Sabbath School Organization Questions


1. What are the recommended age levels for each division?  
Beginner ages 0-2 2-year cycle
Kindergarten ages 3-5 2-year cycle
Primary ages 6-10
(grades 1-4)
4-year cycle
Junior ages 10-13
(grades 5-8)
4-year cycle
2. What is a GraceLink Sabbath School like?   
  • The whole class time is organized around the lesson. 
  • The children are involved in a lot of hands-on activity 
  • The needs of every learning style are met 
  • More time is spent showing kids what a difference the lesson will make in their everyday life 
  • Every week the leader has one point to make. After each activity the leader comes back to the main point. At the end of Sabbath School, the kids know what the point is. 
  • The leader is now the teacher; other adults facilitate or guide groups of kids to do what the teacher asks their group to do. It is easier to get volunteers because they do not have to prepare anything. 
  • The lesson is taught at Sabbath School first, so it will be new to everyone. The children go home and study it throughout the following week for reinforcement.
3. How much time is for the lesson?  
  • In the past, Sabbath School was separated into the “program” (often completely unrelated to the Bible story) and the “lesson.” In a GraceLink Sabbath School, the entire time contributes to the lesson. Focusing all activities on one point--the lesson’s message--is a very effective way to teach.
4. Is mission still emphasized?  
  • We certainly hope so. You can still get the latest stories in the Children’s MISSION magazine, which your Sabbath School secretary orders through the ABC. You will find that the mission stories can also be told from the same focus as the lesson.
  • There is also an quarterly Adventist Mission DVD that has at least one children’s story per quarter. Visit www.adventistmission.org for more information.
5. Why is only one edition of PowerPoints being published now? I thought that Juniors were supposed to use Years A & B, and Earliteens Years C & D.  
  • You are right--originally, the intent was for churches with larger Sabbath Schools to have juniors (grades 5-6) alternate using PowerPoints Year A & B, while earliteens (grades 7-8) would alternate using Year C & D. Smaller churches that did not separate junior/teens could simply follow the four-year cycle in sequence, A-B-C-D.
  • However, some changes have been made. For one thing, GUIDE magazine can only print one lesson per week, and if that's different from the quarterly you're using, that can get confusing. For another thing, Years C & D do not actually reflect a more mature level of thought/activity as originally planned.
  • So it was voted to print only one edition of PowerPoints each year (2005 is Year B), and to publish a new set of lessons just for earliteens. Real-Time Faith, a separate curriculum developed just for seventh- and eighth-graders, began with the first quarter of 2004. These alternative lessons and teacher guides target the issues that are significant in the lives of 12- to 14-year-olds.
6. Should my church order Real-Time Faith lessons?  
  • If the earliteens in your church meet separately, in their own Sabbath School division, yes. If they meet with the youth, probably not. If they meet with the juniors, no. Why not? Because the entire Sabbath School--both lesson and program--needs to be focused on one set of objectives, one central idea. If you use two different sets of materials within the same class, you run the risk that kids will not really learn from either. If your church has a separate earliteen class and you haven’t already ordered the Real-Time Faith lessons, check with your church clerk or call 800-765-6955 to place your order.
  • Whenever juniors and earliteens meet in the same class, everyone needs to study the same lesson, preferably PowerPoints.
7. Learning Centers scare me; just how do they work?  
  • 52 Easy Program Ideas for Kindergarten* is a new book on goof-proof learning centers. It shows how simple it can be to involve everyone in hands-on learning. So don't sweat the small stuff--and you'll see that learning centers are small stuff! Besides, you don't have to use them unless you want to. (*Includes the felt pieces needed for telling kindergarten and beginner lesson stories.)
8. Ours is a small church; how should we handle combining some classes?  
  • Every church should feel empowered to divide the children according to the local needs. For instance, if you have only a few babies in beginners and too many 5-year-olds for the space in kindergarten, you may want to keep 3-year-olds in beginner. (More on combined divisions)
  • Smaller churches may need kindergarten and beginner classes combined. They can then use the kindergarten programs in Sabbath School. In the GraceLink curriculum, the beginner lesson each month is one of the weekly kindergarten stories.
  • Most 6-year-olds are ready for the challenge of being in primary, and do not belong in kindergarten. The GraceLink kindergarten lessons are designed for 3- to 5-year-olds. Small churches that have only a few juniors may have them help teach the smaller children—and provide a special program just for the juniors after the potluck lunch or on Friday night.
9. How do I handle the memory verse the children learned from last week with this week's lesson?  
  • In a rather large Sabbath School room, the students can tell their facilitator the memory verse they learned last Sabbath (and have reviewed during the week) as they come in and proceed to their “tables” to begin the first readiness activity. A small Sabbath School could take pre-session time. Prayer and Praise time is another good time to acknowledge what students have done the past week. Teach this week’s new memory verse at the beginning, end, or during the lesson story in Sabbath School if a separate memory verse activity isn’t provided. Review the quarter’s memory verses at the end of Sabbath School if you have a little extra time. The principle is simple: Review last week’s verse at a convenient point; teach the new verse (the one that goes with the new story you are teaching); review all of the quarter's verses as you have time.

