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  1. Stephen Ferguson
    06 February 2013 @ 11:59 am

    I'd rather they abolish Church than SS.  Church is largely just entertainment – and often not very good entertainment at that. 

    To be honest, I usually get almost nothing out of Church at all – and really anything out of the sermon.  In SS, if the presenter isn't interesting, I can make it interesting because it is a discussion – but that's just my view. 

    That said, the old-school way of SS in the main Church, which sometimes ended up as a mini-sermon, is rubbish as well in my view.  I agree many SS programmes need to be spiced up as well.

  2. Elaine Nelson
    06 February 2013 @ 1:39 pm

    When attending church was the one big event of the week–one hundred years ago, pews were filled.  Today that same format is mind deadning and worthless.
    No learning takes place and nothing worth driving the distance no matter how close.  "Going to church" once was an established habit among Adventists, just as among those going to church on Sunday.  Check the "real" religion on Sundays at the mall or sports stadium.  Church, as practiced today is a dying

    • Stephen Ferguson
      06 February 2013 @ 2:31 pm

      True.  Church was once a specticle.  Now sport and shopping are the new specticles.

  3. earl calahan
    06 February 2013 @ 8:49 pm

    Yes,the traditional SDA Sabbath Sch was a ritual brain numbing & sleep inducing experience in many
    churches. Trying to establish who did and who didn't study seven times, tsk tsk tsk, and then listen to the ages old codger each week drone on & on, and watching to see who put something in the missions envelope. We parted with the general theme, and circulated the weekly leader to classmembers, and had open discussion on lesson material & other themes offered by members, somewhat as here at Atoday. That proved to receive a more enthusastic acceptance, and those classes quickly swelled, while the traditional classes had few attendees.

    • Jim Hamstra
      12 April 2016 @ 8:06 am

      Earl Callahan wrote “listen to the ages old codger each week drone on & on”.

      Sort of like reading comments on the Atoday web site 8-)? Mea Culpa 8-(.

  4. Meredith Tarries
    07 February 2013 @ 12:25 am

    It's sad what is happening to the adult Sabbath school class. My mother still goes and it seems like a relic the older generation uses to soothe themselves rather than a tool to reach others. As a young adult, I crave for a dynamic young adult Sabbath school class. My church lumps us with the adults which isn't horrible but there are issues we're dealing with I wish I could discuss with other 20-something adults.

    To being wise,


    • Jim Hamstra
      12 April 2016 @ 7:50 am


      If you “crave for a dynamic young adult Sabbath school class” then perhaps you should take the initiative to start that class? Only the most dysfunctional churches would refuse your offer.

      The difficulty with trying to satisfy your craving, is that it requires commitment from someone to keep this class going. Some young adults have to commit to actually show-up every week in the face of uncertainty regarding whether the others would prefer to go ski-ing or beach-ing or simply sleep-in that morning. This is how these efforts usually die. If your church has sufficient young adults to maintain a critical mass of committed participants, then you can probably prevail.

  5. Ervin Taylor
    07 February 2013 @ 4:12 am

    It would be interesting to have someone of an analytical turn of mind provide some commentary of how the American "Sabbath Sc hool" ethos was transferred to areas outside of North America and if they still have a useful function.  My guess is that in the former "mission" areas in Africa, the Caribbean, and Latin America it still performs a major social function.  But we need someone who lives in those areas to provide an analysis of what currently is really going on.  The glowing reports of the Adventist institutional press functions largely as propaganda.

    By the way, the fact that many of the old time "Mission stories" were completely fictional has been confirmed from information provided from a number of former older missionaries now that they are retired and can tell what really happened.  The best mythic stories were those of the "dissappearing passenger" variety who was, of course, an angel.  If I remember correctly, one of these stories made it into a recent issue of Adventist World. Some beautiful myths never die if they can be incorporated into a religious garb..    

    • William Noel
      09 February 2013 @ 10:33 pm

      Back in 1975 while I was a student missionary in Korea, I was surprised to discover that the woman who was the central character in the story in the mission quarterly was sitting just down the row from me.  The printed story and what she told us were so different that about the only things they had in common were the names of the country and the city. 

