Discipleship Convention Promotes Member Retention
The Adventist church body recently (April 8) met for an internal review of best practices at Kings Church as a way to strengthen retention of members at the conclusion of evangelistic campaigns. The meeting sought to pre-empt attrition rates that are being experienced by churches worldwide.
As a key strategy to strengthen retention, the Cayman Islands Conference announced at this meeting that it had appointed Elder Joshua Lawrence, who is also the Assistant Personal Ministries Director, as its first Retention Director.
While appointing Elder Lawrence to this new leadership role, however, President Shion O’Connor hastened to drive home the message that it was the responsibility of all members to ensure that they create and sustain an environment that is conducive to retention. Pastor O’Connor drew on the parable of the ninety-and-nine sheep which the shepherd left behind in the fold to pursue the one lost sheep.
“The Conference continues to be troubled by the number of persons walking the streets” who are not being reached by focused discipleship strategies, Pastor O’Connor said.
In his introductory remarks, Pastor Jeff Jefferson reminded members that retention or discipleship was complementary to evangelism, and that in the same way that evangelism was everyone’s business, so was retention.
Pastor Jefferson urged continuing emphasis on involving new members in the work of the church: “God has gifted new members with spiritual gifts and these should be brought to bear on the work of the church” as a matter of urgency, the Personal Ministries Director for the Conference said. “We need to step back and allow the new members to show their talents.”
In reviewing statistics gathered by the Adventist church’s headquarters in the US, it was particularly troubling, Pastor Jefferson said, that two-thirds of those who gave up the church were in the category of young adults. When you add to this group those who leave in middle age, then you get a concerning picture of declining interest among younger age groups.
In analysing the reasons that people leave, Pastor Jefferson said that the key issue for many was that they did not find church to be “a kind and loving place;” instead, many reported they often experienced breakdown in relationships in the church or failure in forming meaningful relationships.
Offering hope, however, was the fact that the majority of persons who had lost inspiration reported a willingness to return to church if they were approached properly. And that approach was grounded, he said, in members’ ability to communicate “that we care about them,” adding, “It is not programmes that keep people; it is people who keep people.”
Pastor Jefferson identified factors conducive to sustained membership such as strong relationship capacities among members, conflict management skills, visitation and support programmes, new member involvement, and an emphasis on Adventist education.
“The foundation years, rooted in Adventism,” were among some of the most influential in determining whether members are retained or not, Pastor Jefferson said. Another key factor was the building of strong relationships, especially with persons who appear to be avoiding relationships.
Part of the the Sabbath afternoon’s programme was a panel discussion among two separate groups – Personnel Ministries and Retention leaders on the one hand and new members on the other.
Among highlights of strategies now being practised, the Personnel Ministries leader at the Maranatha Church reported that all church members were divided into teams and that the teams operated on the basis that “Jesus brought me in, but love keeps me here.” The Bodden Town church has regular fellowship lunches, prayer groups and visitation teams who frequently check up on new members.
The West Bay church reported that they have an active singles’ ministry and that they had adopted the philosophy that it was their duty to love members “twice as much” as anyone might have expected. They also emphasised that “Christ-like” behaviour of members was critical. Once a month, the Filadelfia Church does a 5K walk that reaches out to the community to join them. The Creek Church’s Personal Ministries leader said that that church was working towards a cohesive atmosphere, adding that communicating a sense of “protection” was a strong connective force, and that he was “willing to be the hedge of protection” for other members.
Meanwhile, the new members, some of whom demonstrated their musical and other talents earlier in the programme, described a family atmosphere at one church, where hugs are regularly dispensed. Another reported generous dollops of fellowship, including opportunities to share problems and challenges in a quiet room where members sometimes cry together.
A selection of new members offered their perspective on qualities and actions that make church environments welcoming.
Elder Joshua Lawrence appealed for support of church members following the announcement of his appointment as the Conference's first Retention Director. Conference President Shion O’Connor is at left.
Pastor Jeff Jefferson encouraged the congregation to take the view that member retention is everyone’s business.
