June 23, 2020 | Miami, Florida, United States | Samuel Telemaque, Inter-American Division
The word acute denotes a “sudden onset and severity” on one’s mental, social and emotional wellbeing. During COVID 19, although the needs of members may vary from place to place Sabbath School members seem to have acute needs. These needs can facilitate or hinder their learning of biblical principles, teachings, beliefs or values. This article focuses on how to teach the Sabbath school lesson in times of crisis. We will examine three areas: the context of learning, the biblical text, and Sabbath school teachers.
Sabbath school teachers should assess the prevailing needs of their students, and to do this, they may use simple questions, such as: What events now preoccupy their minds? What are the prevailing needs of their communities? What are the effects of current events on their emotions? These questions help teachers to assess the present realities or needs of their students which can include anxiety, uncertainty, boredom, fear, animosity and resentment.
Teachers should give serious thought to the prevailing realities of students, for example, the teacher in his/her study of Daniel Chapter 2, hears echoes of anxiety in these verses. “I had a dream and my spirit is anxious to know the dream… O king tell us the dream, and I will tell you the interpretation” (verses 3-4). These verses convey feelings of anxiety and uncertainty. There is a similarity between these and the students’ experiences. This example indicates how to hear or see the needs of students in Scripture.
The Scripture gives meaning to the needs of students. The teacher assesses the needs of his students from the perspective of the Scripture. For example, Daniel interpreted the King’s dream to mean certainty, stability and assurance of a brighter future. “In the days of those kings, shall the God of heaven establish a kingdom that never shall be destroyed” (Dan 2: 45-48). It is a task of teachers to help students to discover new meaning from prevailing realities. Anxiety and uncertainty are results of interpretation that we give to life’s events. The teacher helps his students to reinterpret the meaning of life’s events in order to change feelings and thinking about that event. He assesses the event and its effects on his students from the perspective of God. God gives meaning to all life’s events and needs. The task of the teacher is to identify and explain those biblical meanings to students. These meanings have the power to change students’ thinking, feelings and actions.
The Scripture also gives meaning to human needs. In the book of Acts, the Gentile converts were confused as to the true meaning of salvation. On the one hand, Paul advocated salvation in Christ without circumcision, while on the other hand, Jewish leaders insisted that circumcision was necessary for salvation. God gave to Peter and James His perspective on salvation. He used a vision to clarify Peter’s view, while James changed his view after he read Amos 9:11-12. The Gentile converts, as well Peter and James, were insecure about their salvation, but God used the vision and Scripture to clarify their perspectives on how He saves people. God gives salvation to all people through faith in Christ (John 3:16, Acts 10: 34-35, Amos 9:11-12). It is a gift of grace. God’s view of salvation changed their feelings of insecurity to assurance of salvation in Christ.
The teacher teaches from the perspective of his students. The minds of students tend to be preoccupied with the effects of COVID 19. These effects may include fear, anxiety, social distancing, uncertainty and economic issues. The teacher should teach within this prevailing reality. This enables the teacher to connect with students’ needs and preoccupations. The students are more likely to listen and be receptive to learning.
The goal is to give new meaning to life’s events. The teacher uses the Scripture to explain God’s perspectives on human needs and life events. This type of teaching has many benefits to the students. First, the teacher identifies with his students prevailing needs and struggles. Second, this identification leads to mutual trust between students and teachers. Third, the instructions are relevant to the students. Fourth, it minimizes resistance to change. Fifth, students tend to be receptive to new biblical meanings of life’s events or needs. These new meanings change the students’ thinking about their needs and life’s events. A change in thinking produces changes in feelings and actions. The Scripture is the agent of change. The Holy Spirit and intercessory prayers support that change. The teacher is facilitator of such change.
The teacher uses biblical themes to give new meaning to social themes. All social themes should be assessed in light of Scripture. The Bible determines what is right or wrong about all social issues. For instance, anxiety can be assessed within the context of “Your heavenly Father knows you are in need of all these things” (Math 6:8). We receive a new appreciation of God within this context. He cares for all things. He knows all things. He knows how to give good gifts to His children. Therefore, He says, “…do not worry about your life, what you will eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear…” Jesus changes our thinking and feelings in relation to things. He is the Source of everything, therefore, we are to think about Him. The more we think about him, the less anxious we will be. This a new way to think about anxiety. The teacher uses biblical themes to give new meaning to social issues.
Pastor Samuel Telemaque is the Sabbath School director in the Inter-American Division of Seventh-day Adventists.