  6. David
    07 February 2013 @ 5:00 am

    My background in nuclear physics, biochemistry, medical doctor, postdoctoral fellowship with established research, professor and senior member of one most exclusive scientific societies gives the credentials to be little bit analytic.
    Given hundreds of lectures I visited the majority of the countries in North America Latin America (LA), the Caribbean bassinet, Africa and Europe I attended several SDA churches in these regions.
    Here is a summary in a nutshell: wherever they read and practice the Bible is a significant growth.  Just in LA there are 3 new medical schools and now another one in Africa. The new overseas missionaries are going from LA to Asia, Africa, Europe and even North America.  

  7. Ervin Taylor
    07 February 2013 @ 6:07 am

    David.  Interesting.  Could you please expand on "wherever they read and practice the Bible [there] is significant growth."?  Analytically, what's going on?  Bible reading = growth?  There must be one or more missing elements in between Bible and growth?  What are they?   There is Bible reading going on in Anglo Adventist Churches in North America but there is no growth.  What's the difference?

  8. David
    07 February 2013 @ 4:41 pm

    The big difference is in the practice; yes they practice what they believe: The Great Commission of Matthew 28 with practical approach of Mathew 25 as well

    Matthew 28: 18 Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
    Matthew 25:  35 For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, 36 I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

  9. David
    07 February 2013 @ 5:06 pm

    This is just a small sample: Not to long ago I went to the Galapagos for a vacation, to my surprise in the most important avenue of Santa Cruz Island “Charles Darwin” was a SDA church, so I went for the Sabbath service.  I met the young pastor and his wife.  In the main island they have two schools and 2 churches, the pastor rotates in these churches and also travels ever other week to the other islands. Total of churches, four.  The proportion of SDA in the Galapagos is higher the one in USA.  One dedicated minister really influenced that area.  He invited me to help in my capacity and this year a have a project, maybe you or somebody wants to join this enthusiastic preacher.  Is a good experience. 

  10. Ervin Taylor
    07 February 2013 @ 5:56 pm

    I thank David.  Yes "They practice what they believe" does make a big difference when the practice involves making the lives of people better in both material ways and their sense of well-being.  The theological content may or may not be involved.  .  

  11. Elaine Nelson
    07 February 2013 @ 8:15 pm

    Correlation is not causation.  There are likely other factors than only Bible reading as it has resulted in contradictory affects elsewhere.

  12. David
    08 February 2013 @ 12:54 am

    The improvement in material benefits may help but the effect is limited. Some of most the fervent members lost wealth, work, social status and family ties because their new found faith.  One wonders why could be so valuable to endure such adversity. Their answer is similar they found Christ

    • Anonymous
      08 February 2013 @ 1:19 am

      David.  I know this is going to sound a little — well, more than a little  — crass but I wonder if you could please unpack "they found Christ" for me.  I'm always interested when this kind of language is used.  From your perspective, what precisely does it mean to the person using it? You indicated you have a personal connection with those who use it..  Just curious.   

      • David
        08 February 2013 @ 11:36 am

        Could you describe when you felt in love? I mean to the level that someone will fill similar emotions.  Certain experiences are subjective; the subjectivity does not take away the reality, it confirms.         

  13. David
    08 February 2013 @ 12:54 am

    The improvement in material benefits may help but the effect is limited. Some of most the fervent members lost wealth, work, social status and family ties because their new found faith.  One wonders why could be so valuable to endure such adversity. Their answer is similar they found Christ

  14. Trevor Hammond [22oct1844]
    08 February 2013 @ 8:19 am

    Finding Christ is experiencing the joy of Salvation.

  15. earl calahan
    08 February 2013 @ 8:40 am

    Ervin,  As 22oct states, there is extreme joy in the heart of man on accepting our Lord Jesus Christ. The
    Holy Spirit is no respecter of persons, and woo's each sinner whereever they are. There is also joy in God's heavenly throne room for every repentant soul. It's my prayer it happens for every living soul.  