Born on the island of New Providence, Bahamas, Dawn Smith received her early education at Bahamas Academy of Seventh-day Adventists as well as Grand Bahama Academy. She pursued higher education at the College of the Bahamas (now University of the Bahamas), graduating with a Bachelor of Business Administration degree in Banking and Finance. Along with her love for business, Ms. Smith enjoys traveling, culinary experiences, spending time with her family and she loves music. She will be serving in the treasury department as an accountant.
By ATCU Communication Department
As a part of celebrating the Inter-American Division of Seventh-day Adventists’ (IAD) Week of Prayer for Pastoral Families under the theme “In His Hand,” the Atlantic Caribbean Union of Seventh-day Adventists (ATCU) organized a special program on Tuesday, January 24, 2017 to bring together Seventh-day Adventist pastoral families on the island of New Providence for an evening of fellowship and prayer. The event was organized by the ministerial and family ministries departments of ATCU headed by Pastor Leonard Johnson and Pastor Peter Kerr respectively.
“We go through difficult times as pastoral families. We work hard, and many times people talk about us, and sometimes we may even talk about each other. But, we have come here to talk to each other,” said Johnson as he welcomed the pastoral families to the event.
The group participated in icebreakers where they shared anniversary dates, introduced their spouses and children, and viewed one of the special programs produced by the IAD which included special music, prayer for unions within IAD, and a charge. The charge was presented by Pastor Claudio and Dr. Pamela Consuegra, family ministries directors of the North American Division of Seventh-day Adventists. They encouraged pastoral families to be intentional in caring for their marriage and their children as the hectic schedule of a pastor may cause him to neglect his wife and children.
“Your home itself provides an evangelistic opportunity more powerful than that sermon you may be working on,” admonished Dr. Consuegra as she explained that pastors must care for their spouses and children. She explained that after God, family should come next in their pyramid of priorities. Claudio and Pamela also encouraged pastoral families not to underestimate the power of family worship and prayer. She encouraged spouses to pray for each other out loud as this reaffirms to the spouse that he or she is loved and appreciated.
The evening concluded with testimonies from pastors’ children, spouses, and pastors themselves, talking about the joys and challenges of being a part of a pastoral family.
“As a pastor, I need a praying wife, and I have a praying wife who fears God. I thank God for the wisdom that she brings to our home,” said Pastor Terry Tanis as he testified about his wife, Samantha.
Pastor Peter Kerr thanked the families for coming. “Events like this need to happen more often,” said Kerr. “We need to keep in contact and call each other and pray for each other.”
The families exchanged contact information so that they could pray with each other or just call to converse.
The official Week of Prayer for Pastoral Families was celebrated from January 21 to 28, 2017, and the devotional videos for the week of prayer can be accessed from the IAD’s website banner at www.interamerica.org.
“I now realize how much I have been underestimating the mighty power of prayer”, remarked a member of the South Bahamas Conference of Seventh-day Adventists (SBC) after attending a seminar presented by Jerry and Janet Page, Ministerial Directors of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists. The seminars were conducted at the Centreville Church in Nassau, The Bahamas on evenings of February 1 and 2 where Jerry and Janet shared how prayer has impacted their lives and ministries.
Jerry lamented on the fact that many within the church have been depending on their own power and abilities for so long when God is only waiting for us to ask Him for His power. “There are so many things that God wants to do through us but we need to as in faith”, said Jerry.
Janet shared several testimonies on what God has done in her personal and professional life as a result of prayer. “My children have found a love for serving the Lord because their mother found Jesus”, said Janet.
Jerry encouraged parents to never get tired of praying for their children as he testified about getting kicked out of school and ending up selling cocaine but the prayers of his parents made him miserable living that life. “Eventually I found Jesus,” said Jerry; “and it was because of the consistent prayers of my parents”.
Every session Jerry and Janet conducted ended with thirty minutes of prayer and praise. Members of the congregation freely participated in prayer sessions where anyone just shouted out praises, petitions, confessions, songs and scripture.
“I feel refreshed after these two evenings of prayer”, said one participant and in a shout of praise another said “I will never be the same after these sessions!”
Jerry and Janet also conducted a special seminar and prayer session for pastors, elders and Bible workers at the Atlantic Caribbean Union (ATCU) headquarters and will conduct similar sessions in all the fields within the ATCU.