InVerse combines the Sabbath School lesson with topics specifically for young adults.
WWhat Happened to Sabbath School in the Adventist Church?
“Sabbath school in general seems to be languishing in the Global North [formerly called âFirst World,â]Said Justin Kim, associate director of Sabbath School and personal ministries at the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists and editor of the Sabbath School Bible Study Guide for Young Adults. âThe question of the century is: why? There are many theories out there, but we’re not sure exactly why the number of participants is declining. “
In the developed world, about 50 percent of Adventist members attend church regularly, and about 50 percent of that number attend Sabbath School. As with Sunday schools, the decline began in the 1970s, alongside the countercultural movement and growing mistrust of institutions. In the 1980s, the rise of mega-churches placed emphasis on great worship experiences and primary church service. Although the 1990s saw a resurgence of small groups, the focus was not on Sabbath School groups but on youth gatherings on Friday nights or after church.
âWhat we do know,â Kim said, âis that young adults – at least for about 50 years – have lost interest in Sabbath School. We also know that Reverse is reversing this trend somewhat in parts of the Global North.
Reverse is the new, updated and refreshed Collegiate Quarterly (CQ). While Reverse has retained some aspects of QC – like the social part of communicating and discussing the Bible – much of it is reorganized. While CQ was a devotional commentary on the Bible Study Guide for Adults, Reverse has far fewer sections to complete and many more detailed prompts to examine scriptural themes and language.
Each year, two quarters of Reverse take the regular adult Sabbath School lesson. The other two quarters focus on topics specifically relevant to young adults, such as the basics of salvation, sexuality, the purpose of education, principles of young adult stewardship, Sabbath matters for professionals, and how to know the will of God for his life.
âSince the change in 2019, the global response has been very positive,â Kim said. âDivisions and unions continue to translate Reverse into new languages, but in areas where translation is slower, young adult church members translate it for themselves and distribute the study guide through social media and messaging apps.
It is important to note that the term “young adult” is flexible. While generally defined as 18 to 35, Kim said, anyone interested in the content is welcome to use Reverse Bible Study Guides.
Unlike many ministries, Reverse took advantage of the pandemic. Friends couldn’t get together, but people were thirsty for community and spiritual involvement. Reverse met both of these needs, Kim said, spreading around the world through word of mouth from those who had started their small groups online and telling others how valuable it was, and allowing small groups to train beyond international borders – something that had not been done before.
âYoung adults have special spiritual needs that are different from those who have more experience walking with God,â Kim said. âThey’re trying to figure out how to raise their kids, what to do with their money, how to navigate society – sexuality, politics, careers – what to look for in a life partner, and many more. These are not some of the most important questions in other study guides. Reverse attempts to approach these topics openly, based on the scriptures.
Each part of Reverse is divided into seven sections, corresponding to the days of the week, each with its activity taking the reader deeper into the Word. These activities include writing a passage of scripture by hand, examining the passage for patterns, using the passage to rekindle one’s relationship with God, cross-checking additional Bible verses, understanding ‘Related excerpts from the writings of Ellen G. White, and discussion questions.
âIt’s intense,â Kim admitted. “Those who engage with Reverse say it’s so different than what they’re used to, and they love it. The good thing is that they are excited about it and want to share it with others. It’s the Bible, and they want to talk about it. It is a natural and organic testimony.
Kim admitted that some of the topics Reverse the addresses – such as biblical sexuality – made a few members hesitate, but the overall response was positive.
âPeople tell us that they see God in a whole different way after studying this topic from a Biblical perspective using the Reverse method, âhe explained. “Some admit that it’s always a bit awkward to talk about sexuality in church, but in the same breath they thank us for bringing it up because it’s not something the church has done historically. , and there is a need and a desire for it. “
Another aspect that defines Reverse apart from other study guides is that, rather than being fully digital or fully printed, Reverse is a mixture of the two. It’s not either scenario, Kim said; it combines the two approaches and allows the user to determine how much of each he wishes to incorporate into his study.
In addition to the printed study guide, Reverse can be found on the official new Sabbath School mobile app and has a TV show (formerly known as Sabbath School University) produced by Hope Channel. The weekly output can be used as preparation for the study or as an extension of the small group discussion.
âInteraction with peers is an extremely important part of the life of young adults,â Kim said. âSo the social aspect must be integrated into the study guide. It works great in Europe, South America, and Australia, and they’ve produced a lot of accompanying material for Reverse. Everybody’s trying to keep the young people in the church, and they’re creative about it.
Kim shared the story of a youth who was about to leave church when his local Sabbath School group invited him to a Reverse group study. A small group that was on the verge of disbandment decided to try Reverse early 2020. A year and a half later, it’s a small flourishing group that meets regularly.
âThey were excited to learn more about Jesus in the text, and not just in the doctrinal exposition,â Kim said. “We want to see what’s in the verse, but it’s also about finding a reverse way of thinking and looking at things from a different perspective.”
While doctrine remains crucial for the church, Jesus is the one to whom the doctrine points. Doctrine, Kim pointed out, is a theological construct to help us make sense of the Bible. And if someone truly studies the Bible with an open mind, Kim believes, it will naturally come to Adventist doctrines. But although these doctrines are used to clarify, they are not the primary purpose.
âOur church was founded by young people who studied the Word,â Kim said. âThey sat down and studied the Bible together. Social reinforcement is necessary because the Holy Spirit works with community environments, and dialogue helps to clarify interpretation, understanding, and application.
The original version of this story was published by Adventist News Network.
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