  16. Curtis Hall
    08 February 2013 @ 6:55 pm

    Bro. Downing, you are spot on in your analysis of the current condition in too many SS across our denomination. I work with churches and conferences to help make SS relevant. I firmly believe that we must always ask two questions: 1) Why are we doing that (some particular thing during SS time) and 2: Who does it benefit? If visitors or new members do not factor heavily in that answer my suggestion is to rethink what we are doing. I also insist that at the end of SS, from the program and the individual classes, people should leave Inspired and Encouraged. Criticism and pontification will never attract anyone to SS. Mediocrity is a choice that we should refuse.
    Visit my website for more info:

  17. Inge Anderson
    08 February 2013 @ 7:48 pm

    Well, Sabbath School is alive and well in many areas and online. 🙂 (See, where traffic ranges between 130,000 and 180,000 unique monthly visitors.)

    However, the problems Lawrence outlined are real. The "Sabbath School programs," at their best, turn into mini preaching service — and that is not what Sabbath School is supposed to be about!

    Sabbath School, at its best is done in small groups, preferably sitting in a circular arrangement with sharing before studying. For this the whole Sabbath School time is needed, not a measly 35 min. or so left over after the "program."

    A good Sabbath School class is highly inter-active, with spiritually mature facilitators asking thought-provoking questions. When members get a taste of this kind of Sabbath School, they will come. The problem is that many have been turned off by the deadly catechism-style of teaching: reading the question in the quarterly and then "answering" them. The quarterly is fine. It's how we use it that's the problem. It is meant to be only a guide, and the discussion should be individualized for each class. It should be visitor-friendly, because when our Sabbath School was founded, it was supposed to be an evangelistic tool. It still could be if it were done with thoughtfulness and imagination.

    I will now take a bow and get off my soap box. 😉

    Inge Anderson
    Publisher of

    PS I agree 100% with Stephen Ferguson's first comment: We can always make Sabbath School interesting by our own participation. Many times I've had teachers in a strange church thank me for doing so. However, occasionally one is annoyed at being "interrupted." 😉

    • Stephen Ferguson
      09 February 2013 @ 6:40 am

      Thanks.  I also think it has been a good SS discussion unless someone interrupts and take the topic off on a tangent.  People interrupting and mentioning tangents are often signs that people are at least listening and engaged.  The worst thing in the world is where the presenter is just speaking and everyone else is mum silent.  I agree good SS classes are highly inter-active. 

  18. v. dan miller
    09 February 2013 @ 12:18 am

    Come visit our church here in Dunlap TN. you will enjoy both Sabbath School and Church.

  19. Rngrbird
    09 February 2013 @ 12:36 am

    I'm sorry so many 'as it would seem' only have negative comments about SS. Now for myself, and especially now with NO church to even attend (Texico Conf closed our Alpine, TX church) – I'm actually hungry for the association and discussion that my memory holds from Sabbath's past.  I do so remember the SS classes in Fayetteville, NC (While in the Army @ Fort Bragg, NC) – and how I would pray to myself that I would find/hear nuggets of gold to take with me for the new week beginning.  Now, I watch 3ABN and find jeolosy creep in for those who have a church to attend.  Sabbath is what I make it, so I find myself saying: I don't know what you came to do, but I came to praise the Lord…. Nuff said, SS has it's place, it's what we put into it, – And according what we'll receive. Thanks, Rob Wooster, Sr.

  20. v. dan miller
    09 February 2013 @ 2:39 am

    We have lively Sabbath School class discussions here in Dunlap with good teachers. Our pastor brings us good messages every other Sabbath. On the in-between Sabbaths our local elders preach. Each sermon, each Sabbath, is relevant, bible-based, and interesting. We are highly blessed.

  21. v. dan miller
    09 February 2013 @ 2:51 pm

    We have similar prayer meetings. We sing. We list prayer requests and praises. We pray. Then we discuss the topic chosen by the presenter. Many of us “present”. Discussion is ongoing as the topic is presented. A good and interesting and inspirational time we have! All are blessed.

