President’s Blog

Thank God for a Good Year – The Conclusion

In the first two parts of this series, we looked back at the year 2013.  I shared with you that I recognized the unusual nature of reviewing the previous year nearly halfway through the current year.

But this is an outgrowth of our April Executive Committee meeting, where we reviewed the finances of the previous year (which we do each year at the first Executive Committee of each year).

We shared with you the ten goals for the conference for 2013 that were shared with the Executive Committee at our first meeting for 2013. We shared with you each of those goals and the fact, that by God’s grace, nine of those goals were reached.

In this final installment, I would like to talk about the goals for 2014, and in that discussion, we shall talk a little bit about the goal that we did not reach.  

I believe that it is very important that goals are set: By individuals, organizations, churches, corporation, etc. When I was a young Pastor, Elder C.E. Dudley, who was the President of our conference in those days, used to tell us “Some people aim at nothing-and hit it” (something I have repeated to our workers 1,000 times)-everybody needs to set goals.

I shared the goals for our conference that I am asking the Lord to help us achieve in 2014, with our Executive Committee a few months ago. Please allow me to share them now with you:

(1)  1,000 baptisms, with a retention rate of at least 70%. We have been blessed in this conference with unprecedented baptisms these past several years, for which we thank God. We have set a baptismal goal each year, and the Lord has blessed with the consistent […]

By |June 4th, 2014|Categories: President's Blog||0 Comments

Thank God For A Good Year-Part II

If you are just “tuning in,” it may seem a bit strange to be reviewing 2013, when nearly six months of 2014 have already passed. But we shared with you that in our last Executive Committee meeting-which was a few weeks ago-a part of what we did was to review the final financial numbers for 2013.  Additionally, since that is the first of the quarterly meetings of the Executive Committee for the year, we also shared our goals for the conference for 2014. This series is about some of what was shared with the Executive Committee.

Last time, we shared with you the goals that we shared with the Executive Committee for 2013. These goals were shared at our first meeting in 2013. At each subsequent meeting and at our monthly office staff meetings, we share the progress that the Lord has given us towards those goals.

Here are those 2013 goals (a line drawn through indicates that the Lord helped us to reach said goals):

1,000 Baptisms
4% Tithe Gain
Operations Gain
Discover Retention’s Percentage
Pastoral Evaluations
Continue reduction of percentage of budget going to salary/expenses without layoffs
Complete Oakwood Academy Building Project
Adequately house E. E. Rogers School in Jackson, Mississippi
Sell Camp Ground
Increase Church School Enrollment

Last time, we shared a brief summary of the first four goals, with the exception of the one goal that we did not reach-a tithe gain of 4%. We shall address that in our final article in this series.

Here is a brief summary of Goals 6-10:

Goal 6: Continued Reduction of the Percentage of the Budget That Goes to Salary and Benefits, Without Laying Anyone Off! At least some of you have heard me say this many times:

Relative to our needs, we do not have enough workers!

If […]

By |May 9th, 2014|Categories: President's Blog||0 Comments

Thank the Lord for A Good Year – Part I

At our April 13, 2014 Executive Committee meeting, we examined the final financial numbers for the year, 2013. With the receipt of that information, we were able to close the book on 2013 and do a final comparison of the goals that we set for our conference last year and the progress that the Lord blessed to make towards accomplishing those goals.

Below are the goals that we shared with the Executive Committee one year ago. The ones with lines drawn through them are the ones that the Lord enabled us to reach last year:

1,000 Baptisms
4% Tithe Gain
Operations Gain
Discover Retention’s Percentage
Pastoral Evaluations
Continue reduction of percentage of budget going to salary/expenses without layoffs
Complete Oakwood Academy Building Project
Adequately house E. E. Rogers School in Jackson, Mississippi
Sell Camp Ground
Increase Church School Enrollment

As you can see, thanks to our workers, our people and our God, every goal was reached except for one.

Here is a brief summary of each goal:

(1)  1,000 Baptisms: For the fourth year in a row, the Lord blessed us to go over the 1,000 mark in baptisms. The Lord gave us 1,139 baptisms.

As far back as we could check, there had not been a time in South Central where we had baptized over 1,000 individuals for three consecutive years-the Lord has blessed our conference to do that for four consecutive years. Here are the churches and Pastors whom God used to lead the way:

Dr. Carlton Byrd/Elders Julius/Williams/Wilson, Oakwood University-120
Elder Debleaire Snell/ Elders Hill/Greene, Huntsville First-92
Elder James Owens, Memphis Longview-87
Elder Harold Goodloe, Mobile Emmanuel-77
Elder Willie Black, Nashville New Life-63
Pastor Shawn Moss, Memphis Bethany-42
Elder Fred Batten, Memphis Word of Life-39
Pastor Michael Lewis, Selma/Thomasville-32
Elder Kennedy Luckett, Louisville Magazine Street-28 & Elder Dorian Melo, Multicultural Director/Crossville/Boaz/Gadsen/Oakwood Spanish-28
Elder W.C. Scales, Bessemer/Eutaw/Brent-27

In […]

By |April 28th, 2014|Categories: President's Blog||0 Comments

The Election of Dr. Sandra Roberts As the First Elected Female Conference President – The Conclusion

Last week, we ended with a question: Can we say that someone who has every other qualification, e.g., the experience, the education, etc., that we normally would like to see in a conference president be denied solely because she is a woman?

