Implied within the great commission to take the good news of Jesus’ salvation to everyone, everywhere is the need to organize His church in a way that is strategic in charter and execution to meet the demands of a job that is world-wide in scope.  For this reason, Mid-America Union Conference (MAUC) Ministerial Department has been devoted to providing mission oriented leadership to conference executive committees, institutional boards, and through one-on-one coaching and assessment with individual pastors and churches to help each hone and advance God-sized plans.

Over the past quinquennium this has been accomplished in part, through developing collaborative relationships with our conference level ministerial directors for whom we have sponsored periodic events to team build, share knowledge, and establish goals to meet the needs of our pastors, pastoral families and church leaders both personally and professionally.

To assist the local conference in this grand task, we have provided per request, custom resources specifically attuned to their needs.  A series called Ministry Models for the New Millennium, covering advanced strategic planning, discipleship, coaching, evangelism, and marital enrichment along with other tools such as church assessment, and new cities demographic strategy have been developed and presented to workers and executive committees.

Ministerial Growth Rate

Because helping pastors reach their full potential in Christ is our primary reason for existence, the ministerial department is determined to meet the needs of pastors in ways that are meaningful to them.  This has been accomplished through establishing inter-conference focus groups and virtual-teams comprised of pastors, pastoral wives, and church leaders through which we have heard their dreams, challenges and heartaches too.  Further input from them has been sought during conference training sessions, webinars, meetings and interviews.  Each forum has aided MAUC Ministerial in leading an effort for comprehensive and uniform benchmarks of support and excellence for the entire union territory.*

Helping God’s leaders reach new levels of growth and attainment requires continual training and development, but challenging them to put that training to use is advanced, in part by providing regional goals.  Years of national evangelistic series led to a deficiency in the knowledge and skill-sets necessary to conduct evangelistic meetings.  Random acts of kindness, which are vital as they were very much a part of Jesus’ ministry were used around the Union to reach people for Christ.  However, evangelistic meetings for the purpose of reaping what had been sown were few.  Jesus healed whole cities and fed whole multitudes, but He also spent a judicious amount of time conducting what we could call evangelistic meetings in the open air by the sea, in the temple, and in homes teaching the wonderful truths of scripture and how they revealed Him as the way to eternal life.

The Ministerial department’s first priority for this quinquennium was to foment a culture of intentional evangelism through reaping events.  At that time, then President Dennis Carlson described this as our greatest challenge.  Divine synergy, similar to when many around the world simultaneously discovered something special was about to happen on wholly separate continents around 1844, seemed to be at work as leadership at the division, union, and conference level proclaimed outreach oriented themes.  When combined together, they provided the avenue necessary to pursue this goal as one was devoted to evangelistic thrust in every church possible while the other heralded disinterested benevolence on a grand scale to our neighbors, relatives and friends.  The division theme was “The Year of Evangelism.” The union theme, courtesy President Howard was “Selfless Service for the Savior.”  The latter theme made its maiden voyage at pastors’ convention.  Both combined together as Elder Howard challenged us to acts of disinterested benevolence during his charge to pastors who attended the convention, while at the same time half of the time pastors’ were in Lincoln for training was devoted to teaching intensives on evangelism.  Evangelistic practitioners who were meeting with success were brought in from across the country to enhance pastoral competencies in mission.

After this training event, local conferences answered the call by restructuring budgets to support more evangelistic meetings.  Consequently, pastors conducted in some instances, their first evangelistic endeavors.  Many were traditional meetings, but innovation was encouraged. The results were as follows:  Small to moderate baptisms around the union by many pastors and churches instead of large meetings for few has added up to record growth for 2009 and much of 2010.  With conferences leading the charge, since pastors’ convention, MAUC surpassed 2.3 percent growth, our highest growth rate in the existence of our union, having been at 1% before the convention, which was a half percent above our 30 year average.  We saw a fall-off in the foruth quarter 2010 that is concerning; however, plans for the New Year would indicate that our growth rate will continue to improve.

Possibly of greater consequence is that there has been a restoration of equilibrium between acts of disinterested benevolence and intentional evangelistic endeavor.  For years, many that have served with distinction will freely admit that they have been frustrated by the lack of results from evangelistic meetings, and possibly just as many are frustrated at having given out clothing to those in need or having passed out water at the health fair with no result.  Whether they worked for a short season in an evangelistic meeting or for many years in a food pantry, both have expressed a sense of exasperation for the lack of result in regard to souls entering the kingdom.  Is it possible that both “good works” and “evangelism” work better together than apart? Too often one is done at the exclusion of the other.  Both are vital as involving ourselves in the community is the way we express Christ love, but evangelism is the way we teach His love.  One thing for sure, rejoicing happens when we bring in the sheaves, even if just a few.  When new life enters the church new vitality occurs in both pastors and parishioners.  Keeping a balance between being God’s witness in the market place and in the meeting hall will continue to be called for by the ministerial department.