  22. Ella M
    09 February 2013 @ 7:51 pm

        I would not like to see the SS Quarterly dispensed with.  I get a warm, family-like feeling byknowing that the world over we are all studying the same topic.  Granted some topics are more interesting and challenging than others (like creation).  But even a dull teacher can come to life if we participate and make the discussion lively.  As for a dull individual speaker with no feedback, these churches should either change to small groups or bring in a video and discuss it afterwards.  My sympathies to the person who misses SS.  I didn't go for years due to a family situation, and I really feel I missed out on a lot.

    • William Noel
      11 February 2013 @ 2:06 pm

      I agree with you but would add that it needs to be a study of the Bible and the Bible alone and not a study of Ellen White's comments about the topic.

  23. Truth Seeker
    09 February 2013 @ 9:02 pm

    "and then listen to the ages old codger each week drone on & on," Earl, do you think such a statement possibly reflects the almost overwhelming rebellion that characterized much of the 1960s in USA? Maybe part of the alleged decline in the value of the SS Lessons is because the writers have, for the most part in my view, not engaged in controversial cultural conflicts but have strived to reflect Biblical teachings?

    Obviously, there is, from my viewpoint, a serious lack of SS teachers who have the knack to engage a group discussion. How can that be overcome? I, too, do not wish to sit thru a lecture by an SS lesson teacher. So many class members seem to have no time to study which makes it difficult for even a good teacher to extract ideas about the topic at hand. What is the solution for that aspect? Ask some about the latest scores of their favorite athletes and see the response.

    • Jim Hamstra
      12 April 2016 @ 8:15 am


      My oh my! You do have a knack for finding rebels hiding behind every shrub and lurking in every shadow. “Seek and ye shall find.”

      I think the likely explanation is that people in some parts of the world now have more choices than in times past. And far less tolerance to simply “grin (outwardly while groaning inwardly) and bear it” when it is so easy to “vote with your feet”. Churches and Sabbath Schools and other voluntary associations that are actually meeting felt needs, can still flourish. Those that do not tend to wither away.

  24. v. dan miller
    09 February 2013 @ 10:40 pm

    I like for a teacher to give a 3 or 4 minute overview of the lesson at the beginning of class time. Then throw out questions to begin discussion. I realize this is seldom done but it brings people up to speed whether they have studied the lesson or not.

  25. Stephen Ferguson
    10 February 2013 @ 1:22 am

    Whist we are talking about SS, can I just say that I find the official SS lesson pamphlet has too much sermonizing and not enough questions for the leader-facilitator to promote discussions with the rest of the class.  Anyone else find the same?

  26. Truth Seeker
    10 February 2013 @ 3:00 am

    First – is the teacher really using *all* the questions posed in the SS lesson. Second- in my view a good teacher develops additional questions as he studies the lesson. An SS lesson does not contain all the possible areas for discussion. Why not expand the area covered by the lesson?

    I have sat down and gone over a lesson and thought of how a theme could be expanded. It takes a little time but is valuable.

    • Stephen Ferguson
      10 February 2013 @ 3:49 am

      Truth Seeker, I well know how to take a lesson. For me personally, I review it all, and then expand it in my own way.  I try to come up with good questions that stimulate debate. I am just saying for those who are not so experienced, the SS lesson often does not provide enough good questions for inexperienced teachers to ask.  As a result, when a lesson is taken by an inexperienced teacher, it is very boring.

      Not everyone who takes a lesson is a good teacher – that's my point.  The lesson could pose a few more good questions to help those inexperienced teachers.  Not everyone is as good as you or I in taking a lesson.

    • Stephen Ferguson
      10 February 2013 @ 3:49 am

      Truth Seeker, I well know how to take a lesson. For me personally, I review it all, and then expand it in my own way.  I try to come up with good questions that stimulate debate. I am just saying for those who are not so experienced, the SS lesson often does not provide enough good questions for inexperienced teachers to ask.  As a result, when a lesson is taken by an inexperienced teacher, it is very boring.

      Not everyone who takes a lesson is a good teacher – that's my point.  The lesson could pose a few more good questions to help those inexperienced teachers.  Not everyone is as good as you or I in taking a lesson.