That question is a” hot potato”-believe me. But it is something that we in the Seventh-day Adventist Church have to settle. And we simply cannot settle it, without talking about it. And we cannot talk about this issue, without talking to people on both sides of the issue-and talking to each other-even when we disagree, in a civil and Christ-like manner, one that honors that God we all serve.

I said last time that I would give my answer to that question. I do not pretend that my answer is some divinely inspired answer to a discussion that, in some way or the other, has been going on in our church for decades.

The late Elder C.E. Dudley, who was the President of South Central for thirty-one years, and who I believe was gifted by God to be one of the greatest administrators in the history of our church, had a saying (actually, he had many sayings-I wish someone had written a book about them) “Where you stand, depends on where you sit.”

I think what he meant was that one’s position on a particular issue (except for issues where the Lord has directed us to take a particular position) is often shaped by where we are serving at a particular time; in other words, often times, our position that we take is often shaped by the position that we have.

I have the privilege of being the President of South Central Conference.  One of my major […]

By |February 21st, 2014|Categories: President's Blog||0 Comments

The Election of Dr. Sandra Roberts As The First Female Conference President – Part II

Last time–which was two months ago-we talked about the General Conference’s position relative to the election of Dr. Sandra Roberts as the President of the Southeastern California Conference–the first elected female President of our conference in the history of our church (Mrs. Phyllis Lee Ware–then, Ms. Phyllis Lee –served as the Interim President of Central States approximately 20 years ago. Mrs. Ware current serves as the Treasurer for the Office of Regional Ministries and now resides in our conference).

We used the words of the author, Steven Covey, last time: In order to be understood, seek to understand. We said that while one might not always agree with a particular decision, it would seem good to at least to try to understand it.

We began by looking at the position of the General Conference President, Dr. Ted Wilson.  His position was that the General Conference would not recognize Southeastern California’s election of Dr. Roberts, because the world church does not recognize the ordination of women. By policy, conference presidents must be ordained.

We said that, whatever one may think of Dr. Wilson’s non-recognition of Southeastern California election of Dr. Roberts, his position was understandable; yea, it is the only position that he could take. The world church does not recognize the ordination of women as pastors. By policy, all conference presidents have to be ordained pastors. Therefore, it would be the position of the General Conference that Dr. Roberts-or, any other unordained person–male or female–could not be a conference president.

We said last time that Dr. Wilson’s position is perfectly understandable. Dr. Wilson is the President of the General Conference. He has to uphold the policies of the General Conference, as long as those policies do not violate […]

By |February 7th, 2014|Categories: President's Blog||0 Comments

The Election of Dr. Sandra Roberts As the Elected First Female President – Part I

Recently, the Southeastern California Conference-which I believe is the largest conference in the North American Division – made history by electing Dr. Sandra Roberts as the first elected female Conference President in the history of our church.

I wanted to share with you my thoughts on her election and the events that took place as a result.

I remember a conversation I had with one of our Pastors, Elder Furman Fordham, Senior Pastor, Nashville Riverside Chapel. I cannot remember the discussion, but in it, Elder Fordham used a quote from Steven Covey that he said guided him. My middle-aged memory will probably prevent me from remembering the quotation verbatim. But it went something like this: In order to be understood, seek first to understand. 

I thought about that quote when I thought about what I should say to you relative to the election of Dr. Roberts and the reaction to it, especially the reaction to the message that Dr. Ted Wilson, the President of the General Conference, reportedly sent to Dr. Ricardo Graham, President of the Pacific Union, who was chairing the constituency meeting that elected Dr. Roberts.

Dr. Wilson was reported to have told Dr. Graham that, if Southeastern elected Dr. Roberts, the General Conference would not recognize her election.

Dr. Wilson’s remarks engendered a lot of commentary around the North American Division (and probably around the world field as well).

As you formulate your own thoughts and ideas about what the leader of our church said, I would like to suggest the last part of the quotation from Steve Covey: Seek to understand.  That is to say, one may not agree with what they think is the position of Dr. Wilson or the constituents of the Southeastern California Conference. […]

By |December 19th, 2013|Categories: President's Blog||0 Comments

Equipping Our Workers-Part III

Today, we finish our discussion on the third of the “7 E’s- Equipping Our Workers

We concluded last time by saying that one of the things that we are doing to equip our workers is by doing something that it is very common in the secular world, but very uncommon , as it relates to Pastors-by evaluating them.

We said that, at their best, evaluations help us equip our Pastors, by finding out what they do well, so that we can affirm them, and by pointing out the things that we do not do as well, so that we can address those things. In other words, evaluations help us in the equipping process by helping to reveal those areas where our workers need to be equipped.

We decided the best people to evaluate our workers would be to ask the people for whom they work-you, the members of the churches of the South Central Conference.

