A survey by the Sabbath School Department of the Seventh-day Adventist Church’s Bulgarian Union of Churches Conference in early 2022 found that only 40 percent of the youth in that union attend Sabbath School regularly.
During this same period, Miroslav Milkov, a youth leader in one of the Adventist congregations in Sofia and a volunteer at the Sabbath School Department, was browsing the church’s Sabbath School resources for ideas when he came across the inVerse Bible study guide.
“InVerse quickly got me hooked,” Milkov said. “It was like nothing I had seen before, and I quickly realized that, with its fresh concept, this contemporary Bible study could transform the way the young adults study their Bibles and even bring them back to church and Sabbath School.”
Milkov decided to test the Bible study with his small youth group, which meets every Friday evening.
“At first, some members of the group were confused by the new titles of the sections in the lesson,” he said. “But only a few weeks later, I started seeing motivated youth coming to the group meetings with their notebooks. My friends were inspired by the truths that they had discovered on their own during their Bible study and were willing to share with the group.”
He shared how, fairly soon, they didn’t need to look at the guide during the meeting anymore, as they already knew by heart what questions to ask in each part of the lesson. “A young man began to drive 250 kilometers [about 155 miles] regularly to attend our group meetings each Friday,” Milkov said.
Seeing God’s blessings at work among his small group members, Milkov decided that the new study guide was too good to be kept a secret. To make inVerse accessible for all in Bulgarian, he saw the group needed a translated version.
Milkov shared the idea with his union Sabbath School team and got their support. The team came up with the clever plan to involve young volunteers in the translation. This way, they reasoned, the youth involved would become motivated and would also spread the news to their friends.
“Everything from team gathering to translation, editing, and publishing needed to be organized in a month so that we [could] have the lessons for the following quarter ready in time,” Milkov said. “At first, a few people joined the team. Then a couple more.”
With the deadline approaching for having the team set up and running, Milkov said, “I had already come up with the lesson distribution — each translator would need to translate two lessons,” Milkov said. “Then, at the last minute, a girl texted me providing five names of young people who wanted to become part of the team. Not only did we have a translator for each of the 13 lessons, but now we had more translators than lessons.”
After the lessons for the fourth quarter 2022 were translated into Bulgarian, the guide was published in the official General Conference Sabbath School Android and Apple apps. The digital version of the study guide became the preferred media for the group.
Having met the tight deadlines and after making all lessons available at the start of the quarter, Milkov and his team were facing another challenge: spreading the new study guide across the entire country and getting local churches’ buy-in. The Sabbath School Department came up with an attractive marketing campaign to appeal to the youth.
Supporters also designed and printed special inVerse journals that contained information about inVerse and had space for personal notes, as well as the inVerse methodology guide. They branded water bottles with the inVerse logo and gave away one bottle every week as a prize for the winner of a weekly inVerse challenge running on the department’s Facebook page. Leaders asked a question based on the weekly lesson, and the winner was randomly selected from among those who answered.
Over the next few weeks, the lessons achieved significant results, according to Milkov. “People started texting me to express their gratitude for the new study guides,” he said. “The youth Sabbath School group became the most visited group in our church. People were finally participating animatedly in the discussions. The Holy Spirit led a young couple to our services and Sabbath School group. Their experience with inVerse contributed to their decision to devote their lives to Jesus.”
Milkov said that then it was time to organize the translation of the next quarter’s lessons. “More people wanted to join the team, having learned about inVerse from their friends,” he said. “This is how the team got the ball rolling. A lot of churches made the decision to adopt the new study guide” starting in the first quarter of 2023.
According to Bulgarian Union Sabbath School director Stoyan Petkov, his dream was to revive the participation of church members after the pandemic. “I knew this would happen through the young people, and I see now that it is happening with the inVerse Bible study groups not just in our church but throughout Bulgaria,” Petkov said. “It can easily become contagious all over Europe.”
The Bible study guide called inVerse is for university students, young adults, working professionals, and young parents ages 18–35+. Published by the Seventh-day Adventist Church, two of the four guides released each year correlate with the same study topics as the church’s Adult Bible Study Guide, while the other two specifically address young adult issues.