The purpose of the Sabbath School is to make disciples for Christ. It includes the nurture of spiritual growth in members and prospective members, as well as the unchurched who come to join in the fellowship, study, sharing and service. The Sabbath School exists not only to minister to its members, but to train those members to minister to others. The Sabbath School is a school of Christian living, not just an event on Sabbath mornings. It can include Bible study groups that meet at other times also. Its purpose is evangelistic, not ritualistic.
Every Christian believer is called to ministry, gifted by the Holy Spirit, and in baptism ordained for ministry (Eph. 4:11-12). In Acts 2:42-47 the Bible gives us a blueprint for the Sabbath School. Verse 42 outlines the goals of the Sabbath School as “teaching and fellowship,” and “breaking bread and prayer.” Verses 43-45 illustrate the strong sense of togetherness, caring and support that must be present in the Sabbath School in order to create a proper atmosphere for learning and growth. Verse 46 indicates that this can happen both in church buildings and in home Bible study groups, or what Adventists have called “Branch Sabbath Schools” and verse 47 demonstrates how this is essential to a growing church.
The Sabbath School is a lay ministry. It is run, staffed and funded by church members, not the clergy. God calls every member of the church into ministry, and the Sabbath School is the place of preparation, support and empowerment for ministry. It is, therefore, essential to have lay involvement and leadership in its operation.
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