If the church were to depend entirely upon the efforts of the elders and the pastor to win souls, the task at times would seem almost hopeless. However, this is not the case in the Seventh-day Adventist Church. The church is so organized that it gives the elders many helpers. Every department of the church exists for the purpose of winning souls. Each adds its contribution to the total church program and the building up of God's kingdom upon the earth.
The Sabbath School is especially conducive to winning souls. The elders should recognize this and capitalize on the various facets of the Sabbath school to enlarge the church membership. It has often been said that the Sabbath school is the church at study. But it is more than this. It can be, and many times is, a baptismal class and an introduction to a more personal relationship with Jesus Christ. It is common knowledge that in the fast-growing divisions in the world the Sabbath School membership exceeds that of the church. In one place the baptized church membership was fifteen, but the Sabbath school membership was two hundred. What a glorious opportunity existed there for the winning of souls to Jesus!
It goes without saying that the elders should attend the Sabbath school. Because most of our churches are not large, the elders can greet each member as he arrives. This gives the members an opportunity to introduce to the elders visitors they may bring with them. Knowing who is present will help to guide the elder in his sermon, and greeting the visitors as they arrive will give the elder an opportunity to invite them to be in his Sabbath School class. The fact that the elder is there to welcome them shows the members that he is interested in the Sabbath School.
The elder's work with the Sabbath School should begin in the Sabbath School planning committee. There he can guide the affairs of the school without dictating. He should urge the officers to see that the school operates smoothly, that no embarrassing incidents take place that would give an unfavorable impression to visitors. In the Sabbath School planning committee meetings the elder can guide in the selection of teachers who will put their best into their teaching. They should be cautioned to use tact, never arguing with the members or visitors. The teachers should be encouraged to present additional facts and thoughts related to the lesson, because most of the members have studied the lesson at least once. The teachers can be reminded that they have the "first chance" with the class members and visitors.
One of the elders will want to have a Sabbath School evangelistic class. Visitors should be urged to attend this class, and the Sabbath School members should be encouraged to introduce any visitors to the pastor or elder if he has not already met them. Some of the less-informed members of the church can be put into this class so their faith can be strengthened, and they will thus form a nucleus for the class. If non-Adventist visitors attend this class regularly, they can be led step by step into the message.
One of the most fruitful phases of the Sabbath school is the branch Sabbath School. This can be conducted in a variety of places. If members live some distance from the church and cannot attend regularly, they should be encouraged to have a branch Sabbath School in their homes, or some other suitable place. If this is held in the afternoon, the elders and other members of the church can assist. Sometimes after a series of Bible studies there are still some in the community who are interested but who have not been baptized. This provides an excellent opportunity for a branch Sabbath School. The elder can ask a layman to carry on the school when he cannot attend. This simple method usually gives good results, and many souls can be baptized from this branch Sabbath School.
Another avenue of soul-winning in the Sabbath School is the Vacation Bible School. To most people their children are their dearest possessions. If an interest is taken in the children, it will be easier to reach the parents. Sabbath School members and church school pupils have been secured also as a result of Vacation Bible School. Fortunate is the evangelist who can conduct an evangelistic campaign in the same location immediately following a Vacation Bible School. The children can serve as advertisers for the meetings.
There have been times when the General Conference asked all departments to be especially evangelistic, but the Sabbath School should always be geared to use every means for the winning of souls. The elder and pastor can use this department to distinct advantage, not by dictating to the Sabbath School officers, but by guiding them. They should let the officers know that they are vitally interested in the officers' work and will support them in every way.
Milton T. Reiber was a pastor in the Pennsylvania Conference when he wrote this article.