10 March 2023 | Becici, Montenegro [David Neal and Vanesa Pizzuto, with tedNEWS correspondents]
The little known tourist resort of Becici, Montengro, located on the western edge of the Adriatic sea, has been a meeting place for Trans-European Division (TED) church leaders for well over 15 years, most notably for the annual November Year-End Meetings. Using the widely acclaimed Hotel Splendid as the meeting place, rarely have any taken place during March.
The inspiration for a combined advisory was due to the vision the TED administrators and directors. “With up to a potential of 10 to 15 departmental advisories each quinquennium,” explained Nenad Jepuranovic “it was becoming increasingly expensive to host multiple venues across the Division. In addition, while each department advisory had value, it contributed in part to a ‘silo’ culture which is not healthy for the way the church departments operate.”
Taking place over the days of 7 – 10 March, a mix of 2o0 department leaders and administrators met together to connect with the TED team to dialogue, exchange ideas, pray and plan together for the future. Of the nine streams available, more people turned up to each advisory group than had subscribed.
Here’s just a glimpse of the conversation from each department stream:
Headed by Anthony WagenerSmith, presidents, church growth directors, and ministerial secretaries huddled together to consider mission matters. They concluded:
- The work across the TED is widely diverse, and in places, the context is very specific.
- A “one size fits all” approach is problematic for a number of regions. Dialogue helps all to become aware of collective challenges, which provides a growing compassion, and understanding, for the various contexts in which we live and work.
- Broadening worker types (employed/volunteer/bi-vocational) will benefit mission reach across the TED territory because it would first of all reduce the demand for salaried workers. Second, it would broaden ministry and pastoral functions to all members. And third, it would amplify the need and roles of spiritual gifts to build up the church.
- There were some really great comments on the need for national and TED church planter “Hubs” for innovation, pastoral support, teaching and “best practice” insights.
- A strong emphasis was placed on mission as a wholistic church and ministry concept, in contrast to “evangelism” as an activity or presentation of dogma. At the same time there is a clear expectation that decisions for Christ will be made.
- Concern was expressed for a greater presence of women and youth to be involved in missionary leadership across the Division.
“Collaboration” is the one word to summarize the spirit and content of the Communication Advisory. Even the selection of guest speakers, Williams Costa Jr, GC Communication Director, and Paulo Macedo, EUD Communication Director, pointed to the visible effort to “end the silo mentality and work together,” as David Neal, TED Communication Director clearly pointed out during the meetings.
Neal and Vanesa Pizzuto, TED Communication Associate Director, further modeled this principle by launching at this advisory the new TED Communication and Media Guide (which covers a wide variety of topics from content creation to cybersecurity, and from crisis communication to communication audits) and is the result of cooperation between, and drawing on the resources of Adventist communicators across three divisions: North American (NAD), Inter-European (EUD) and Trans-European (TED) divisions.
The advisory also provided the opportunity for communication leaders from across the Division to share their joys and challenges, and inspire colleagues with favourite projects and initiatives from their territories. “Thank you for two meaningful days, and also for the opportunity to network and rub shoulders with others,” one participant commented. “Overall, I feel very blessed for the opportunity to associate with my colleagues and friends from around Europe,” said another.
As many Family Ministry leaders are also Children’s Ministry leaders, and because both ministry departments are directed by Karen Holford, it made sense for both to join together for the advisory, each to enrich the other. Group activity began by experiencing God’s love together, and using creative sticky-note shapes participants gave feed-back on their joys, challenges, and hopes, but also with an opportunity to share creative ideas.
“Jesus said: “Let the little children come to me”” (Matthew 91:14) explained Holford. “This is why Family and Children’s Ministries are so important in our Unions, Conferences, Missions and churches. Continuing, Holford explained, “Jesus wants children to get to know him, and they mostly do this in their families.” With her recognised expertise of children and their families, Holford shared practical ways to nourish children’s emotional health, and help them to flourish in today’s society. Sharing the many resources which are being used around the world, it was ‘exchange time’ as the different union and conference leaders also shared the creative and wonderful resources that they have developed – a moment which inpsired all.
