by Loren Seibold, October 31, 2017

Because our website was down yesterday, this final day’s report wasn’t put up until now. I apologize for its being so late!

On the last day of NADYEM17, the room rather emptied out. I confess, I too left early—only a half hour—to head for home, so I could be with my church school for worship on Wednesday.

A few items of note on Tuesday:


Dan Jackson, along with Dale Galusha of Pacific Press, introduced a Steps to Christ distribution plan. Steps to Christ is my favorite EGW book, and many of yours, I’m sure. (Though let’s hope this plan is better conceived and organized than the embarrassing Great Controversy distributions in major cities, that leave tons of cheap pulp books in people’s mailboxes to be carted away in the garbage.)


One of the most enthusiastically-responded-to items of the day was when Ken Wetmore (pastor of the Madison Campus church in Nashville) teamed up with Furman F. Fordham II (pastor of the Riverside African-American church in Nashville) to talk about how they’d become friends. They are now organizing events to get black and white congregations acquainted, including joint evangelistic events.

Apparently this simple relationship is more remarkable than I supposed it would be. Both young and old, of all represented groups, responded with much enthusiasm, and there were strong amens and applause.

(Which response struck me as, ironically, evidence that black-white issues are probably more explosive than ever.)

Of course, right away the question comes up about why we have black conferences and other conferences. Short response: don’t even go there. We can amen when a black man and a white man become friends. (Apparently still a radical concept among Christians.) But talking about conferences gets into money and position and power. Leave it alone.

One young black man spoke about going to Southern Adventist University which, he says, many of his friends wonder about because Southern is “historically racist.” That’s new to me, and I’d like to hear the rest of the story.

(Here’s a question I don’t know the answer to. I know that black pastors are hired by white conferences. Has the opposite ever happened?)


I’ve written here before about the Adventist Learning Community. It has courses for pastors, teachers, lay people, church officers, skills (like preaching), and others. Check out “Next Steps,” a course that follows George Barna’s research on young adult friendly congregations.

This is said to be not just a new learning model, but something more. Now people can be taught without ever having to travel to events and meet one another. There’s way too much travel among church leaders; so what are the chances, do you think, that travel budgets will suddenly drop?

One young presenter put up a slide comparing the reach of a full-time, full-salary pastor he met who had four little churches that served 65 people, to the 60,000 people he says can be reached through the internet, employing only a worker who gets $12 an hour.

These presenters don’t know the difference between a congregational community with a pastor, and an Adventist version of YouTube? I’m sure we’re all looking forward to the day when grandpa is dying in the hospital and you can play him a short video from the website to comfort him as he’s sent off into eternity.

Do I need to tell you all that is wrong with this comparison? Let’s start with the cheapness of paying someone $12 an hour and bragging about it. And not mentioning the hundreds of thousands of dollars needed to create the content. And then the difference between a congregational community with a pastor, and an Adventist version of YouTube? I’m sure we’re all looking forward to the day when grandpa is dying in the hospital and you can play him a short video from the website to comfort him as he’s sent off into eternity. Perhaps we can invent an accessory to anoint the sick through the internet, and pastors won’t be needed at all.

Remember the old saw that if all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail?


Dan Linrud, president of the Oregon Conference, made a motion to develop a leadership training institute. Several spoke in favor or it. Apparently this had been talked about in the past, but hadn’t been acted upon.

NAD VP Alvin Kibble asked, “Do we need another institute?” After all, we’d just heard about the Adventist Learning Community, where apparently all the laypeople and pastors can get their education.

Voted: To establish a task force to come up with an idea for a NAD LEAD institute by 2019.


The Adventist Child Protection unit has a new vendor for their screening of volunteers and workers, called . Apparently some problems with the previous organization.


Deborah Brill recommend that the NAD youth and children’s ministries develop resources for Sabbath School to provide options for the diverse needs of churches in the NAD.

I thought we already had resources. Apparently everyone but me knew why new ones were needed, because it was voted handily. Though I didn’t hear anyone say what needed to be replaced, and why.

What do you think, children’s Sabbath School teachers? Are the press-published tools like The Primary Treasure and quarterly study guides, obsolete?


Erica Jones, Assistant Director of Women’s Ministries for the North American Division, introduced a website called gorgeous2god: relevant messages for young women. Looks nice. And Erica is someone with presence and confidence: I think she’ll be an appealing spokesperson.

I’d like to see a review of gorgeous2god by someone from its target audience: teen girls.


Gordon Pifher gave a report on Adventist Media Ministries. Right now that includes Breath of Life, Jesus 101, Faith for Today, LifeTalk Radio, It Is Written, La Voz de Esperanza, and Voice of Prophecy. I would still like to see an audit of how effective these media ministries are in actually filling congregations.


Report from ASI. I’ve already discussed their report at the GCAC17. They announced the 2018 ASI Convention for Orlando, August 1-4.


The finance agenda can be pretty boring, but with important tidbits of information.

