At 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, September 8, 2022, the North American Division’s virtual Do It Together Sabbath School Conference began. Sponsored by NAD Adult, Children, and Youth Ministries Departments, the three-day conference is committed to exploring ways to make Sabbath School a unified and productive experience, and to enable teachers and active leaders to think about ways to improve their local church communities.
Although completely virtual, the event was a mix of live streaming, Zoom breakout discussions, and Zoom workshops. A total of 30 workshops were available for Adult Sabbath School, Youth Sabbath School and Children’s Sabbath School over the 3 days, providing variety for the 2,100 attendees. Each of the Zoom workshops was offered in English and Spanish, as well as the French option for the Sabbath School workshops for adults and children.
The virtual nature of the conference did nothing to detract from the experience, with administrators sending goody bags to those who registered early for the event. The bags were packed with valuable resources, such as a Sabbath School Toolkit catalog, tips on how to foster fellowship, ready-made ways to engage youth, step a step-by-step for leaders to make Sabbath School the most spirit-filled possible and, best of all, a t-shirt commemorating the event. Each day of the conference followed a theme: Thursday was “Journey of Hope”, Friday was “Journey of Grace” and Saturday was “Journey of Community”.
Each day began with a general session led by NAD Youth and Young Adult Ministries Director Tracy Wood, NAD Children’s Ministries Director Sherri Uhrig, Associate Director of Youth Ministries and NAD Young Adults, Armando Miranda Jr., NAD Adult Ministries Representative, Anika Anderson, and Gerry Lopez, NAD Children’s Ministries Associate Director. These guidelines set the intentions for the day’s sessions, providing insight and prayer for the discussions.
Uhrig and Lopez kicked off Thursday’s general session with author and keynote speaker Frank Warren. Warren has made a name for himself with his postsecret project. As an advocate for transparency as a form of health, Warren invited individuals to send their secrets on a postcard to ease the burden of secrecy. He, Uhrig, and Lopez discussed how vulnerability can enrich the Sabbath School experience. Being there to witness and to be there for another person is a necessary part of building a strong church community. Warren encouraged Sabbath School leaders to allow themselves to be vulnerable, fostering deeper intimacy. That way, as Warren said, we as believers can decide, “Are secrets going to be a wall or a bridge?”
Continuing the conversation about sharing secrets, Vandeon Griffin, Associate Director of Youth and Young Adult Ministries at NAD, led the first breakout discussion on Zoom from 9 to 9:30 p.m. More than 200 attendees took time to enter the sphere, the cat overflowing with questions. , comments, insights and deeper observations on the nature of Sabbath School and the treasures they wanted to extract from the experience. Griffin joked that Sabbath School should be made up of the four “Fs”: food, fellowship, fun, and faith. Compared to the less interactive structure of the traditional church service, Sabbath School is unique because of its atmosphere of person-to-person connection, acknowledging the legacy a dedicated teacher can have on the spiritual health of individuals, regardless of or their age.
“Tonight’s meeting affirms that we are all human beings and that our Sabbath School is a way to listen to the needs of everyone, including our leaders who, ‘we think they are strong but struggling too,'” Jocelyn Sonsona shared in the chat.
Friday’s sessions radiated the day of grace theme with John Nixon I, of the South Central Conference, who fearlessly explored LGBTQ+ sexuality and discussion and its applications to Sabbath School. This subject is often ostracized in church culture, however, Nixon explains that it is within the church that we must confront this subject, not with judgment, but with nuance, faith, love and above all, grace. . He said, “The church is the divine institution where we are called to live according to the holistic nature of love.” Nixon pointed out that when we ignore or enter the conversation with aggression, we redirect many into secular avenues of understanding.
The rest of the day allowed for breakout sessions that discussed best practices for extending grace on this subject according to Sabbath School lessons for adults, youth and children. Friday ended with a special service recorded by Nina Atcheson from Australia, in which she emphasized the importance of grace and how to extend it to others and to ourselves as an example of God and His character.
The Sabbath marked the final day of the conference, which ended on a high note with four consecutive workshops. Under the theme of community, presenters such as Costin Jordache, Robin Galgon, Isabelle Meluse Bagassien, Jeremy Wong and others discussed topics such as “Technology and Sabbath School”, “Children and Mission”, “Stewardship” and Sabbath School for young people. teams completing their IGNITE series. Each workshop provided space for feedback to animate and enrich the content of the sessions. Through the workshops, conference attendees received a platform for recognition and guidance, sharing helpful tips that benefited their teaching, unique ways to foster connection, and ways to stay active outside. Sabbath hours. Going forward, there was a call to action to revise Sabbath School amid the pandemic, leaving room for questions to be answered and reflected, and for young people to feel sufficiently empowered. security to participate.
The event concluded with a live stream session led by Toussaint Williams, associate pastor of the Oakwood Adventist Church, and challenges from the conference. Williams dove into the scriptures, providing proof of the importance of being grounded in God’s wisdom and deliverance. He reminded attendees that Sabbath School is a vital time of worship that exalts hope, grace and community, talks like this reconnect teachers to the importance of this time and how best to to share the gospel.
All videos will be available for a limited time to be viewed by registered participants on the conference website over the next few weeks.
— Nicole Dominquez writes from Chicago, Illinois.