    • Elaine Nelson
      10 February 2013 @ 4:46 am

      If the SS lessons are similar to the Bible studies in the Review, the answers are in the text supplied and devoid of any opportunity to question:  simply rote memorization, just as some of us were taught in Bible Doctrines classes  years ago.  If  you remembered all the Bible texts for answers, you could get an A.

      • Stephen Ferguson
        10 February 2013 @ 4:52 am

        Thankyou Elaine – yes – that is exactly it!  There are few open-ended questions that stimulate real discussion in the official SS lesson.  And as a result, SS lessons can become mini-sermons.  The only difference is the size of the audience.  And it bores you to death.

        I also help run a teens SS class.  The lesson pamphlet advises you ask the kids what was their favourite memory gem for the week.  It always makes me laugh, because hardly if any of the kids ever read the lesson and as if they would go memorising memory gems.

        I am sure some will write back talking about some new rebellious generation, but if you are born before about 1970s, may I suggest things in the modern world are a little different in the modern world.  The SS lesson often seems to be coming from another world, a world of the 1950s, world that no longer exists.

        • Ella M
          10 February 2013 @ 6:41 pm

             Have you ever written to the editors of these quarterlies (especially those for youth) and let them know your concerns?  I think you would find them very open to suggestions.  Having known someone in that department, they want and need feedback.  It is a little different when you know an editor personally and recognize they are not censors and want to hear from you.
             As I look at my adult teacher's quarterly, I find a number of thought-provoking questions, and I will bet most teachers don't use them.  Sometimes they seem a bit personal and require openess some may not be willing to give.  My class seems more on the side of the intellectual, and I wonder if that is a way to avoid closeness.  We have fascinating discussions and rotate between three facilitators.

  27. Inge Anderson
    10 February 2013 @ 3:51 am

    @ Stephen Ferbuson: If you need a little inspiration and/or added questions to the regular lesson studies, I suggest you take a look at what is offered here: (Since since comments to not seem to accept clickable URLs, just copy and paste the URL into your web browser.)

    The official SS lesson pamphlet is only a brief outline of a subject of study cannot be expected to include "enough questions for the leader-facilitator to promote discussions with the rest of the class."

    • Stephen Ferguson
      10 February 2013 @ 4:40 am

      SSNet is not an official part of the Church as they note on their website disclaimer:

      'Sabbath School Net is not affiliated with or endorsed by the Sabbath School Department of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists.'

      I am of course very glad that SS Net provides this service as an independent ministry.  But the fact that people need to go to a non-Church independent ministry for these resources just proves my point about the official SS Department at the GC perhaps being inadequate. 

      It isn't a huge complaint or anything, just an observation, that the official SS resources as provided by the GC are often inadequate because they don't provide enough good questions to stimulate interesting discussion.  I am not saying I personally need any assistance but thanks for the sentiments.  

      However, in many Churches (at least I know of), people take turns running the SS, and often they just sermonize each day of the lesson.  Lessons would be lesson boring if Goldstein and the SS Dep at the GC thought about adding just a few more stimulating questions to get discussions going.  Then perhaps SS wouldn't be such a relic.

      P.S. Ferguson must be a pretty hard name to spell.  I do notice that Ferb is a British animated character, so maybe you are confusing me for that Ferb.

      • Inge Anderson
        10 February 2013 @ 5:25 am

        Appreciate your sense of humor, Stephen. 🙂 And I apologize for the typo.

        While SSNET is not an "official" part of the church, the lessons are published by the express permission of the Sabbath School Department of the GC which supplies the lessons to the site. So it`s more of a supporting ministry than an independent ministry.

        My experience doesn't convince me that the boring presenters can be made less boring by being handed more questions in the lesson format. If they are not motivated enough to look beyond the lesson pamphlet, I suspect there's very little that can be done to help them.

        I just reviewed this week's lesson ( and I note that it includes some fairly good discussion open-ended questions at the bottom of many a day's study and at the end of the week's study. It is the "bored" attitude or the "set-in-concrete" attitude of the "teachers" that makes for a boring Sabbath School lesson — especially if the "teachers" are annoyed by input from the class.

