Connect. Discuss. Equip. Share.
This is what our Sabbath school leaders do every Sabbath morning. From Beginners through to the Adults class, these mums, dads and church leaders have been creating innovative new ways to share the Gospel with others.
As new parents, my wife and I began taking our little boy along to the Beginner’s Sabbath school at our local church. The Sabbath school leaders had decorated the room beautifully and our little guy loved the songs, Bible stories, crafts and interaction with the other children.
The memories of these first Sabbaths at church with my little boy are something I will cherish forever. However, due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis and the Australian Government’s social distancing rules, these programs can no longer run.
This means Sabbath school will now have to be run at home. For mums and dads around the world, this is a daunting task! Luckily, there’s Facebook!
My wife and I have created a Facebook page called SDA Sabbath School which hosts eight groups, one for each of the Sabbath school divisions (Beginners, Kindergarten, Primary, Juniors, Teens, Youth, Young Adults, Adults).
In these groups, parents and Sabbath school leaders can connect with each other, share resources (crafts, skits, songs, illustrations, videos, outdoor activities, discussion questions, etc) and discuss ways of teaching the lessons.
As more and more people share their ideas, it will provide a valuable resource for parents and Sabbath school leaders around the world.
"Parents have always had the greatest influence on their children's spiritual development."
Now I know what you’re all thinking: “Creating a Sabbath School class for our kids at home is a lot of work! Is it really worth it?”
As I was preparing for a recent sermon, I came across some research that transformed my priorities as a pastor. According to George Barna (the founder of the Barna Group), “a person’s lifelong behaviours and views are generally developed when they are young—particularly before they reach the teenage years.”1
Key findings of the research included:
- “A person’s moral foundations are generally in place by the time they reach age nine.” While these foundations are refined as people grow older, “their fundamental perspectives on truth, integrity, meaning, justice, morality and ethics” rarely ever go through a “wholesale change”.
- “In most cases, people’s spiritual beliefs are irrevocably formed when they are pre-teens.” Barna discovered that 13-year-olds and adults shared an “identical belief profile” on issues such as “the nature of God, the existence of Satan, the reliability of the Bible, perceptions regarding the afterlife, the holiness of Jesus Christ, the means of gaining God’s favour, and the influence of spiritual forces in a person’s life.” According to Barna, “what you believe by the time you are 13 is what you will die believing.” While a very small percentage of people will change their belief profile later in life, “most people’s minds are made up and they believe they know what they need to know spiritually by age 13.” After this age they focus on absorbing religious information to “gain reassurance and confirmation of their existing beliefs rather than to glean new insights that will redefine their foundations”.
- “Adult church leaders usually have serious involvement in church life and training when they are young.” More than 80 per cent of pastors, church staff and lay leaders had “consistently been involved in the ministry to children for an extended period of years prior to age 13”. Subsequently, if children are not involved in church programs, there is a very low probability that they will become church leaders when they are older.
According to Barna, this research “underscored the importance of families, not churches, taking the lead in the spiritual development of children”. Churches and families must work together. Pastors and members should equip and support each other, but parents must personally prioritise the spiritual development of their children.
Parents have always had the greatest influence on their children’s spiritual development. According to one study, when parents talked about their faith at home and were active in their congregations, 82 per cent of their children went on to be religiously active as young adults.2 Other factors such as Christian schooling, service projects, youth ministry or the local pastor have nowhere near the influence of a child’s own parents.3 According to the lead researcher, professor Christian Smith, “no other conceivable causal influence . . . comes remotely close to matching the influence of parents on the religious faith and practices of youth. . . . Parents just dominate.”4
So to all the parents, I encourage you to prioritise your kids over the coming months as social isolation increases. You are their greatest spiritual influence! You always have been and you always will be, even when traditional church programs resume.
As you’re doing the Sabbath school lessons and you find ideas that work (and don’t work!), please share them in the SDA Sabbath school groups so that others can benefit from your experience; we’re all in this together!
Connection is important in these times—connecting with each other, connecting with our children and, most importantly, connecting with our Saviour and Friend. While everyone is keeping social distance, may our families grow ever closer to Him.
Jared Martin is the associate pastor of Mt Gravatt and Brisbane Fijian churches. He also helps develop a Sabbath school app with the lessons in over 50 languages. Visit https://adventech.io/sabbath-school/ for more information.
- Barna Group. “Research Shows That Spiritual Maturity Process Should Start at a Young Age” (2009). Available from: www.barna.com/research/research-shows-that-spiritual-maturity-process-should-start-at-a-young-age [Accessed April 6, 2020].
- David Briggs. “The No. 1 Reason Teens Keeps the Faith as Young Adults” (2014). Available from: www.huffpost.com/entry/the-no-1-reason-teens-kee_b_6067838 [Accessed April 6, 2020].