private study both before and after the meeting; it is also likely to be less hurried than if held on Sabbath morning. Sufficient time should be allowed for the teachers’ meeting, and at least three things should be accomplished: a profitable survey of the next Sabbath’s Bible study, a brief consideration of one or more Sabbath School goals, and discussion of any general problem requiring attention. [108 CHURCH MANUAL]
Sabbath School Lessons—Realizing that "none but those who have fortified the mind with the truths of the Bible will stand through the last great conflict" (The Great Controversy, pp. 593, 594), the Sabbath School Department leaders should do all that is possible to encourage regular systematic study of the Word. The Sabbath School Bible Study Guide is designed to encourage the habit of daily feasting on the Word. This time-honored practice has done much to maintain Christian unity throughout the world church.
The General Conference publishes a Sabbath School Bible Study Guide for each division of the Sabbath School. Every member should have access to those materials through the Sabbath School Bible Study Guide appropriate to the member’s age level. Helps for leaders and teachers are produced by the General Conference and/or division, and the appropriate helps should be made available to every leader and teacher in each Sabbath School division.
Sabbath School Offerings—All Sabbath School offerings are to be carefully recorded by the Sabbath School secretary and handed to the church treasurer at the earliest suitable moment. When the extension division offerings are received, they should be added to the offerings already received from the Sabbath School.
With the exception of the expense fund, all Sabbath School offerings are General Conference offerings and are to be passed on in their entirety by the church treasurer to the conference/mission/field for transfer to the General Conference. These funds include the regular Sabbath School weekly offering, the Thirteenth Sabbath offering, Sabbath School Investment, and Birthday-Thank offering. They are all mission funds, each of which is to be identified as a separate fund in the regular system of records from the local church to the General Conference. This is necessary to enable the General Conference to appropriate the percentages used for special projects according to church policy. No mission funds may be retained by the local church or conference/mission/ field.
Expense Money—Many Sabbath Schools take offerings at stated periods for Sabbath School expense. (See Notes, #8, p. 136.)
The Sabbath School expense offering and the mission offering shall not be taken as one offering and divided according to an agreed-upon formula or percentage. Sabbath School expense offerings must be kept entirely separate from the mission offerings.
Quarterly Report—The Quarterly Report should be completed immediately after the last Sabbath of the quarter and mailed before the [AUXILIARY ORGANIZATIONS OF THE CHURCH 109] stated deadline to the conference/mission/field Sabbath School and Personal Ministries director(s). It should be presented at the quarterly business meeting of the church. The secretary should send the report on the appropriate form to the conference/mission/field Sabbath School and Personal Ministries director(s), place a copy in the secretary’s permanent file, and provide copies for the Sabbath School superintendent and the pastor.