In the quietness of the coronavirus pandemic, I’ve had time to think about church, Sabbath School, Christian fellowship, and my relationship with God. Some of this was prompted by two invitations to teach virtually the Sabbath School lessons. I declined both invitations for good reason, though words failed me as I tried to articulate why these “opportunities” didn’t seem to fit.

Though I was honored to be asked, I instinctively felt we were trying to force-fit an old format into a new technology. We are all learning together, so I am not being critical of anyone. After all, we need to try different things and experiment with what works and what does not.

At times like this, though, my mind is wired to begin by anchoring on objectives. First, I must ask, WHY are we doing this? The two invitations that came to me failed to help me connect with the WHY?

Strategy must always drive tactics, and I can quickly get lost in the weeds when I’m flailing in tactics not tied to an overarching strategy.

So, I’ve prayerfully asked myself why I teach a Sabbath School class. And why do we even need Sabbath School?

why before what and how

Answering the WHY question should help to drive the WHAT and the HOW. By focusing first on WHY, we can then figure out what might work and how we should approach “doing” Sabbath School virtually. The WHY answer will transcend new technology and will be relevant in our strange, new world of “social distancing.”

So, why do I teach? What value do I get out of being part of a Sabbath School class? Here are some thoughts transcribed from several pages of my morning journal. For me, Sabbath School should provide a special opportunity for us to:

  1. Study the Bible to experience a deeper, more meaningful relationship with Jesus Christ.
  2. Come together and learn from each other by sharing insights the Holy Spirit has given us as we have studied individually.
  3. Inspire each other by sharing our testimony about how God is leading in each of our lives.
  4. Pray together and “bear one another’s burdens” through interactive Christian fellowship and intercessory prayer.
  5. Work together as a team on projects or ministries that serve others.
  6. Create a stronger community of believers where the whole is greater than the sum of the parts. This synergy is derived from our coming together and interacting with each other.

Having a general lesson study for the entire church via Zoom might accomplish the first objective, but it would not address the other five reasons for having a Sabbath School class. And if we’re just wanting to learn without interacting, then there are many other options for viewing the Sabbath School lesson online.

Having a Zoom discussion with the existing members of our Sabbath School class might help us stay connected in a virtual world. It’s not a perfect solution, but it’s a duct-tape option that should hold until we can convene in real life.

audience vs community

As a communication professional, I’ve given much thought to the difference between an audience and a community. Often you can tell the difference by observing the direction the chairs are facing. In an audience the chairs usually face forward and individuals are focused on a presenter. In a community the chairs are facing each other so people can easily interact and engage. (Ironically, our Sabbath School classroom is set up with the chairs facing the front, but in reality, we operate more as a community than an audience.)

I’m not interested in “preaching” a Sabbath School lesson to a large, generic audience. I would be willing, though, to be part of a team which facilitates conversations, even via Zoom, where we can achieve most of the objectives listed above.

In my opinion, a Zoom meeting for each individual class would be the best way under these temporary circumstances. That would keep the class members connected and enjoying each other’s fellowship, albeit virtually.

Daily I pray for the church pastors, the congregation, our Sabbath School class, and our broader Adventist community. I know I’m in good company with fellow believers who are offering the same prayers. We will soon look back on this time and be amazed at how God has miraculously led us.


Duane Hallock is a member of the Kansas City New Haven Seventh-day Adventist Church in Overland Park, Kansas, United States.