        And there's another problem to consider: The lessons are printed for a world-wide readership. We run a blog at, and we get input from all over the world. Once in a while we get a complaint that the "answer" to a posed question is not in the supplied texts 😉 In other words, people seem to have a difficult time dealing with open-ended questions.

        Joyce Griffith supplies a lot of open-ended questions for each week's study (See, and she's sometimes frustrated that people try to "answer" the questions through our email discussion list (see as though there were "correct" answers to questions that are mainly meant to stimulate thought.

        I have experienced two extremes — the catechism-type class that does not vary from the lesson outline and seeks to "complete" the lesson each Sabbath. And on the other end of the spectrum, I've seen discussions that don't really deal with the subject at all nor any biblical topic but merely discuss open-ended questions, with people trading opinions, most of them biblically uninformed.

        Perhaps our problem is that we have too many Laodiceans teaching Sabbath School?? Can our Sabbath School discussions be more "alive" or spiritual than the people are during the rest of the week?

  28. mac
    10 February 2013 @ 4:54 am

    yes good observations about S Schl. I am a younger superintendent – w a passion for the ministry of Mission/Outreach and to connect w other believers (and bring in “seekers”), which is why I took it on – and yes, few of my teammembers share the same understanding. i have identified the need for training for sure. yet I dont believe this lamp will go out. s schl will remain – a blessing or a burden, according to the spirit of those involved. i trust that God is in charge of his church…

    • Inge Anderson
      10 February 2013 @ 5:27 am

      Appreciate your comment, Mac, that Sabbath School will remain `a blessing or a burden, according to the spirit of those involved.`

      I agree.

    • William Noel
      11 February 2013 @ 2:03 pm


      Nothing gets a Sabbath School class energized like reports from the class members about how God is working.  The more you celebrate God at work, the more He will give you to celebrate.  Remember that Jesus spent the vast majority of His ministry time doing other things than preaching and teaching and He did those other things first and foremost, so your focus should be on doing those other things that improve thr lives of others first.

  29. Ella M
    10 February 2013 @ 6:47 pm

    Stephen,  Be sure to read my reply above about  your thoughts on the current lessons. (I am not sure if commentors check back on these.)  You may want to follow up on this with the editors.

  30. Truth Seeker
    10 February 2013 @ 8:42 pm

    "Back in 1975 while I was a student missionary in Korea, I was surprised to discover that the woman who was the central character in the story in the mission quarterly was sitting just down the row from me.  The printed story and what she told us were so different that about the only things they had in common were the names of the country and the city." Noel

    Did you confront the writers of the story? 

    • William Noel
      11 February 2013 @ 1:58 pm

      Others may have but I did not.  Apparently the stories each quarter were collected over an extended period of time because she had been a church member for some number of years by the time it was published.

  31. Ella M
    16 February 2013 @ 12:25 am

    Noel, Irv, and others: Concerning the mission stories, I contacted Charlotte Ishkanian who collects them, and this is what she had to say:

    "For the past nearly 20 years I've made every effort possible to make the mission reports an accurate telling of Spirit-led events. There's no need to doctor stories; God's working in people's lives is powerful. It doesn't need doctoring. In fact, many times I've chosen to omit details of beatings and abuses, believing that as long as the abuser is alive, there's always hope that they will repent and let Christ change them.
    Whenever time allowed, I've sent stories back to the field and asked that they be verified by the person/s who listened with me to the telling. And while occasionally I've chosen not to use a story because something didn't seem right, or something has come up that has necessitated our pulling a story, only rarely has it been necessary to correct the details of a story.
    If people choose to not believe these stories, that's between God and them. I believe them or I wouldn't have chosen them to be published for the world field. Each story that is printed is there because the leaders in that local field knew the person telling the story and was willing to stand behind the truthfulness of the story. That should tell us a lot容specially when we choose to not believe them."

  32. Ervin Taylor
    16 February 2013 @ 12:30 am

    We all should thank Ella M for going directly to someone currently responsbile for collecting these mission stories.  It is interesting that his communication states that he prints them "because the leaders in that local field knew the person telling the story."  