The General Conference’s new Children’s Sabbath School program, called “Alive in Jesus”, is currently being piloted in TED. As leaders from different countries shared their responses to the new curriculum, all responded that local leaders, parents and children are very positive about the new lessons. It was exciting to hear that some children are eager to read their lesson books because they love the way the stories are being told.
On Wednesday Dr Willie and Elaine Oliver, GC Family Ministries leaders connected with the group online, focussing their presentations on rebuilding the family altar, and its connection to the Elijah message, and the Three Angels’ Messages. Because families are the heart of the church, family worship is at the heart of family spirituality. New ideas were shared for inspiring family worships, led without guilt and shame, but which are interesting and meaningful for all generations.
For a church to flourish it is very important that all ages are involved and valued. Therefore, it is important to learn how to create all-age services and in this respect, training was given, with Children and Family Ministry leaders working together in groups to plan creative all-age services based on the parables of Jesus. Each person was provided with intergenerational worship plans to use in their local churches.
The greatest blessing was the power of bringing leaders together, and to share the important work of supporting families, and reaching the unreached people in every church: children!
The purpose of the Ministerial Department is to co-ordinate and support the Unions and fields in operating union ministerial associations that provide personal support, adequate resources, training and continuing education for the pastors for their spiritual and professional development; and helping unions and fields with training and motivation of local church elders.
“The conversation in the room was wide-raging”, reports Patrick Johnson, TED Ministerial Association Secretary, “connecting with the TED strategic aims, we discussed how evangelism and discipleship are interconnected. This theme was continued with Ministry Magazine editor, Pavel Goia, considering how church growth is closely connected with spiritual growth.
Turning to the practical matters of internship, recruitment, and professional development, Johnson and Steve Currow (Principal Newbold College of Higher Education, hosted discussion in these areas.
“I would like to express my gratefulness for very well organised Ministerial advisory. I like the format, the speakers, and the discussion during the advisory. The presentations touched on important and actual, concrete issues. I would like to express a desire to have such advisories more often,” said Bertold Hibner (Ministerial Secretary, Lithuanian Conference, Baltic Union). Sam Ouadjo, Ministerial Secretary for the British Union Conference also appreciated the time Ministerial Secretaries spent together. “It was a very good meeting. Thank you for the invitation.”
Dejan Stojkovic shares the experience of the Pathfinder and Youth advisory stream in video format. Enjoy watching his perspective:
Public Affairs & Religious Liberty
While Seventh-day Adventists are known for their Sabbatarian beliefs, maybe we should also be known for our love of acronyms! Public Affairs and Religious Liberty – otherwise known as PARL – is one of many!
However, the PARL advisory served as an introduction to additional acronyms which are partner ministries or services – IRLA (International Religious Liberty Association) and AIDLR (Association Internationale pour la Defense de la Liberté Religieuse/ International Association for the Defense of Religious Liberty).
Following presentations by Dr Ganoune Diop (GC PARL Director), Paulo Macedo (EUD PARL Director), Dr Daniel Duda (TED President & Associate PARL Director) and Ian Sweeney (TED PARL Director) the attendees left with the following messages serving as their focus, of PARL ministry:
- The love of God
- Freedom of conscience is a sign of God’s love
- Representing Christ and the Seventh-day Adventist Church positively is a total member involvement ministry
“One of the strategic focus areas that emerged from the advisory, was the intention to have a closer working relationship with our sister Inter-European Division (EUD). To this we are indebted and excited by the contribution of Paulo Macedo, who has 17 years experience of working in PARL in a European context,” commented Ian Sweeney. “Macedo’s current roles, which have him liaising with both the United Nations and the European Union, provide invaluable experience, and TED directors were energised by the future of collaborative opportunities to support our members and communities, and to share our distinctive message,” Sweeney concluded.
