Date of Award
Master of Arts (Theology) MA(Theol)
Arts & Theology
Ministry and Theology
Arthur N. Patrick
Problem: The Seventh-day Adventist Church is experiencing world-wide growth. At the same time the Church is North America and Australia is faced with a decline in the percentage of members who are attending Sabbath School. This decline over the past decade and more has occurred in Sabbath School, which normally offers members small study classes. Yet the use of small groups is recognised by church growth leaders as an important factor in helping churches grow. The purpose of this research is to enquire whether the dynamics of small groups will enhance the effectiveness of Sabbath School classes to attract and retain members.
Method: A Biblical understanding of the nature of the church and her relationship with Christ was sought, in order to draw insights and emphases from the New Testament about small groups. This laid the foundation for enquiring about the role of small groups in church growth today, and the dynamics that social scientists believe operate within small groups. This study has enabled the development of a small group experiment as a dynamic learning experience to observe group growth and the impact of group experience on a Sabbath School class.
Procedure: Members of the church became the personnel of both a newly formed small group and a Sabbath School class. This ministry project applied the principles of effective group development - both spiritual and social - to a series of Tuesday evening meetings over five months. Essentially the same group of people met in a small Sabbath School class for four and one-half months. Assessing instruments were given to the group members and also a control Sabbath School class.
Results: There were positive indications of a growing fellowship within the small group which increased acceptance and trust as members became more willing to reveal their formerly little known selves. Participation became more balanced at group meetings, and the social interaction presented greater opportunity for members to help one another in mutual ministry. There is reason to believe that this has considerable bearing upon an increased attitude of satisfaction with Sabbath School and class interaction in particular. Members of the group have made a decided choice to continue their developing group experience and Sabbath School class beyond the term of experimentation and without the presence of the researcher. This indicates the sense of identity and belonging which has grown and can now be channelled into the task of group evangelism.
Conclusion: Considerable encouragement is derived from this study which suggests that the effectiveness of Sabbath School classes can be increased by the association of class members in close proximity as a small group meeting for spiritual and social interaction. The enrichment derived from implementing small group dynamics may indicate a growing significance for the establishment of small groups within the church structure of celebration, congregation, and cell, for individual development, church maintenance, and evangelistic task.
Brown, G. A. (1983). Small groups and the Sabbath school (Master's project). Andrews University, Avondale Campus, Australia: Andrews University.