Gracelink Sabbath School Curriculum Replaced, Teacher Survey Online Now

Gracelink, the children’s Sabbath School curriculum developed by the Seventh-day Adventist Church for its children’s ministries worldwide, is being replaced. In April, the General Conference Administrative Committee voted to make substantive changes, and Adventist Review almost immediately posted a story about the vote, complete with a photo of a new logo. The new curricula will be called “My Bible Guides.”

The Adventist Review article stated that the curriculum change was intended “to place a greater emphasis on distinct Adventist teachings” without losing the importance of grace for salvation.

A notice on the Gracelink web page now suggests that actual curriculum changes may take a while. “Due to recent changes in our editorial office, and other factors that determine the curriculum the changes that were scheduled to appear in these guides in 2016 have been delayed, “ the notice reads. “We will inform you of the release date at least two quarters ahead of time. We apologize for any inconvenience. Visit gracelink.net for all updates.”

Recently, a survey was added to the web page. Linda Mei Lin Koh, director of the Children’s Ministries for the General Conference, contacted the Division Children’s Ministries Directors to alert them. “We have just found out that the Sabbath School department has put a survey on the website of Gracelink.net to get a feel of what people say about it—negative or positive . . . But they did not inform us CHM about it so we can ask many others who have used Gracelink to fill in the survey. Right now they have informed those from the ‘My Bible First’ people and they are the ones filling in the survey.” (“My Bible First” is the name of a curriculum created by an independent ministry that is often referred to as a pattern for the new curriculum, “My Bible Guides.”) She concluded, “We need to give the positive part of Gracelink, too, even though we know they have already taken action to do away with it.”

The nine-question survey begins by asking whether or not churches are using the materials produced by the General Conference for children and youth, how their children’s classes are structured, and the number of students in each of the classes before the last three questions which focus on the content of materials produced by the GC:

*“What do students like most about the Sabbath School lesson or any component of the Sabbath School study hour?

*How do you find the various components of the Sabbath School materials beneficial to your students?

*How could the various components of the Sabbath School materials be improved?”

This is the first public request for input to inform preparation of the new Sabbath School materials. Divisions have complained to the General Conference about the lack of consultation with the world field regarding the proposed changes, in sharp contrast to the extensive consultation that was done in the preparation of Gracelink, when it was created twenty years ago. One division wrote to the SS Department requesting information on the research basis or reasons for the change from Gracelink, a curriculum that was developed by educational experts based upon research on how children learn.

Once news of the survey was posted on Facebook, responses to it grew dramatically and the survey will stay on the web site for a while longer. However, with no questions about the demographics of the respondents such as the country in which the person lives, the age of who is responding, this single survey gives a very limited picture of Sabbath School.

For a longer history of Gracelink, see the current issue of Spectrum. If you are not a current Spectrum recipient, you can receive the journal quarterly by becoming a member of Adventist Forum. You can also request a free trial issue of the journal.

Bonnie Dwyer is Editor of Spectrum Magazine.

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This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/7598
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Wasn’t Gracelink pushed as a modern concept to replace an aged quarterly? And now that it has aged, a new concept is modern. It seems that the same arguments for keeping the Sabbath School materials before Gracelink are now being used by the same people who fought for Gracelink. Improvement is a hard fought battle every step of the way. Gracelink was good, and it’s had it’s run. Let’s get excited about what’s next.

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Because Rules are more important than Grace.

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It wouldn’t have been hard to improve on Gracelink. I’ve heard numerous complaints about it from various Sabbath School teachers over the years, including my wife and sister-in-law, who have taught in the children’s divisions for more than 25 years. It sort of “dumbed down” our beliefs, and the activities were often silly. They’ve often had to do their own improvising, and just ignore the material in the lesson book.

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The survey mentioned does not appear on the Gracelink home page. Has it been taken down?

I searched on both the GC Sabbath School page and Gracelink Home page. A link to the survey would be appreciated.

WHAT INDEPENDENT MINISTRY??? WHY WAS IT NOT NAMED. ARE THEY AFRAID TO NAME IT???
so it is not produced by the general conference children’s ministry department.
Looks like NO ONE is talking to each other up there in the General Conference Children’s Ministry Department and the General Conference other departments.
I REALLY do not find this as odd, but it is STILL Strange when you think of how many of the NEXT GENERATION will be “brain washed” with a new “canned” program. And Taught WHAT TO THINK.
Not taught HOW to think.

