Prioritizing the Mission
Story by Visitor Staff
The Columbia Union Conference team focused on fulfilling the mission of the Seventh-day Adventist Church by addressing six priorities voted by the Columbia Union Conference Executive Committee:
1. PERSONAL SPIRITUAL RENEWAL
We prepared for and designated 2021 as the Year of the Bible, a time of special emphasis on reading, studying and contemplating how God’s Word transforms lives and draws us closer to Jesus.
To aid members on this journey, we published a calendar and daily devotional book featuring testimonies from members, leaders and 81 students to 65,000 households across our union. We also partnered with Ohio-based Kettering Adventist HealthCare to produce a yearlong series of one-minute video devotionals presented by Steve Carlson, chaplain of Kettering College.
We provided numerous opportunities for members to experience the mission of inviting people in their communities to follow Jesus, welcoming more than 22,000 new members into our union family.
Every conference participated in our 2016–2018 “Share the Light, Share the Hope” evangelism campaign, as well as our 2019–2020 emphasis on reaching the cities with Christ’s message of hope and wholeness. We partnered with Hispanic coordinators to host a series of evangelism events in 100 locations around the union where 7,000 members committed to lead small groups or work to lead five friends to Christ.
At the onset of the coronavirus pandemic, churches across our union quickly pivoted to
online-only worship and ramped up digital evangelism efforts. In many situations, this expanded viewership exponentially, as in the case of Hispanic pastors in the Pennsylvania Conference who hosted a Facebook Live series that brought more than 19,000 views and 678 shares.
We fostered excellence in academic and spiritual development by investing in the more than 500 dedicated educators who serve our 106 schools.
To strengthen our schools, we invested in training, developing and mentoring educators. We also helped each conference send educators to the 2018 North American Division Teachers’ Convention in Chicago.
During the pandemic, all our pre-K through 12 schools remained operational through virtual, hybrid and in-person learning. We provided help, support and resources as schools navigated national, state and community COVID-19 reopening guidelines.
4. YOUTH/YOUNG ADULTS
We gave voice to the concerns and needs of our church’s youth and young adults, and engaged them in mission, ministry, evangelism and leadership opportunities.
We met with 300 young adults to talk about how to bridge communication and generation gaps that sometimes results in younger members leaving the church or becoming uninvolved. From this experience, we recognized how much they care about and want to participate in the cause of Christ in ways that speak to the needs of today’s society.
We also funded several young adult-led initiatives and projects, including a second-and third-generation Hispanic church plant in Vineland, N.J.
5. LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT
We provided several opportunities for leaders to participate in educational events to focus biblically on mission, ministry, leadership and challenges.
Our 2019 Sola Scriptura Leadership Summit provided more than 170 leaders and executive committee members the opportunity to hear world-renowned theologians and scholars discuss how Scripture informed our church’s development, beliefs and organization.
The stark reality of the evil of race relations and unfair practices have touched a nerve
for all of us. As a result, we hosted a leadership summit on “Deeper Understandings of Race Relations: A Biblical Perspective” that examined the history and impact of racism in the United States, emphasized biblical perspectives on race and humanity and instructed how to improve race relations.
Leaders on our team also spearheaded mentoring programs for school principals, treasurers and women in ministry.
6. SOCIAL RELEVANCE
We embraced opportunities to share Christ and promote healing when issues impacted our world and church.
In 2017, after a 32-year-old woman died while protesting at a white nationalist rally in
Charlottesville, Va., we joined with our conferences downtown to offer messages of support and prayer for her family and the community. The next year, when a gunman entered the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, our conference and union leaders signed a prayer placard for the synagogue. In 2020, following the deaths of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd and others at the hands of police, we commissioned a task force to identify ways to address racism and promote restoration and healing.
When the pandemic hit, we supported the efforts of conference Adventist Community
Services (ACS) with funding and coordination, as they operated food pantries, provided basic necessities and distributed personal protective equipment to meet unprecedented community needs.
Read these articles from the issue:
- A Passion for Mission
Prioritizing the Mission