9 Steps to make your Sabbath School and AY programs more interesting.
It is a new year, and church elections have ended. The Lord led the nominating committee to assign you the role of leading Sabbath school or AY in your local church.
The role of an Adventist Youth leader or Sabbath school superintendent can seem overwhelming. You and your team (if you have one), need to produce 52 programs for the year.
It is now January, and you may already be out of ideas. Maybe none of the programs we have on the Sabbath Programs website are relevant to your theme next week. Your creative juices have all but dried up. How will you create a program in time for the next Sabbath that is innovative, engaging, uplifting, and biblically sound?
At Sabbath Programs, we also have this same challenge. We need to create many varied programs to serve the different styles, cultures, and needs of a worldwide audience. Today we will give a sneak peek into some of the techniques we use in our creative process. You can consider this our Sabbath School and Adventist youth training seminar manual. This is a full workshop condensed into one article, feel free to share this resource with other church leaders.
Step 1: Find the Topic
The first step to creating an exciting program is an engaging topic or theme. Experience can offer the best lessons. Look around you and be inspired. Sitting outside and enjoying nature can inspire a topic on nature. Having a conversation with a friend about life can lead you to a toi9'ypic on Faith, Conversion, Love. Being at work or school can lead you to a topic on creative ways to share God in your marketplace. Driving in a car can inspire a topic of The path to Christ or the Christian pathway.
Another approach to use is to observe your congregation and try to determine what are their specific needs. The needs of the congregation can inspire topics such as Evangelism, the importance of visitation, the prodigal son, Woman Arise.
Be general in your selection of a topic and do not be argumentative or controversial. Additionally, do not select topics with the intention of preaching against a specific situation, individual, or group in your congregation.
Topics can also be selected around special events, national holidays, seasons, or a group of individuals such as youth, children, men, or women. Examples of these types of events are Mother's Day, Father's Day, Youth Day, Community guest or visitors day, Children's Day, Independence Day, Christmas Day, New Year's Day, etc.
Always remember that Christ is the central point of everything. Consistently demonstrate God's transformational power, grace, and love in all your programs. For more inspiration, look at this list of 115 topics for AY and Sabbath School Programs.
Step 2: Give me the Bible/ Use the Bible/ Get biblical.
To ensure your program has deep biblical substance, start with a Bible study.
Now don't get too troubled if you don't think you are a bible scholar. We live in the 21st century, and you have a fantastic tool at your disposal, that tool is Google.
Go to http://google.com and search for: "[topic] in the bible" or "bible verses about [topic]" or "topic Seventh-day Adventist" or "[topic] Ellen White."
From here, find about five to ten bible readings related to the topic, as well as excerpts from Ellen White or content from other reputable sources. Be careful to cross-check your extra-biblical findings with the bible and ensure that they are coherent and also in line with our doctrinal beliefs.
Next, compile these readings, then use them to create the main ideas for your program. Select a specific bible verse as the scripture reading for your program.
Find related songs to be used as the opening song and theme song for your topic. A similar search for songs can be "topic SDA hymnal" or just search for a song that is popular that the congregation may be familiar with or one that you are willing and able to teach.
The bible gives foundation and substance to your program. Utilize scripture throughout your program as well.
Whenever you are creating a new program, approach it with a learning mindset. You are to be led by the Holy Spirit when speaking to God's people, so allow the bible study to lead the program. Instead of trying to find bible verses to back up your initial ideas.
Step 3: Choose your program Type
A program can take one of many formats depending on how you want to go about expounding on the topic, the level of audience engagement required, and the outcome you want to achieve. In the article "15 ways to do a Sabbath School or AY Program," we expound on each in detail.
You can choose to select one or more program types to use in the same program, for example, dramatization or panel discussion.
After you have selected the format of your program, start integrating your findings from your biblical research into the specific structure of the program. This will constitute the actual body of the program and will take most of the creative work.
Ensure there is always some aspect of congregational engagement within the types of programs adopted. This can range from asking questions to having members or groups in the congregation presenting their findings in the form of a verbal presentation, song, skit, poem, response to questions, or just simply saying amen if they agree.
Step 4 Write down three questions that you want to answer.
One of the most frequent comments made about a sub-par program is the program lacked substance.
The congregation feels as if they ended up in the same place as they were before the program began. The content did not serve its purpose for edifying the body of Christ. The pertinent questions to the topic remained unanswered. Instead, the presenter rambled and never got to the point of the presentation.
These comments will not be said of you if you follow these steps.
One method that can be used to prevent this is to determine your outcome. At the end of your program, what three questions should your audience know the answer about?
If you have this goal from the beginning, it will determine how you construct your content to achieve this outcome.
For example, if your program was about Knowing the will of God, your questions could be as follows:
- How can I hear God's voice?
- How can I know God's will for my life?
- What can prevent me from hearing or following His will?
These questions can be asked in the introduction or opening remarks of your program. They can also be questions that are thrown out to a panel or to the congregation. Depending on the style chosen to present the information.
While you are doing your biblical research and structure of your program, ensure that you are directly presenting answers to these pertinent questions.
To ensure the church understood these questions, ask and answer them during the presentation and then reiterate in the concluding statement.
Step 5 Use Multimedia
"If a picture is worth a thousand words, then a video is worth a million." We often underestimate the impact multimedia (images, audio, video) can add to a presentation when executed properly.
Multimedia helps to break the monotony of talking or plain text presentations. Your audience becomes engaged, and you can effectively and memorably communicate your ideas.
One of the simplest ways to include multimedia is by using a PowerPoint presentation. Design an outline of your program content using attractive and relevant images, useful quotations, and informative diagrams.
