After three years apart, ministry leaders from across the North American Division (NAD) reunited at the 2023 “Replenish” NAD Adventist Ministries Convention in Greensboro, North Carolina. From January 8-11, 2023, they worshiped, laughed, and learned together.
“Replenish” offered spiritual and professional development, with nearly 70 educational seminars spread out over two days. Presenters included NAD officers and departmental directors, union- and conference-level leaders, pastors, and experts in different fields. Topics included children’s ministry, cultural intelligence, disabilities, family, men’s and women’s ministry, health, IT, leadership, philanthropy, social media, stewardship, youth and young adult ministry, and more.
Attendees such as Bisengi Gatare, Maritime Conference treasurer, who attended seminars to assist his conference and churches with developing their stewardship departments, came away with more than anticipated. He said, “Not only have I gotten helpful information, but I also networked with several people. I invited the NAD’s head of stewardship to our camp meeting this summer, and he accepted.”
“All the topics chosen were helpful and timely. It was good to reflect on everything shared, which was beneficial to our growth as ministry leaders,” added Edwin Martin, Ontario Conference Adventurer, Master Guide, and Pathfinder director.
Among the many hot topics were seminars covering mental health, including “Understanding Trauma and How it Impacts Us,” by Evelyn Sullivan, NAD Early Childhood Education director. Sullivan noted that over the past three years, mental health challenges have increased for all age groups. Moreover, most people have experienced trauma, i.e., “a response to highly stressful experiences and the long-term harmful and overwhelming effects of those experiences, in their lifetime.”
However, she offered hope for overcoming trauma via tools like prayer and Bible study, church attendance, exercise, journaling, deep breathing, and family time; and for those assisting trauma sufferers, a listening ear goes far.
Sullivan concluded, “We all have burdens. We all know people who are suffering. But trauma doesn’t have to define us. And we don’t have to stay there. With the help of God, we can move forward.”
In a presentation titled, “Leveraging the 12 Steps to Build Resilience,” Dr. Ricardo Whyte and his colleague, Suranee Waleszonia, Ph.D., highlighted steps covered in their book, Killing Burnout: The Introductory Guide, which participants received.
In the book’s introduction, Whyte cited such common stressors as life’s demands, challenging careers, family needs, and complicated social situations, exacerbated by the ongoing pandemic. He asked, “So what can we do to make ourselves stronger, vital, and more resilient?”
The presenters encouraged attendees to evaluate themselves in seven areas impacting resilience: time, resources, purpose, relationships, spirituality, health, rest, and recreation, and complete related exercises at their convenience. Purpose in all areas was an underlying theme. As stated in Killing Burnout, “A common symptom of burnout is feeling disconnected from purpose. Imagine climbing up a long and very dangerous ladder, only to get to the top and realize the ladder is against the wrong building.”
Other seminars covered the need for inclusion in building God’s kingdom. In the two-session “Connecting, Supporting, and Serving Together Across Generations,” speaker/trainer Shawn Johnson promoted “bringing generations together, valuing and respecting everyone regardless of age” as critical for everyone’s growth.
A key strategy for generational inclusion is increasing your generational quotient, understanding each generation, their preferences, expectations, and worldview. Johnson offered characteristics of the five different generations, from traditionalists, born before 1945 (77+) to Generation Z, born 1997-2015 (7-25). She also noted generational trends, including that “after three decades of consistent decline, each generation is less religious than the one before it.”
When Johnson opened the floor to attendees, Tamyra Horst, Pennsylvania Conference’s Communication, Women’s Ministries and Family Ministries director, shared that at her church, young people have input into music and other program elements and participate up front, with guidance. Johnson affirmed this approach with a quote from Darrell E. Hall, author, Speaking Across Generations. “Intergenerational fellowship looks like people of all ages [being empowered to] contribute their gifts and presence to key facets of the gathering.” Johnson concluded with a thought based on 1 Corinthians 9:19-20, “Generations change, but the gospel never changes.”
The seminar, “Why Men’s Ministry is Essential to the Health of the Church, Our Families, and Our Communities,” by Marty Miller, president of Blueprint for Men, was also a call for inclusion. Men are increasingly disconnected in marriage, disconnected from their children, lacking direction and purpose, and isolated, making men’s ministry critical.
“If we build strong men, we’ll help build stronger families and strong churches. But if we don’t address men, we’re going to see more of the same [challenges] and worse,” he warned.
He continued, “Most guys won’t come to a men’s retreat. And that’s OK. Don’t think that that’s a failure. We’re living in an age of Amazon. I go on the Internet, order something, and it comes to me. The church has to be like Amazon and go, or we’ll have a lost cause.”
“Men need other men to guide them,” so going could be simply praying for God to show them one man to take out to lunch. Moreover, “the foundation [of being a mentor] is getting up daily, studying [not just reading] the Bible, and walking with God intimately.”
“Replenish” also offered a leadership track. In “Taking Your Leadership to the Next Level,” Rick Remmers, NAD assistant to the president, offered time-tested leadership tips. He shared the value of acquiring and applying knowledge, self-evaluating, and seeking formal and informal evaluations from others “to more accurately understand [your] strengths, weaknesses, and growth areas.”
He noted leadership pitfalls, such as distraction, stagnation, fear, and being overextended. Among his tips for combatting these challenges were blocking time for work and play, looking to intentionally add value to others, finding inspiring models, being willing to take risks, and delegating tasks.
Remmers advised, “Look for people who are doing what you believe God has called you to do [with excellence], learn and grow from them.” More importantly, “Pray for the Lord’s guidance and wisdom.”
He also touched on leveraging technology as a ministry tool, as covered in other seminars. In the seminar titled “Empowering Ministries with NADcloud Services,” participants learned about an NAD platform that lets churches secure their data in a centralized infrastructure. It also provides user-friendly web hosting. Attendee Martin said, “It’s good to know [all it offers], and that it’s not just for backup of data but also for ministry innovation.”
Remmers concluded, “We’re not called to be successful. We’re called to be effective for the glory of God and build His kingdom.”
He prayed, “May [these ministry leaders] have a greater clarity of what You have called them to do. And may they have a greater effectiveness in reaching out and touching the lives of others.”