I am in Northern Virginia, at the Dulles Airport Hyatt, today through Thursday, attending an historic, perhaps 'first ever' meeting of local conference officers, union officers, NAD leadership, and even the presence of AHS vice-presidents. The agenda, as I've reflected previously in my Comments newsletter, is very significant in addressing major issues of concern across the Division, including organizational structure, evangelism methods, media ministry challenges, and even whether the time has arrived to identify a method by which students are admitted to the Seminary in relationship to the employment needs across North America.
The session has opened with a review of the on-line survey that was sent to the attendees. We were told that the participation/returns on the survey were extremely high: over 70% responded to the survey, which was comprised of 11 different sections, exploring opinions and sentiment in many areas that are tied to the agenda. Most of the survey was structured on a "strongly agree to a strongly disagree" scale.
Here are a few results from the survey and these are simply brief 'snapshot' comments:
1. The areas of highest concern "externally" - on the macro-level - include challenges to the traditional family, the impact of the media and culture, and addictions were identified as the three most significant influences.
2. Of the "internal issues"-those specific to the church - the "loss of youth and young adults to the church" was the highest overwhelming concern to leadership. Other areas included, and listed from "highest concern" to "less."
Declining SDA school enrollments and financial challenges. While recognizing the issues, the value of the SDA education system is important, and strongly affirmed.
Belief systems; including people and relationships and the increasing impact of homosexuality on the church of and issues related to it. Issues that affect/threaten the family.
There was "good agreement' that SDA colleges help with the mission, but individual comments suggest that there is some "Missional drift" at the colleges as well.
The opinion on 'consolidation' was mixed. "Maybe" there should be some organizational consolidation, but the "maybe" is couched with "what would it look like?"
In terms of SDA education, there is a desire to change, but 'how' and 'what' is not clear.
3. A REALLY highly stated opinion for change was the "GC policy on ordination of women." A small group is highly opposed, but a strong majority favor. Ordination of women is very supported, however, around 30 individuals of the 145 or so respondents disagree, some strongly
A change over the years is that unlike a few decades ago, there is a strong belief in LEADERSHIP development. IN years past it was felt that "God equips who he chooses." The belief is that both pastors and administrators should be professionally developed.
Another "strongly favor" area was for collaboration between all levels of organization.
"Term Limits" for conference presidents was 'mixed' with some believing it was important and some believing it is not.
4. An important finding is that structures should not change - for the sake of change - without developing individuals in skill and leadership and that it is believed that there is presently very little provided to train and improve leaders.
It is believed that church 'structure' is beneficial, BUT, it is a church that might be 'over structured' and needs revision and review in how it does business.
When asked "what parts" of organization need re-structuring, the results are quite interesting:
There seems to be no difference in local or union respondents in terms of where to focus re-structuring; there was a 'mixed' opinion across the survey in "what and where" restructuring is needed.
- Opinions favor more streamlined church structure; mixed results on whether the Union or local conferences should be the focus of re-organization.
The survey resulted in the absence of a strong consensus on re-structuring 'vertically,' but more so in how organizations work together in collaboration.
My friend Paul Hoover, President in Upper Columbia, just mentioned to me how the results of the survey might change if pastors were given the same set of questions, particularly in the area of "need for oganizational change." My thought is that pastors might agree more strongly for that need for two reasons, they may not see all of the 'value' that organizations above the local conference provide, and, may feel that much more resources need to be delivered locally rather than dispersed more broadly among 'higher organizations.'
Tomorrow we will look at more data on how the church is growing (or not growing) the indigenous population of North America (caucasions, african-americans, multi-generational Americans of all races - those who've been citizens for multi-generations and are not more recent immigrants -
Finally, for this mornings post, while it is believed that North America is doing much good in evangelism, there is a desire to have less focus on "big once-a-year events" (less spectacular evangelism) and more attention to the local church. Additionally, the mission to 'reach the lost' should guide ALL other priorities. I heartily agree!