Looking forward, our first goal is to maintain an emphasis on corporate growth, but this time more so in regard to core beliefs.  In line with Amos 3:3 which asserts, “Can two walk together, except they be agreed?”  Our theme, “Together Today to Transform Tomorrow” given to us by our new President Tom Lemon is also God-sent and will serve MAUC well as we work to establish parity in our understanding of revelation and inspiration in regard to the Bible and Spirit of prophecy.  If we are to continue to move forward we must “press together” not only in regard to our physical bodies, but also in regard to beliefs that are homogenous and broadly adapted.  Our next pastor’s convention is scheduled for May 2-4, 2011 during which pastors will be resourced in Bible hermeneutics (how the Bible interprets itself) and hermeneutical principals to rightly interpret and apply the writings of E.G. White.  At the same time, some intensives will once again be devoted to evangelism to keep the momentum previously established at the last convention from dissipating.

Our next goal is to lead an effort to develop a relational support system for MAUC pastors called coaching.  Coaching is a Biblical concept present in scripture, most notably in the ministry of Moses, the Apostle Paul, and Jesus.  Most field training pastors and church leaders receive is rooted in short-term events lasting several days.  Coaching adds process driven praxis to programs to assist leaders long-term by giving them access to a colleague who walks beside them to aid them in goal setting and implementation.  Conference level ministerial directors of MAUC have consented to receive training in coaching, several having already done so.

Ongoing coaching by ministerial directors and other key leaders will help pastors add coaching to their skill set.  The greatest benefit of a cultural shift toward coaching is that it will eventually reach the level of local church leaders and the members they serve.  As they are coached by their pastors, they in-turn will develop the facility to coach other church leaders, thus helping them lead congregations proactively.  This will be of great benefit to the mission of the church because, by nature, coaching is proactive and should in time lessen the need for counseling and conflict resolution which so often ties up the efforts and energies of church leaders.  Our desire is to see coaching become a new instrument that sits in tool-belts of all church leaders and ministry professionals adjacent to their counseling and conflict management skills.

Another group we wish to provide greater service to is our local elders. They are the glue which holds our church together.  Having resourced them at several events, assessments have made it clear that they desire more opportunities for development.  Surveys show they feel underserved in this regard and would like to be resourced most acutely in the areas of leadership, spiritual growth, discipleship, evangelism and marital enrichment.

Where there is a spouse, spousal support is critical to successful ministry.  Scripture lessons abound in regard to the devastating effects of lack of time spent with spouses and or children by spiritual leaders.  Reinforcing familial values will help assure families are not lost in the battle to win the world.  Realistic expectations on the part of all, especially of the pastor or church leader upon him or herself will be enunciated by ministerial and balance sought through consultation with a coaching colleague.

In regard to pastoral professional maturation and skill-set development, expansion of the Ministry Models series will continue covering, Introduction to Pastoral Ministry, Pastoral Transitions, Mid-Career Ministry and Finishing Ministry Well.

Finally, a new model for growth will be encouraged rooted in discipleship.  Qualitative growth will be measured by assessing how many new members reach the point of sustained growth over a period of one, three, and five years.  Our desire is to see baptisms eclipse 3 percent and new members retained and discipled at a rate of 2.5 percent.

We are grateful for the many cooperative relationships with church leaders, pastors, and church families the ministerial post has afforded us across MAUC.  Working together in Christ, let’s continue to follow Jesus’ vision of delivering the oppressed and setting captives free.  Enhancing healthy leaders and missional churches in their quest to reach a dying world for Jesus Christ is our ultimate goal.  Undoubtedly, the challenges are great.  But our God is greater and by His Spirit, with a missional focus to take this message to everyone, everywhere, we will see more churches secure a renewed vision for mission in anticipation of Jesus’ return!

* To establish comprehensive benchmarks of support and excellence for the benefit of pastors and pastoral families, the Ministerial Roadmap was developed to enhance:

Spiritual Growth – (character)

To develop a vibrant Christian experience that is rooted in a deep and abiding relationship with Jesus that expresses itself through:

  • selfless service
  • a deeper personal devotional life
  • balance to meet the needs of the families and the churches through refocus on the spirit
  • equipping and enabling them to address personal discouragement and unity in the churches

Ministry Development – (discipleship)

Providing MAUC pastors a ministry experience with a coaching colleague that builds authenticity, accountability and periodic assessment that empowers them to grow in their relational journey with Jesus and releases them to benefit their families, churches and society.  Areas to be addressed may include:

  • Servant Leadership
  • Mutual Respect
  • Succession Planning
  • Motivating Leaders
  • Strength Focused Leadership

Skill-Set Enhancement –(maximizing ministries)

Pastors in the MAUC Conference must be supported, encouraged, and empowered to take advantage of the many skill-set tools that are available to help churches become healthy, discipling communities. Areas to be addressed may include:

  • Conflict Management
  • Building Church Unity
  • Consensus Building
  • Time Management
  • Cultural Awareness and Competency
  • Managing Volunteers
  • Delegation of Duties
  • Gift Based Leadership

*The Ministerial Roadmap was developed by the Ministerial Directors of Mid-America Union for Comprehensive Support of Pastors and Pastoral Families.