Sabbath program.com provides powerpoint presentations with a number of our programs; however, you can design your own using the previously listed content.
Videos also offer a unique way in which to engage your audience. Situations that cannot be replicated within a church setting can be pre-recorded and played for the audience. Professionally created videos from other creators on platforms such as YouTube can be integrated into your program. Videos can be used to tell a story and to show images from distant lands. Videos can teach concepts from persons who are professionals in their field.
Audio content can be used to make skits more realistic by adding sound effects and background music, for example, the sound of thunder.
Even if you do not own a projector or screen, you can use printed material as a form of multimedia or utilized someone who has drawing skills to illustrate images on a large piece of cardboard or canvas.
For small churches, be creative and utilize innovative ways to enhance your program.
Step 6: Involve People in your planning
Many sabbath programs are demonstrated by a "superhero superintendent or AY Leader." This person will do the opening prayer, the song service, the scripture reading, welcome, the mission story, the lesson study, and the closing remarks.
In some churches, this person is also involved in the divine service and the Adventist youth program. This does not only cause burn-out, but it becomes a barrier to the growth of others as well as creating a lack of diversity in the way programs are carried out in the church.
It is a known fact that finding willing and able persons to participate in sabbath school can be a challenge, especially for smaller churches.
However, this issue can only be overcome by consistently engaging the same reluctant individuals until they become more confident in their abilities.
There is also the habit of asking the same small circle of willing individuals to participate in our Sabbath school programs.
This can cause a lack of diversity as well as give the impression that only a few people are involved in creating and participating in church activities.
All participants should be informed at least one week in advance, ideally two weeks, if possible. This way, they can mentally prepare themselves to carry out the task at hand and practice for the role they are to perform.
The Suprintented and AY leader acts as a talent scout who should allow others to participate with the hope that one day they will fill the role of leadership in the church. Additionally, being active in an organization encourages membership retention and growth.
Step 7: Make music an integral part of every program
God created music to enhance our worship experience, but Satan uses music to destroy our minds and pull humans closer to the world.
As a church, we often discuss the impact of secular music on our minds. However, music has an equally positive effect when used correctly and appropriately. Music can heal and uplift.
Adding music to sabbath programs can significantly improve the quality of service and the response from the congregation. Music is not limited to only singing. You can incorporate instrumentals, poetry, monologues as well.
Encourage the person chosen to present a special to select an item that is in alignment with the theme of the program. The theme should also be communicated to the choristers and musicians.
Step 8 Preparation
An interesting statistic that we have found on our website Sabbath program.com is that the site is most active between Friday evening and Sabbath afternoon, as seen in the graphs below.
This leads us to the conclusion that the majority of church leaders plan their programs just a few hours before the program is to be carried out. We are hoping that this is an incorrect conclusion. However, we also see this carried out offline.
Preparation can create a significant difference in the quality of a program. Preparation gives the participants and the leader, adequate time to revise the content as well as the time necessary to practice the presentation before the day. A minimum of one week is the recommended time required for an average program.
Some programs may require memorization, getting equipment and resources, decorating, contacting presenters, doing research, and other activities that require multiple weeks of preparation.
The fruits of a rushed program are often times evident to the congregation.
In most churches, there are multiple superintendents in charge of planning and creating sabbath school programs or youth leaders in charge of AY.
In this case, preparation for your next program should begin as soon as your previous program is completed. We have a long list of programs where we have done a significant amount of the work with regards to idea generation, scripture selection, and program outline.
If anyone of our programs is utilized, you are already days ahead of the average preparation time.
Once a program topic has been selected, you can immediately start reaching out to the persons who will be participating and assign them tasks such as the scripture reading, the opening song, the mission story Etc. You can customize the program to fit your particular needs, and then delegate the other roles to the most suitable individuals from your church or invited guests from other congregations.
Step 9 Promotion
Once all the previous steps are taken into consideration, you will have an engaging and exciting Sabbath school and Adventist Youth program. You will now have enough information to adequately promote it to your congregation for at least a week in advance.
Focus on the exciting parts of the topic and the outcomes they should expect after experiencing your program, emphasize the spiritual lessons to be learned.
Emphasize the use of music and the participants who will enhance the quality of your program. By this time, you should also communicate the format that the program will be presented in, for example, panel discussion or dramatization.
Promotion can also encourage the punctuality of your church members to your program.
An example of a promotion is " Next week's sabbath school is one you will not want to miss. The topic is the Sabbath. The members of our panel will discuss some hot burning topics such as can an SDA exchange shift with a none Adventist? The response will shock you. So be there to learn about God's expectation of us his followers when it comes to keeping the Sabbath. Be there."
This level of preparation will serve to communicate that time and effort was spent in creating a program that will live up to its expectation.
Promotion can be done at the end of the previous week's Sabbath School, during the Divine service announcements and after the Advent Youth service on Sabbath afternoon.
For those who are technically inclined, social media can also be used to promote the program to both local church members as well as others in the community.
If these nine steps are taken into consideration and followed through, it will produce interesting and substantial programs that will keep your congregation engaged and bring more persons to Christ.
The audience will appreciate the effort that you place in the planning, preparation, and implementation of these programs. The presentations will garner more interest and will serve to improve church attendance, spirituality, and engagement of the congregation.
It will also make the job of the Ay leader or Sabbath school superintendent easier since it will also improve participation from other members of the congregation.
I hope you put these nine, 9, steps action in your next program as we strive to bring the word of God to the world in a compelling, clear, concise, and engaging manner. I pray for the success of your church and the growth of its members.