for Structural Change
In recent years a number of proposals for restructuring the Adventist
Church and its institutions have been studied. Without endorsing any
of them, here is a quick summary of ideas under discussion to meet the
needs described in this article.
services—Using today’s technology, there are many
functions that the Adventist Church duplicates in hundreds of offices
which could easily be centralized at much less cost. No autonomy or
control would be lost as is demonstrated by "outsourcing" in
the business world, which does not deprive client companies of control
of their operations.
accounting, insurance, legal services and many other procedures now
duplicated in each of 67 local conference and union conference offices
across North America could be handled more efficiently in regional or
even national service centers. Salaries would be freed up to increase
the number of pastors, evangelists and youth workers at local levels.
One example of this
is in the Pacific Union Conference where the processing of trust
services paperwork, accounting and management has been centralized for
several conferences. The local conferences continue to control the use
of maturities and the field representatives who actually visit their
pastors—As denominational funds decline, the number of
churches each pastor must cover increases. Most congregations in North
America feel that having a pastor of their own will increase their
opportunities to effectively reach out into their community and grow.
Small congregations may be better served by a part-time pastor who
lives in the community, instead of one they share with one, two, or
three other churches. Sabbath schedule is not a problem.
A modest stipend
from the conference together with income from a business or
profession, can support a family and allow a bi-vocational pastor to
concentrate on one congregation and one community. Many people across
North America feel a call to plant new congregations to reach
unentered communities and do not need any remuneration. Because of
their investments or business interests, they have a significant
amount of time to volunteer in a leadership role.
Examples of this
approach can be found in scores of locations across North America. The
Potomac Conference currently has 19 bi-vocational pastors. The
Southern Union Conference provides a regular training program directed
by evangelist Ron Halverson.
Centers—New technology makes it much less expensive to
deliver information from one central point, instead of using
old-fashioned "trickle-down" systems where documents are
mailed from one office to another and large numbers of photocopies and
postage paid for. Instead of the costly duplication of staffing 58
local conferences with specialists in dozens of specialized
ministries, a resource center can connect any local leader with a
front-line peer with the particular answers they need. A toll-free 800
number, a web site, and other new information technologies make it
easier to access information at one point than to filter it through a
An example of this:
In 1994 the North American Division voted to establish a permanent
Reclaiming Ministry in response to widespread demand from the field at
the close of the 1993 "Year of Reclaiming." But, it did not
create a Reclaiming Ministries department and ask for the nine union
conferences and 58 local conferences to hire 67 new staff. Instead, it
contracted with the Center for Creative Ministry to provide this
service. Any local leader can get immediate assistance by dialing
(800) 272-4664 or using the Internet to go to www.creativeministry.org
on the web. Answers to questions, information, materials, names of
former members, trainers, and consultants are available.
Ministries—There are many new areas of ministry opening up
to the church and demanding attention. These represent unreached
people groups, and each requires a new approach. Costly and cumbersome
bureaucracies cannot move into these new opportunities quickly enough,
but networking the frontier workers (denominational employees and lay
volunteers) encourages rapid, relatively inexpensive response.
An example of this
approach is the Adventist Prison Ministries Association (APMA). It was
formed a few years ago at a time when the prison and jail population
in North America was mushrooming to more than a million men and women.
The denomination provided a small subsidy, and directors of prison
ministries began to meet once a year, conduct training events, publish
a newsletter, and assist local churches near prisons get new
ministries started. Adventists ministering in prisons and baptisms
among prisoners have increased several fold in a few years.
Another example is
the way church planting has increased dramatically over the past three
years with the SEEDS networking events sponsored by the NAD Evangelism
departmental structure—In order to reduce costly and
unnecessary duplication, the NAD voted in 1995 to ask its union and
local conferences to re-structure departmental staffing in an
"hour glass" fashion. This means instead of all departments
being staffed at all 4 levels of denominational offices, departments
would exist at only two levels.
and or schools,
could work together and share
Those entities of a
more administrative nature would exist at only the General Conference
and union conference levels—trust services, communication, public
affairs, education and ADRA. Those departments that represent local
ministries would exist only at the division and local conference
levels are Sabbath School and personal ministries, youth ministries,
children’s ministries, health ministries and the Ministerial
been slow, but where this new structure has been implemented there
have been savings. Nothing has been lost through these staff
reductions, as would result of entire departments were merged or
closed down at all levels.
area collaboration—Many of the largest metropolitan areas in
North America have local churches affiliated with two, three or more
local conferences. When media and advertising is used for evangelism,
it "bleeds" across the "turf" of several
congregations. There are many unreached neighborhoods with no
Adventist outreach. Members drive past several churches to commute to
the one they belong to. In many congregations almost none of the
members live in the community where the church building is located.