That may sound obvious, but there was some debate as to whether the church members were the best people to evaluate their Pastors-even all of the church members did not always agree. Some felt, for example, that the people who serve on the local church board were the best people to evaluate the Pastor, because they are the ones who work most closely with the Pastor.

While there is some truth to that, we felt in the end, that there was value in hearing what the “everyday member”-the ones who may not be in leadership, but who see the Pastor go about his/her duties on a week in, week out basis, had to say as well.

What kind of an evaluative tool should we use? We asked our Ministerial Director, Elder Benjamin Jones, Jr., to […]

By |October 10th, 2013|Categories: President's Blog||0 Comments

Equipping Our Workers – Part II

Equipping Our Workers-Part II

After taking a break from our continuing series on the State of the Conference for our annual Camp Meeting series, we now return.

We have been discussing what we have called “The 7 E’s”, which are the core values that guide the direction of our conference.

Since we have been away for a while, let us re-state what “The 7 E’s “ are:

Evangelizing Our Conference

Equipping Our Workers

Educating Our Children

Engaging Our Young Adults

Enunciating Our Expectations

Evaluating Our Results

Entreating Our God

Last time, we gave you some general information about the nearly 200 people who work for you in the South Central Conference. Today, we want to share with you how we try to go about equipping, or training our staff.

From the outset, we said that we shall only address in this space, the training of the Pastoral staff and the office staff. The other two employee categories are the educational staff and the Literature Evangelist staff; we said their training is done by the heads of their respective departments. As it relates to the equipping/training of our Pastors and our office staff, we have emphasized two things: Evaluation and Education.

Most of you who are in the secular workforce are familiar with evaluations-most of you receive them on at least a yearly basis. For various reasons-and, I am not sure of all of those reasons myself-over the years, evaluations have not been a part of the training of either our Pastoral or office staff-it just has not happened.

We believe, however, that evaluations are a vital part of the training of all of our workers.  At their best, evaluations, affirm strengths-they tell you what you are doing right, and they point out weaknesses-so that you can fix what you are doing wrong-so you can […]

By |September 1st, 2013|Categories: President's Blog||0 Comments

Camp Meeting, 2013-Part II

Camp Meeting, 2013-Part II
Each year, I share with you in this space what I learn as I have the opportunity to go to camp meetings in other conferences.

This year, from the end of May, until the end of June, I had the privilege of visiting 5 camp meetings, the 2 that we have in South Central, plus, Georgia-Cumberland, Southeastern and Allegheny West.  I had awonderful time; I was on a Camp Meeting “high!”

It started in Georgia-Cumberland on the campus of Southern Adventist University.  It is very significant that though Georgia-Cumberland operates an outstanding camping facility, Cohutta Springs, which we used many times when I was Youth Director, they had their main camp meeting on the campus of Southern Adventist University.

That may seem strange, but the truth of the matter is that several of the things needed to have camp meeting, e.g. , a very large meeting facility, large numbers of rooms for housing, etc., are not needed to operate a campground.

For example, I am guessing that there are about 150 hotel rooms at Cohutta Springs; we would need that many rooms just to house our staff, then, we would have to house our campers in a separate facility.

The problem is:

      A.           That facility would cost a ton to build

      B.           That facility would only be needed for camp meeting, BUT,

      C.           It would have to maintained (heated, cooled, etc.) for the entire year

The largest meeting facility at Cohutta (at least in the days when we were using it) seated about 500 people, max. We would need something that would 2-3 thousand, plus another facility for our young adults and another one for young people and, another one for our children.

Yet rarely, if ever, would you need all of those facilities for anything other than […]

By |July 19th, 2013|Categories: President's Blog||0 Comments

Camp Meeting, 2013

Last time, we talked about Camp Meeting, 2013, in South Central Conference and how the Lord blessed our gathering.
Every year, I make it a habit to visit at least one other camp meeting, in another conference. I do that to learn how others do camp meeting and to try and put that knowledge to use to benefit South Central.

This year, I had the privilege of visiting three other camp meetings, besides the two that we have in our conference. From the end of May, until the end of June, I was on a “Camp Meeting high”.

Here is what I learned:

(1)   Camp Meetings Are Special:  I already knew that, but my camp meeting experiences this year reminded me of that once more.

The two camp meetings that I visited after ours, Southeastern Conference and Allegheny West, had powerful Sabbath services, just as the Lord blessed us to have powerful Sabbath worship services at our camp meeting.

I left those two worship services reminded again why camp meetings are important. I remember what my younger sister said to me when she returned home after spending the entire time at our camp meeting: She said to me that all of the money that we spent (and we spent a ton) was worth it.

I felt the same way when I left Southeastern and Allegheny West: Whatever they spent was worth it as well (and I asked-they spent a ton, too. Well, Allegheny West spent more like a “quarter ton”, because they only had a weekend. But, relative to the size of their conference and the size of their workforce, camp meeting was not inexpensive for them, either. Southeastern had a full camp meeting, as we did, and they spent a ton).

Which leads me to the […]

By |June 19th, 2013|Categories: President's Blog||0 Comments