Sabbath School & Personal Ministries
Two departments, Sabbath School (SS) and Personal Ministries (PM) met together in one advisory stream. Pastor Kirk Thomas, British Union Conference SS & PM director, commented that the “Sabbath School advisory was inspiring, motivational and was excellently led by the director Patrick Johnson. The ideas shared by the various Conferences and Missions will help the BUC in its strategic plan to make Sabbath school a dynamic place of learning, discipleship and fellowship.”
Michael Mbui, PM & Discipleship director for the South England Conference, noted that “the sessions confirmed and clarified the discipleship practices and processes we are encouraging ministers and members to create, to better grow and realise the mission of the church.
From Hungary Krista Zarka (SS director for the Hungarian Union) saw the “Reviewing the stages of faith” presentation as a particularly useful teaching, in addition to it being helpful to hear the perspectives of fellow directors from across TED in a common ministry.
“While at the SS/PM advisory, I realized the importance of Sabbath School teacher training”, said Irish Mission participant, Sharon Rose Murphy. “Since returning home, I have emailed all Irish Mission pastors, and reminded them of the importance of teacher training, requesting them to encourage their Sabbath School leaders to train. I am particularly hopeful that as as result of this advisory, we will get training going across Ireland.”
Stewardship Directors across the TED engaged in an informative meeting of planning, sharing, and ideas to move the ministry forward, in addition to considering ways of collaborating with EUD colleagues. The advisory provided an excellent opportunity to hear of the stewardship training approaches taken by colleagues, success stories relating to building trust, promote transparency, learn from each other, and most of all prioritise growing a ‘God First’ value among members.
The dialogue helped to identify the need to work closer with each other, exchange resources, and develop culturally focused materials. Additionally, the various national civil restrictions and policies in relation to tithing, and use of the tithe, was eye opening and informative helping the team understand the needs and circumstances in other fields.
Under the motto ‘Leading with Love’, Women’s Ministries directors were trained and empowered. Encouraged to be more effective ‘influencers’ as they nurture, facilitate and support women as fellow disciples of Christ in their fields, Daniel Duda set the tone for this advisory stream, with an inpiring presentation on how Jesus treated women.
TED Women’s Ministries director Karen Holford facilitated the meetings and shared useful and fresh findings in counselling. The key dynamic of the Advisory was the creation of an interactive space with a flip chart and sticky notes, for the exchange of joys, challenges, and ideas. Seventeen participants presented regional reports of the impact of Women’s Ministries on their local communities. They also expressed their joy and happiness in serving as leaders.
Additionally, Holford laid out a display of beautiful craft materials, and invited the women to make something to remind them of God’s love. This helped to demonstrate the engaging and liberating effects of creativity in our lives and spirituality.
Elaine Oliver, GC Family Ministries Associate Director, further enriched the team. She encouraged the group to take care of themselves as women leaders, by breathing, relaxing, being inspired by the Holy Spirit, and growing healthy relationships. Nilde Itin, GC Women’s Ministries Associate Director was also welcomed to the team, and gave a presentation on what it means to lead with love.
Reflecting on Itin’s presentation Marija Trajkovska, South-East European Union Women’s Ministries leader of more than twenty-five years noted, “leading with love is the essence of what we do and who we are.”
Inspired and Empowered
“I was inspired to see the enthusiasm of people from different departments, eager to discuss how we can move forward as a church, share their experiences, lessons learnt and also to learn new things,” said Daniel Duda, TED President. “It was also good to work as a Division team together. People are returning back to their fields inspired and empowered. To God be glory!”, Duda concluded.
A number of contributors made this article possible, including (in addition to TED directors), Marica Mirilov, Gábor Mihalec, and Karolina Poland. [Photos: David Neal, Tor Tjeransen, Dejan Stojkovic, and others]