Steve adjusted the ribbon to the current page and quietly closed his Bible as Sabbath School came to an end with closing prayer.
Once Susan finished her prayer, everyone turned to face Gerald. “We will be meeting in the car park, after church luncheon is finished,” Gerald said. “Marg and I have prepared all the supplies. There is enough for everyone to be involved.”
Steve* turned to Susan, “Thanks for your prayer, Susan. It was really nice of you to include me, even though I’m new.”
“We pray for each other every Sabbath,” Susan said, smiling.
From across the circle, Marg said, “We pray for each other every day of the week!”
“True,” Susan laughed. “Steve, now that you have attended our Sabbath School class, you can be sure you are being prayed for 7 days a week.”
“That’s really nice,” Steve said. “And on Sabbath I can hear those prayers!”
Everyone laughed. A few of the Sabbath School members said their goodbyes and headed into the church foyer. But Gerald, Marg and Susan stayed back waiting to see what Steve would do.
“It’s exciting to have a new person in our Sabbath School,” Gerald said to Steve.
“It sure is,” the ladies chimed together.
“Are you guys for real?” Steve laughed. “I’ve been to Sabbath School all my life, but I’ve never seen one as caring as yours. It’s like you are a family.”
Susan answered, “It hasn’t always been like this, Steve.” Her eyes were tearing up, as they often did when she tried to talk about the past. “Our group made a decision three years ago that we would never let information rule over relationships.”
“We lost some really great people,” Marg said, “because we let Sabbath School be about minds instead of hearts.”
“Sabbath School was never meant to be one dimensional,” Gerald said. Both ladies shook their heads in agreement.
“So, you’ve made your Sabbath School about friendship rather than study?” Steve asked.
“Oh no,” Gerald answered. “We study like never before. Because we all feel loved and appreciated, we can't wait to share what we've learned during the week.”
“Sabbath School is four dimensional!” Susan laughed, wiping her eyes.
“Four?” Steve asked. “What are they?”
“First,” Susan said, “There’s nurture. Nothing of any use will happen if we don’t know we are valued and needed.”
“Kind of like faith,” Steve said. “For God so loved the world... The love comes first.”
“Exactly,” Susan said.
“The next is local mission,” Gerald said. “making a difference in the neighbourhood. If they don’t know we love them, they won’t want to know us.”
“Or the God you serve,” Steve said, clearly caught up in their excitement. “That’s what you were talking about—after lunch—right?”
“Right,” both ladies said together as Gerald nodded.
"What kind of outreach programs do you do?" Steve asked.
"They're not programs, as such," Gerald said. "We do all kinds of things, depending on the day of the week and the number of people we need. We visit shut-ins, run a soup kitchen, paint fences, run market stalls, knit blankets, teach religious instruction at state primary schools, and much more.”
"Then we bring the stories back," said Marg, "to Sabbath School and tell them to each other."
"Wow," Steve said. “So, what local project are you doing this afternoon?”
“Not telling,” Gerald laughed. “You’ll have to come and find out!”
“I might just do that,” Steve said. “So, what are the other two dimensions?”
Susan answered, “Well, of course we have Bible study. That’s how we know and grow.”
“We have a discussion-based lesson every week,” Gerald added. “We all study our lesson during the week, so rehashing the pamphlet day-by-day is not usually the strategy we take. The teacher for the day expands on the lesson with a few well thought out questions and we explore the Bible together.”
Steve was nodding. “I noticed that. It was like a conversation around a table, rather than a sermon begging for responses. So that was planned?” He turned to Susan, “I thought you were just a great teacher!”
“She is,” Gerald said.
Susan was shaking her head. “No way! Before we started using questions, I hated taking the lesson. I actually refused to do it.”
“Most intriguing,” Steve said, rubbing his hands on his knees. “You guys have really thought this through. So, what’s the fourth dimension?”
“The biggest dimension!” Gerald said, laughing.
“Bigger than Bible study, nurture and local evangelism?” Steve chided.
“Ah ha,” Gerald said, pointing at Steve, “you’re on to us. That is the fourth—only bigger: local evangelism on a global scale—world mission.”
“You mean,” Steve said, “like 13th Sabbath offering and the back page of the pamphlet? That kind of world mission?”
“Exactly,” Gerald answered. “More than ever, we live in a global village. We need to be the ‘good neighbour’ Jesus challenged us to be.”
“I agree,” Steve said, “but how does that fit into your Sabbath School group?”
“We get involved with the Adventist Mission focus for the quarter,” Marg said.
“How?” Steve shrugged. “By watching the Mission Spotlight?”
“And taking it home with us,” Marg said. “We research that part of the world with our children and save our spare change.”
“Then on 13th Sabbath,” Susan said, “we bring our offerings to the storehouse.”
“You people are full on,” Steve laughed.
“Not really,” Gerald said. “We just take Sabbath School seriously!”
“That’s cool,” Steve said. “Other than the vibrant discussion we experienced today. Oh, and that great feeling of being prayed for. Other than that, have you noticed any other effects of this four dimensional approach to Sabbath School?”
All three people nodded and started to talk at once. Then they laughed, paused and looked to Marg.
“I’m the head elder of this church,” Marg said. “And I can say, without a doubt, that taking a holistic approach to Sabbath School has changed our church, our families and our personal relationships with Jesus. We care more—about everything and everyone.”
Susan was nodding. “It’s so true, since Marg asked the board to try this new Sabbath School model it has changed our church from the ground up. It is a much happier church.”
Gerald took Marg’s hand. “On a personal note, ever since my wife decided to be our Elder for Nurture, Sabbath School has been a true joy.”
“Elder for Nurture?” Steve asked.
“Yes,” Gerald answered. “I am the Lesson Coordinator for our class. I ask people to take the lessons, or do it myself. But Marg’s focus, in our Sabbath School class, is nurture. She leads the first part of the class each week as we discuss our lives, needs, struggles and joys. And she contacts group members who missed Sabbath School with a call or a card.”
“Each Sabbath School in our church has the same thing,” Marg said. “An Elder for Nurture and a group leader who is the Lesson Coordinator.”
“I really like it,” Steve said. “May I stay?”
“We hope you do!”
—Pastor Dave is a storyteller and author. Check him out on his blog at prdaveonline.blogspot.com.au
*All characters in this story are potentially realistic. Any similarities to people in your church is completely desirable.
This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/5036