The splintering of resources makes it difficult to get secular campus
outreach, singles ministry and visible, humanitarian work, such as
Inner City programs, going.
example of this approach is Good Neighbor House in Dayton, Ohio. All
of the Adventist churches in the metro area collaborate through this
agency located downtown to accomplish health outreach, ministry with
the homeless and unemployed, disaster relief and other goals
established cooperatively. Good Neighbor House staff speaks to the
metro-wide media on behalf of the Adventist Church and increases
overall visibility which benefits the evangelism of each local church.
It can provide training and resources for volunteers who want to start
delivery of training—When the NAD introduced a new
curriculum for Vacation Bible School in recent years, it could have
spent large sums of money training trainers to go to each conference
and every local church to train the volunteers to use the new
materials. Instead, the Adventist Communication Network provided a
live, satellite link so that the NAD children’s ministries director
could teach the seminar at once for every church across the continent.
ACN’s menu of two training events a month has made it possible to
reduce departmental staffing at all levels of the denomination, while
at the same time delivery information and new skills to the field much
courses are also being provided to small church schools in a test
project. This has the potential of reducing the cost of Christian
education while making it available to children in more communities.
already training their employees over the World Wide Web. As the
Adventist Church learns to use this new technology, training can be
delivered in an even more flexible and less costly way.
teams—Many of the opportunities and frontiers of mission
facing the Adventist Church are ignored because of lack of resources
to open up new work. Yet, in North America and the Western world, the
church is rich in members with education, experience and ability. A
ministry team is a vehicle that allows three to eight professionals to
donate some of their time to the leadership of a new ministry, with
the help of a part-time contractor or student intern to provide some
of the "leg work." Teams are a common organizational tool
used in industry today to pool available human resources to pursue a
new opportunity without the expense of hiring new staff and setting up
a new bureaucracy. Can the church use the same tool to both involve
laity in a more significant way and reduce the cost of starting new
ministries when opportunities beckon?
alliances—In the past much energy was put into
"consolidation" proposals for schools, conferences and even
union conferences. These usually created a lot of negative feelings,
often irrational. Evidence over more than a decade also demonstrates
that consolidation does not save money in the long run because it
reduces church growth significantly.
A new approach is
to encourage conferences, colleges or schools to work together, share
costs and achieve some of the efficiencies of scale. For example,
three conferences in the North Pacific Union have shared the cost of
one church-planter. Adventist hospitals have formed alliances with
Adventist colleges. Two unions share one coordinator/evangelist for
Native Ministries. As far back as 1967, the GC recommended that the
two or three conferences in a large city to go together in funding an
Inner City program director for the metro area.
International, an agency of the GC, provides an alliance called APLE
that enables any church school to offer Grade 9. The conference
boarding academy can enter an alliance with a local church school to
add grades 10, 11 and 12 so students in the area can still live at
home. Adventist colleges are forming alliances with Andrews University
to offer majors on their campus that would otherwise be financially
facilities—In the large cities the cost of real estate is
very high. At the same time the diverse, multicultural demographics
demand that many congregations be planted in order to reach everyone.
If several Adventist local churches share the same physical plant, the
cost can be greatly reduced. Some services—such as a
receptionist/secretary or janitor—can easily be shared among several
small congregations which could not afford the "threshold"
of cost for quality services.
conferencing—Experiments are underway to replace costly
meetings and travel with video conferences where everyone can be seen
and heard, full interaction is possible. If all nine union conferences
install video conferencing equipment, it is estimated that the
division and the unions could reduce travel expenses by $250,000 a
year immediately. Hart Resource Center is working with two conferences
in California to test video conferencing as a way to deliver training
and reduce the costs of lay leaders driving in for weekend events. ACN
now provides an electronic camp meeting each year, and can "patch
in" local segments which makes it possible for local conferences
that wish to do so to save an average of $50,000 a year.
Structure in 2025