Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many.– 1 Corinthians 12:12-14 (NIV)
In 1 Corinthians, Paul compares the early church to a physical body. One analogy that he uses is that of an eye and a hand; the eye cannot tell the hand “I don’t need you.” The eye does not have the ability to grasp an object and without the eye, the hand will fumble around aimlessly. However, by working together, these parts are stronger and able to be more productive.
The same is true for members working together in a church setting. The pastor is not able to say to his elders, “I don’t need you,” or the elders say to those who volunteer weekly, “You are not needed here.” Because each of us has been given different spiritual gifts, by using those gifts and working in harmony, the church is able to flourish and prosper; we are stronger when we work together.
In a recent study (2013) conducted by the Office of Archives, Statistics, and Research, church members were asked about their relationships with their pastors, elders, and Sabbath School teachers. Specific areas on which they were asked included if they felt these church leaders knew them well; were warm, friendly, caring; and if the leaders had a positive impact on their spiritual lives.
In all surveyed divisions, more than 50% of respondents gave their Sabbath School teachers the highest rankings in these categories. Also, in most divisions, the SS teachers were consistently ranked above other local church officials.
Similarly, when asked to respond to the statement, “My pastor/Sabbath School leaders know me well,” answers varied globally. However, Sabbath School leaders consistently ranked highly in terms of maintaining strong relationships with church members.
- 54.5% of respondents in the East Central Africa felt their Sabbath School leaders know them well, but only 46% felt their pastors know them.
- 48% of respondents in the North American Division gave the highest ranking to Sabbath School leaders, but with a strong gender difference (56% among males, 41% among females).
- 57.4% of respondents in the South American Division felt their Sabbath School leaders know them well, giving the second-highest rating to pastors (55%).
- 54.2% of respondents in the Southern Asia-Pacific Division gave the highest ranking in terms of personal relationships to Sabbath School teachers and leaders, while 49.1% felt their pastors know them well.
While the pastors, elders, and other church leaders serve many important functions within the church, it appears that the relationships formed with Sabbath School teachers are those that hold the most personal impact. These Sabbath School teachers – most of the time, simply lay people who have volunteered the time and energy – are investing most deeply in the lives of church members. Because research shows that Sabbath School is such a strength for the church, it is vital that church administrators and pastors do all they can to not only build up their Sabbath School leaders but encourage the attendance of Sabbath School itself and find creative ways to persuade members of its value.
Each of us has been given special gifts by our Heavenly Father, but we cannot use those gifts in solitude and expect to be successful. We must work together, encourage each other, and compel each other to grow; only then will our church be able to reach its full potential.
For more information, check out Seventh-day Adventist Global Data Picture.
Created in collaboration with the Institute of Church Ministry.