10. What if we want to have a family Sabbath School class?

  • Family Sabbath School classes are a real possibility. Most adults do not want to be limited to the range that a child can understand, but it is possible for a family class to work provided everyone is willing to give up something. Adults may have to give up adult-level Sabbath School (at least some of the time). Children may have to give up a lot of the child-level songs and activities. But they can still have an enjoyable and profitable experience.
  • For such a plan to work, you would need to introduce a lot of activities--some based on the adult topic and some on the child’s topic. Plan 3-4 activities and let families choose among them. Activities would involve songs, prayer, dramatizing the children’s lesson story, etc. If all the children meet together, all need to study the same lesson. We suggest using the primary level, a 4-year cycle. Then each week you need only relate to two lessons, primary and adult. Use the activities from the primary leader-teacher guide. Expect to spend lots of time in weekly planning.

11. How will 6-year-olds manage in primary if they cannot read?

  • Even 9-year-olds may not read well enough to study their own Sabbath School lesson. Encourage children to ask an adult to read the lesson with them during the week. Primary leaders and teachers should not expect primaries to be good readers. Many of the activities each week do not require reading. When the class needs to look up a text in the Bible, pair nonreaders with proficient readers. Or have adult facilitators help everyone find the verse and then read it to them.

12. The beginner lessons seem amazingly simplified. Why aren't all the details of the Bible story included?

  • Beginner lessons are intended for children under age two. Let's face it--these little ones don't sit still long enough to get all the facts! Let's not offer more information than they can absorb. (Parents of a child who is more advanced may request a kindergarten study guide if the child is ready for more information.)
  • A look at the GraceLink Scope & Sequence will show that the story of Noah, for instance, while introduced at the beginner level, also occurs in the kindergarten, primary, and junior divisions. This means that a two-year-old will experience the story of Noah four times by age 14--with a different emphasis each time. The same is true for all of the beginner stories.

13. Why are the beginner stories so general in their spiritual emphasis? They don’t seem to be uniquely Adventist at all!

  • During the years from birth to age two, a child is dealing with developmental issues of trust. Their ideas about God are closely tied to their association with their parents. That’s why you’ll see messages like “God made pretty things because He loves me,” or “I thank God for taking good care of me,” or “People in families love each other.” The beginner child needs first and foremost to learn to love and trust God.  
  • Further spiritual growth can only take place after this foundation of love and trust is firmly established. Child psychologist Abraham Maslow identified five levels of needs: the most basic—food/water/shelter, and safety—are followed by belongingness and love. For the beginner child, Sabbath School is all about building a foundation of love, trust, and belongingness.
  • This does not mean that the message of Scripture or the unique Adventist doctrines are being diluted. It simply means that Beginner Sabbath School lessons present the portions developmentally appropriate for children at that age.