Remuneration factor—that is, how much cost of living increase do workers get next year? It follows the CPI (consumer price index), which was up 1.6% this year in the US, 1% in Canada. Mileage is 42¢/mile, and per diem for allowed travel is $50/day.

Here’s something that most people don’t know: the NAD can recommend whatever cost of living increase it wants to. The conferences will only give their workers what they can afford, and sometimes they can’t afford any of it!

Of course, the union offices and the division offices have a guaranteed income stream, so their pay is always are up to date. Someone asked treasurer Tom Evans how many conferences have kept up with NAD cost of living raises? He didn’t know. It seems to me that would be a good thing to know, and I hope Tom looks into it.

(What would you think of a policy that the workers in the NAD office get the cost of living increase of the average that all the conferences are able to afford?)

Retirement increase: This often tracks Social Security increases. Retirement (for those on the now-defunct defined benefit plan—fewer and fewer each year—increases 2% on January 1. The outlay from the defined benefit plan gradually increases and is expected to peak by 2025. The trick is having enough money until then.


This next part I had a hard time following—so I’ll be happy to be instructed or corrected. This has to do with the parts of the NAD budget that are designated for special groups.

For example, there’s a thing called the Special Assistance Fund, which goes to certain conferences. This fund has a whopping $10,000,000 in it. (It comes from a 1% surcharge on conferences with over $4,032,000 in tithe.) It isn’t clear to me how you qualify for this.

There is also a Hispanic building fund of around $409,000, and another one (no one wanted to talk about the amount, because it seemed the subcommittee couldn’t agree on it) that involves regional conferences only. Some of these funds are defined not by need but by who you are—your language or skin color. If your church is as rich as the Vatican, but your congregation is of the specified ethnic group, you get extra money. If you’re poor, but you don’t come under the heading of one of these groups, you’re out of luck.

But the discussion that followed made me think that these targeted giveaways are a source of tension. One conference president pointed out (as tactfully as possible) that we now have many other ethnic groups (such as Hmong and Karen people from Vietnam) who are growing fast—and are even poorer than the Hispanics and African-Americans.

Another leader said that there are massive numbers of Congolese in refugee camps waiting to enter the US, and in some of the camps as many as 50-75% of the people are Seventh-day Adventists! Will we be ready for them?


Last year there was an action to change the offering calendar. As you know, where your offering goes—that is, offerings that aren’t placed in an envelope and marked for a specific purpose—is specified in an agreement between the NAD and the GC; congregation leaders receive a calendar of them. Last year they said they’d be adding two more local offerings to this calendar—presumably meaning more money for local church budgets. It didn’t happen, and almost seemed to have been forgotten. Elder Jackson apologized: it should have been followed through, he said, and it wasn’t. But it will be soon.


This was the first NADYEM held in the new building at 9705 Patuxent Woods Drive. The meeting room is very wide, with the podium on the long side, as is often done nowadays. A nice space, though crowded when full, and big posts block the view.

The space has changed, but two things haven’t:

First, the serious, sensitive, yet happy and constructive way that Dan Jackson conducts meetings—even when discussing matters that could be controversial. It’s a pleasure to be there and to see him at work. It’s amazing how one person can bring a sweet spirit to a room, and he’s accompanied by an administrative team where all seem to want to keep things copacetic.

And the other? As with all of these meetings I’ve ever been to, it’s the blithe way that leaders bring and present expensive resources and subsidies that aren’t market-tested or subject to any cost-benefit analysis. “If we propose it, create it, or spend it, it is valuable and important,” even though we’ve seen that assumption fail so often. There are warehouses full of well-intentioned materials that will never be asked for—until, someday, the trash truck arrives.

Every year leaders bring and present expensive resources and subsidies that aren’t market-tested or subject to any cost-benefit analysis. It’s time to put in place some kind of testing and review—before stuff is printed and the paper stacked somewhere in storage, before a staff is hired, before new domain names are secured and new servers brought online, before $10,000,000 is budgeted.

A friend of mine pointed out that the top-down model that was in place when we were young in the ministry, where masses of envelopes arrived in the mail every day and we were expected to act on them all, no longer works. Pastors and congregations don’t agree to everything that is sent from above. Yet the production of new products and ideas is heavier than ever—and often, now, they aren’t advertised, or are just part of an endless flurry of stuff from both the church and independent ministries. Many never even make it into the consciousness of pastors and congregations. I’ve told you before that I watch every year to see whether anything that is presented at either Annual Council or Year End Meetings appears on the radar of my churches or my fellow pastors. Seldom.

I’m very glad for the first: that we have thoughtful and enlightened leaders. I’m a little concerned about the second. It’s no longer enough for every department to come up with a new product every year to show that they’ve been busy. It’s time to put in place some kind of testing and review—before stuff is printed and the paper stacked somewhere in storage, before a staff is hired, before new domain names are secured and new servers brought online, before $10,000,000 is budgeted. To audit not just for financial policy compliance, but to audit ideas and products and targeted subsidies, to test them for efficiency and usefulness.

My 2¢.


Loren Seibold is a pastor, and the Executive Editor of Adventist Today.

To comment, click here.