“Sabbath schooling, in general, seems to be languishing in the Global North (formerly known as ‘First World’),” says Justin Kim, deputy director of the Sabbath School and Personal Ministries department, and editor of Sabbath School Bible Study for Young Adults. to guide. “The question of the century is: why? There are many theories out there, but we’re not sure exactly why the number of participants is declining. “
In the developed world, about 50 percent of registered Adventist members attend church regularly, and 50 percent of that number attend Sabbath School. As with Sunday schools, the decline began in the 1970s, alongside the countercultural movement and growing mistrust of institutions. In the 1980s, the rise of mega-churches focused on great experiences of worship and divine service, and although the 1990s saw a resurgence of small groups, the emphasis was not on Sabbath School groups, but Friday night or after church gatherings of young people.
“What we do know,” says Kim, “is that young adults – at least for about 50 years – have lost interest in Sabbath School. We also know that InVerse is reversing this trend somewhat in parts of the Global North. “
InVerse is the new, updated and refreshed Collegiate Quarterly (CQ). While InVerse has retained some aspects of QC – like the social part of communicating and discussing the Bible – it is largely a revamped format. While CQ was a devotional commentary on the Adult Bible Study Guide, InVerse comes from a more hermeneutical historico-grammatical approach. In short: there are a lot less fields to fill out and a lot more detailed prompts to examine scriptural themes and language.
Both shifts of InVerse follow the regular Adult Sabbath School lesson, using the guide’s standard historical and grammatical approach and the adult lesson topics. The other two quarters focus on topics specifically relevant to young adults, such as basics of salvation, sexuality, the purpose of education, principles of stewardship for young adults, Sabbath matters for professionals. and how to know God‘s will for your life.
“Since the change in 2019, the global response has been very positive,” Kim said. “Divisions and unions continue to translate InVerse into new languages, but in areas where translation is slower, young adult church members translate it themselves and distribute the study guide through social media and messaging applications. “
It is important to note that the term “young adult” is flexible. While generally defined as 18-35+, Kim says anyone interested in content is more than welcome to use InVerse Bible Study Guides.
Unlike many government departments, InVerse has profited from the pandemic. Friends couldn’t get together, but people were thirsty for community and spiritual involvement. InVerse responded to both of these needs, spreading around the world through word of mouth from those who had created their own small groups online and told others how valuable it was, and allowing small groups to grow. train across international borders – something that had really not been done before.
“Young adults have special spiritual needs that are different from those who have more experience walking with God,” Kim says. “They’re trying to figure out how to raise their kids, what to do with their money, how to navigate society – sexuality, politics, career – what to look for in a life partner, and many more. These are not some of the most important questions in other study guides. InVerse attempts to approach these topics openly, based on the scriptures. “
Each section of InVerse is divided into seven sections, corresponding to the days of the week, each with its own activity taking the reader deeper into the Word. These activities include writing a passage of the scriptures by hand, reviewing the passage for patterns, using the passage to rekindle your relationship with God, cross-checking additional Bible verses, understanding related excerpts. writings of Ellen G. White, and discussion questions.
“It’s intense,” Kim admits. “Those who engage with InVerse say it’s so different than what they’re used to, and they love it. The good thing is that they are excited about it and want to share it with others. It’s the Bible, and they want to talk about it. It is a natural and organic testimony.
Kim admits that some of the topics covered by InVerse – such as biblical sexuality – have made a few members hesitant, but the overall response has been overwhelmingly positive.
“People tell us that they see God in a whole different way after studying this topic from a Biblical perspective using the InVerse method,” he explains. “Some admit that it is always a little embarrassing to talk about sexuality in church, but in the same breath, they thank us for bringing it up, because it is not something the church has done historically, and there is a need and a desire for it. “
Another thing that sets InVerse apart from other study guides is that, rather than being fully digital or fully printed, InVerse is a mix of the two. This is not a scenario either / or; it combines the best of both approaches and allows the user to determine how much of each they want to incorporate into their study.
In addition to the printed study guide, InVerse is available on the official new Sabbath School mobile app and also features a TV show produced by Hope Channel (formerly known as “Sabbath School University” ). The weekly output can be used as preparation for the study or as an extension of the small group discussion.
“Interaction with peers is an extremely important part of the life of young adults,” says Kim. “So the social aspect must be integrated into the study guide. It works great in Europe, South America, and Australia, and they’ve produced a lot of accompanying material for InVerse. Everybody’s trying to keep the young people in the church and they’re really creative about it.
Kim tells the story of a young man about to leave church when his local Sabbath School group invited him to an InVerse group study. A small group on the verge of disbandment decided to try InVerse in early 2020. A year and a half later, it’s a thriving small group that meets regularly.
“They were excited to learn more about Jesus in the text, not just the doctrinal exposition,” Kim says. “We want to see what’s in the verse, but it’s also about finding a reverse way of thinking and looking at things from a different perspective.”
While doctrine remains crucial for the church, it is Jesus that the doctrine points to. Doctrine, Kim points out, is a theological construct to help us make sense of the Bible. And if someone truly studies the Bible with an open mind, Kim thinks it will come naturally to Adventist doctrines. But although these doctrines are used to clarify, they are not the primary purpose.
“Our church was founded by young people who studied the Word,” says Kim. “They sat down and studied the Bible together. Social reinforcement is necessary as the Holy Spirit works with community environments, and dialogue helps to clarify interpretation, understanding, and application. Jesus should be our primary hermeneutics; it will lead us together to the right doctrine, and cyclically, the right doctrine leads us to a clearer view of Jesus.
InVerse is available in devotional or journal form through your local Sabbath School, free at inversebible.org, on the new Sabbath School app launched by Adventech, or can be purchased at adventistbookcenter.com or at your local ABC.