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What concerns me most is this quote: "But they did not inform us CHM about it so we can ask many others who have used Gracelink to fill in the survey. Right now they have informed those from the ‘My Bible First’ people and they are the ones filling in the survey.” (“My Bible First” is the name of a curriculum created by an independent ministry that is often referred to as a pattern for the new curriculum, “My Bible Guides.”) She concluded, “We need to give the positive part of Gracelink, too, even though we know they have already taken action to do away with it.”

Before GraceLink was fully implemented (incremental introduction, one year at a time) the “My Bible First” authors and supporters were closely allied with a document/web publication entitled “GraceLink Disgrace” which was VERY pointed in its (often mistaken) accusations of the new program. I find it very disturbing that those same people have been given widespread access to skew a survey that will undoubtedly be used to support the “doing away” with GraceLink.

That is truly disgraceful.

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And is it any wonder so many young parents (under 40 IMHO) are drifting out of the church? I see the church as being prescriptive in their approach rather than descriptive of the reality of children and youth today and their parents.

I’m a 65+ yr old grandfather, and I’ve seen many of my generation become disillusioned and walk away from the church. My children’s generation even more so, although I’m ever so grateful my own children are still Adventists (in a progressive church). They can’ explain the investigative judgment to me and know little about Ellen White (although they were taught about that at home and school), but they are “Adventists”.

I’ve struggled mightily against a lot of odds to remain an Adventist. Sometimes I’ve felt that I wanted the church much more than it wanted me.

I worry about my grandchildren, though. Will there even be a relevant Adventist church for them to attend, although they are growing up right now in a marvelous progressive congregation? I worry that their Sabbath School lessons will remain prescriptive, and thus become irrelevant. Will the Bible focused lessons be so literalistic that, when they grow up, they will feel betrayed or disjointed from what they were taught?

Will rigidity and prescriptive programming contribute to the decline of Adventism in the U.S. and Western Europe?

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Sorry for the way this is done.

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What concerns me is different to what concerns you. What concerns me is that they thought they should be alerted so they can stack the survey results.

Gracelink is light on doctrine, high on entertainment and doesn’t impart the attitude that the Bible is serious. Plus there’s not enough reading material. One reading for the week? My Bible First has one per day. Gracelink relies too much on activities rather than teaching/doctrine/knowledge. I can’t wait to see it gone.

I don’t mind their Sabbath school videos, but that has to be coupled with serious teaching outside of the curriculum. Personally I use the My Bible First material with my daughter.

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Once again it appears that independent ministries take over our church. This will not create unity, but continue polarization. What a move.

And incidentally - while I am not aware of either programme … I read in my Bible what Jesus did, when they brought children to him. He did not teach them doctrine, but he hugged them and loved them. Children who feel loved and welcome in our church, will appreciate it (including doctrines). Children who are spoonfed doctrines without love (which includes child appropriate offers), will no longer warm to this church.

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It’s there, it’s on the Kindergarten page, and, I assume, the other divisions as well, but not the main home page.

Thanks for the info. I’ll look. :slight_smile: Edit: It was there and the site says it will be there til Sept. 15.

The Gospel and the 28 are at times in deep conflict . Just leave eschatology out. It is only fear mongering t o n o redemptive purpose. TZ

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Hello, all–I’ve been participating in children’s Sabbath Schools as a teacher, leader, and coordinator since 1986. (I’ve also directed VBS and chaired church school board.) Though I freely admit to some frustration with occasional lessons (or sets of lessons–Acts is unfolding in glacial slow motion in Primary SS this third quarter), I am very sorry to see GraceLink replaced rather than tweaked.

Quoting from an adult Sabbath School commentary I published in this space in 2009, “Lighten up–You’re Only a Steward”:

"The 1989 ValueGenesis study, with its findings that many Seventh-day Adventist young people did not have assurance of salvation or a personal relationship with God that gives them comfort and joy, and statistics showing that many young people raised in the Church don’t embrace that commitment as adults, confronted Children’s Ministries leaders with a very disquieting challenge. They rose to that challenge with a monumental overhaul of the curriculum: the weekly Bible lessons provided in the publications Little Friend through Insight and the teaching materials provided to leaders and staff in the Sabbath Schools were re-written from scratch …

"The rotation of Bible lessons in GraceLink, as the new curriculum is called, are structured to reinforce four essential Adventist themes. No, silly, not the Sabbath, the state of the dead, the Second Coming, and the health message—or even stewardship. They are Grace (“God loves me” is the tag line we use in Kindergarten); Worship (“I love God”), which includes obedience; Community or church (“We love each other”); and Service (which embraces evangelism: “God loves you, too”).