    • Jim Hamstra
      12 April 2016 @ 7:26 am

      “his communication”?
      Would the antecedent of “his” be Ella or Charlotte? Or is there someone else that I missed. Back where I grew-up those were girls’ names. But I suppose that on the “left coast” where both Dr Taylor and I reside, they could have become “trans-gendered” 8-)?

      Seriously, I think many of us who have lived with institutional PR operatives, know that at some level there is always an incentive to embellish the story. Not only in the Adventist Review and the late “Mission Quaterly” but also in “testimonies” at Camp Meetings and Youth Congresses.

      “the leaders in that local field knew the person”
      So at least Charlotte Ishkanian establishes a chain of “provenance” even though she has no way to independently verify the facts. We all (including Ms Ishkanian?) know that these same leaders are often the ones who may have an incentive to embellish the story. But at least she holds them personally accountable to stand behind their sources of stories.

      I salute Charlotte Ishkanian for her efforts to improve accuracy. In prior regimes they merely picked the “best” stories out of the pile and published them. Adventist Review could learn from her 8-).

  33. Kevin Riley
    20 February 2013 @ 10:50 pm

    I believe one of the problems with Sabbath School shows up in quite a few of the comments here: the belief that there is a 'right', or at least 'best', way to hold a Sabbath School class.  When you consider the mix of cultures, personalities and learning styles found around the world, why do we still think that what works well in one place for one class will therefore work well everywhere?  When you sit in a class of people who are subsistence agriculturalists, where the most educated person attended school for 2 years, and the most widely travelled person has been 50 miles from where he was born, can you really expect a good discussion on most subjects covered by our SS lessons?  On the other hand, what do we expect a 'normal' visitor to make of a discussion in a group made up of seminary professors and post-grad students?  Why would the same lesson plan or method work for both groups??

    As for mission stories …  Having been a missionary, the main problem with many 'mission stories' is that if you tell the whole story – 'the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth' – they don't actually make the cut-and-dried 'nugget' of spiritual truth that the SS class seems to desire, but rather leave you pondering the complexity of human life and religious faith, and the inscrutability of God's actions in this world.  That takes more than 3 minutes in the midst of a 'program'.

    • Jim Hamstra
      12 April 2016 @ 7:35 am

      And therein lies the challenge in producing a homogenized, one-size-fits-all SS lesson quarterly. You end-up with a one-size-fits-nobody quarterly. That is the net effect of the layers of reviewer committees from everywhere. The result is death (or at best serious injury) by a thousand small cuts.

      And I am sure that Clifford Goldstein laments this more than anyone else. Because he gets to see the steady downward progression from what generally began as excellent work by the original author. And often-times that original author probably wishes his/her name was not associated with the final product. And Clifford gets to take all the flak from every direction. And he has no place to hide.

      So I guess it takes a very thick skin to keep-on keeping-on, producing these SS quarterlies. otherwise Mr Goldstein would long since have succumbed to death by tens of thousands of small cuts.

      • William Noel
        12 April 2016 @ 11:30 am


        I first met Cliff Goldstein back in 1982 in New York and wrote for him the cover story for the first issue of the Jewish-oriented magazine he’d been hired to produce. Though our paths diverged a year or so later, we’ve communicated a few times over the years since and the last time was probably four years ago when I complained at him that having Ellen White quotes in each day’s lesson and all of Friday’s study being of her writing instead of the Bible was disobeying her instruction about how her writings were to be used. The way he defended that use left me wondering if working within the walls of the General Conference wasn’t isolating him from reality. But others might argue my views are sometimes a bit out of the mainstream.

        Editing by those in the church who have a particularly narrow point of view on a topic can result in major changes to an author’s product. Both friends who have authored quarterlies have shared their great frustration with their work being changed without discussion and their first knowledge of it being when they read it in print. So it should surprise no one that we get very little to challenge the intellect regarding how to apply spiritual principles in daily life and we NEVER hear a hint of anything not exactly in-line with the sanitized Silver Spring view.