“There have been attacks on these lessons … At my [now previous] local church, GraceLink’s most controversial aspects are the artwork, which some see as “cartoonish,” and the abandonment of chronology … as an organizing principle… But GraceLink makes a full-bore effort to address an unintended by-product of SDA religious education: the connection it has made, for some children, between our particular religious faith and bad feelings. When these particular children grow up and have a choice, it may be easier to repudiate a religious system that they associate with guilt, fear, and anxiety. Maybe it would be better to have our children associate their church’s message with love? Worth a shot.”

Now I’m back with you in 2016.

Yes, the teaching materials recommend that activities be adopted, omitted, or adapted based on local circumstances. Some kids LOVE crafts, while others need a game-like outlet for their physical energy. Being the type of person who used to check books out from the library to plan birthday parties for my children (this was before Pinterest), I have very much appreciated the range of recommended activities that comes with every lesson. This has been a huge asset within GraceLink for SS staff who are less creative and don’t have time during the week to allow their own ideas to percolate.

My sense at my current home church (not associated with any larger denominational institution such as a hospital or conference academy) is that most member families do not use church-provided materials to study the Bible at home with their children, meaning that the benefit (or damage) of any particular curriculum is limited to the time at Sabbath School. I hope that SS will continue to be fun, active, engaging, and positive, so that Adventist kids can meet and fall in love with the Jesus who invites their loyalty–and associate positive feelings with their faith tradition.

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With an aging demographic, formerly high paid professionals are on fixed pension incomes and less likely to be prolific in their generous widespread contributions.

These multiple sideline ministries almost function as alternative denominations and siphon off funds from the main church budget. While many have noble aims one cannot support them all.

In helping my elderly sister, a retired academy teacher, with her income tax, I find multiple, almost weekly, mailings to her from these affiliated groups, and she makes small donations to all!

I myself, happily bypass the main church with my contributions, never labeling my donations “tithe”

Why would I give to an organization that discriminates against the majority of its members? I lavishly bestow my bounty on my own congregation, where I have visual and hands on control as to how the money is spent. Also I give to Doctors Without Borders an incredible humanitarian group.

Why would I give to ADRA, after the fiasco for that group engineered by Wilson et al, some years ago??

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I filled out the survey. I guess I would be considered a “My Bible First” person (having used MBF curricula for four years for my beginners Sabbath school), but let me say this. I was not notified by My Bible First to fill it out. I saw it was a sponsored post in my Facebook feed from Advent Source, so go blame Advent Source for your influx of My Bible First people. Oh yes, and I told friends to fill it out too. So there’s word of mouth advertising for you!

Here is why I did not use GraceLink for my beginners class. It was extremely juvenile to a fault. Repeat the same story for a MONTH rather than getting a new story every week. And, it was also sometimes highly inaccurate. For example one story about Jesus preaching in the synagogue at Nazareth. Why they chose to spotlight that story baffles me, because they changed the entire end of the story. Rather than people rising up and trying to stone Jesus (why they would choose that for a beginners audience, I’m not sure), a little child smiles and people enjoyed the sermon. That’s false. Out of all the stories in the Bible, why highlight a story you have to change if you dislike the ending or believe it is inappropriate for an age group?! Anyway. Those are just some of the reasons and examples I chose an alternative curriculum. I can’t wait to see what the GC produces. This should be fascinating.

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We have the most loving, grace filled Kindergarten SS teacher who uses My Bible First lessons. My kids are getting a very loving view of Jesus and the basics of the Bible stories. Never liked the illustrations of Gracelink materials or the over simplistic lessons. Kids can understand more than we give them credit for. Not sure what the big fuss is. It’s time to move on.

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What most people don’t know is the proposed update isn’t an update but a rollback to the old curriculum style and focused primarily on doctrines.

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Why is this a disagreement? Is this a covert theological battle that us outsiders know nothing about? Come on! Let me know if it is. I am a public school teacher who teaches primary SS. I love the Gracelink materials, and I am expecting something even better to b developed. But if this is some sort of secret doctrinal battle undercover, let us know. Please!

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