  34. Stephen Olmstead
    11 April 2016 @ 7:03 am

    I’m not shocked at how many negative comments are made regarding SS – I am surprised that those making those comments view SS or even going to church as a waste of time.
    I’m in South America and church going, especially SS, is an amazing way to reach non- Adventists. Maybe that’s why most of the souls being baptized into SDA are from South America and the USA becoming weaker.
    I pray that the leaders in the US figure out a way to renovate the old paths.
    God bless you all.

    • Edwin A. Schwisow
      11 April 2016 @ 2:07 pm

      Several decades back, it was customary in South America to have more SS members on the books than actual members, the idea being that the Sabbath school was the outreach sector of the local ministry, while the church service was more “for the members.” The Sabbath schools at all age levels offered livelier music and more discussion and interaction by comparison with the church service, and it was fairly obvious why people might show up to study, but make an early exit to their homes or friends’ homes while the Adventist sermon was being preached. It often seemed that far more time and talent was invested in the adult SS program than in the “divine service,” and I grew up believing that this was probably the way it was supposed to be done throughout the world. By contrast, It appears that at least in some First World countries, the Sabbath school problem has become an “opening act” of routine warm-up time.

  35. Jim Hamstra
    12 April 2016 @ 8:30 am

    So here is my somewhat sexist take on this whole question on the demise of Sabbath School in some (but not all) venues. In olden times the men did church and the women did Sabbath School. Now that most women are well educated and work outside the home, the traditional Adventist division of labor has broken-down.

    And when all adults (one or more) in the family are working outside the home, there is a much stronger urge to simply sleep-in on Sabbath morning, than to drag ourselves and our families off to Sabbath School. And a much smaller pool of volunteers ready and willing to invest the time and energy to make Sabbath School worth the price of admission (that extra hour of sleep or simply unwinding from a stressful week).

    And what is the current division of labor in these same venues? Pastors are paid to make Church happen. Sabbath School is left to the volunteers. So of course most Pastors put far more energy into making Church as appealing as possible. Very few pastors invest much energy in Sabbath School.


    • Jim Hamstra
      12 April 2016 @ 8:41 am

      And in olden times Pastors’ wives (eg my own mother) were expected to help-out if not lead-out, in Sabbath School. A readily available pool of “free” volunteer labor for the local congregation. Now most of these Pastors’ wives are working outside the home, and have come to expect “equal pay for equal work”, or at least Some pay if not Equal pay. And if you have ever lived in a family that depends on a Pastor’s or Teacher’s salary to make ends meet (I write from personal experience) you will understand the need to supplement that single denominational salary.

      The bottom line is there is an excess of knowledge about how to make Sabbath School better, but a shortage of incentive and resources applied to doing it.

      So here are three suggestions from “outside the box”:

      1) Make pastors report Sabbath School attendance to the Conference. How many people are present at 10 am rather than at 11:30? And make that a component of their performance appraisals. I predict your Pastor will become far more invested in Sabbath School.

      2) Start Church at 10 am. Start Sabbath School at 11 am. Hold the snacks until noon. Making Church stick to a schedule will cure the twin ills of interminable “praise” programs and interminable sermons. And people will always stay until the food is gone.

      3) In some places employment outside the home among men is now lower than among women. So put the men in-charge of Sabbath School and put the women in-charge of church.

  36. earl calahan
    12 April 2016 @ 12:50 pm

    It appears Jim, you are ready to toss the burden of SS. At a dead end in frustration at the lack of interest generally, in SS at all. Why belabor a program of little interest?? Maybe changing SS to Friday night; or perhaps Thursday night, showing big screen programs of “American Idol”, alternating with past ‘Super Bowl games, or World Wrestling, being sure to show half of each big screen presentation, before and after SS.

    • Jim Hamstra
      13 April 2016 @ 6:49 am

      Absolutely not, Earl.

      I just think those of us who believe in the value of group study and sharing time, need to look at the problem from different angles. No sense to keep keeping-on, doing things in the same old ways, but expecting different results.

      Please note that I am a man (last time I looked), and that one of my suggestions was to make the men responsible for SS and the women responsible for Church.b