November 15, 2018 | Port-au-Prince, Haiti | Libna Stevens/IAD
Executive committee members from throughout the Seventh-day Adventist Church in the Inter-American Division (IAD) were briefed on the steady growth in membership and financial stride seen throughout the vast territory this year. Church leaders saw the collective figures that come directly from their local congregations as the year-end business meetings set its course on Nov. 11, in Petionville, Port-au-Prince, Haiti.
Membership across Inter-America stands at 3,833,747, as of September 30, 2018, reported Pastor Leonard Johnson, executive secretary for the church in Inter-America. “Our numbers for the third quarter indicate that 43,867 persons were baptized during the third quarter this year, bringing the total baptisms for the year so far to 163,969.”
“We praise God for the evangelism efforts that have led to 393 new congregations thus far this year,” said Johnson. The new congregations bring the total to 22,874 churches and congregations.
The membership figures reflect a cumulative loss for the year of 30,377 members as a result of the adjustments made by the unions, or major church regions, because of the cleaning or keeping track of members in the books of the local churches and congregations in the IAD, said Johnson.
Adventist Church Management System
Twenty-one unions have already been using the Adventist Church Management System (ACMS) to account for its employees and membership figures for a few years now. Only three unions remain to implement the ACMS, explained Johnson.
“Once we all completely embrace the ACMS program it will make obtaining statistics so much easier, more accurate in real time and it will represent financial savings on a global scale,” said Johnson, as he encouraged regional church administrators to keep up with current and accurate statistics.
Pastor Johnson also reported that there are 81 members from Inter-America who are serving through the Adventist Volunteer Service (AVS), of which 58 volunteer in service around the world, and 23 volunteers serve throughout the IAD territory.
“We are happy with the contribution of IAD workers toward the world church,” said Johnson.
Assessing Regional Travels
Executive members were also briefed on the number of trips conducted Division staff during 2017 and so far in 2018. There were 597 trips made during 2017 and so far 517 trips were made as of the third quarter of 2018.
Most of the trips reflected 217 trips to Mexico which has five unions, or church regions, explained Johnson.
“What we are looking to evaluate is whether we are reaching the entire division so that we can justify all the trips and meetings and assess and be able to be more intentional to reach every union,” said Johnson.
“There are unions that may invite leaders over and over again but I appeal to you union leaders to turn in your service requests on time to ensure that your territory is included in visitations, programs and activities to your region,” said Johnson. “We will continue to look closer in order to make sure the territory is covered evenly.”
In his report, Filiberto Verduzco, treasurer for the church in Inter-America, began defining the financial environment of the church as measured by the three categories of values that the church member in Inter-America holds dear: denominational, cultural, and spiritual.
“When these three values work in the heart of the church member then at the appropriate moment, an attitude of generosity is expressed with the commitment to support and be active in the fulfillment of the missions,” said Verduzco. In other words, that commitment is expressed by the generous giving of tithe and offerings, said Verduzco. “The most valuable resource the church in Inter-America has is the church member.”
Church members make it possible for the church to grow and expand through their committed giving, explained Verduzco. “Leaders have the responsibility, like an opportunity to manage those resources with transparency and accountability,” said Verduzco. That means at all levels of the church, he said.
“We are not the owners of those [financial] resources, but these are put before us so that we can have the opportunity to let the church member know that as leaders we are functioning with transparency and accountability,” said Verduzco.
Verduzco stated that 2018 has been the best year financially for the IAD in the last 15 years.
“We recognize that the church member is the most important element in the financial system. They are the ones who win souls and contribute funds for the fulfillment of the church so we can’t forget that,” said Verduzco.
Verduzco encouraged leaders to continue praying for church members so that God and the Holy Spirit can continue inspiring them and the task of the mission can be finished soon.
Financial growth continues to increase as new members join the church and faithfully give tithe and offering, said Verduzco. Tithe saw a 12 percent increase while offering saw a 13 percent increase in just the month of October 2018.
Verduzco pointed out the 12 most generous unions across the IAD with the membership in Haiti being the most generous across the territory. “It is visible to see that the church member in Haiti is in permanent gratitude to the Lord for His goodness,” said Verduzco. He pointed out that for every tithe dollar, .54 cents is given as offering.
The Dominican Union follows closely with an offering percentage of 51.5 per tithe dollar, then the Panama Union with 50.3 percent, the Chiapas Mexican Union with 46.6 percent, and the Southeast Mexican Union with 45 percent.
As of October 2018, the IAD has a capital of 229 percent and a liquidity of 148 percent, reported Verduzco.
Financial programs and initiatives
After the auditing report was presented, Verduzco commented that the church is working the best way possible to finance the mission of the church. He reassured the committee members that the legal composition of some of the organizations in the IAD territory will be aligned properly soon.
Committee members were informed of the Ecclesia7 software, which functions as an electronic remittance program, is being installed in local churches across the territory. The plan is to enroll the more than 22,000 local churches and congregations in the software to provide more accurate terms and percentages of both the tithe and the offering to be forwarded to the different territories, with local responsibility but with the perspective of the world church.
Special master’s program
Committee members voted to approve a special master’s degree program for treasury staff across the IAD territory. The academic preparation is tailored to train on the financial/accounting principles known and shared by the entire treasury personnel at the union and local field levels and the more than 150 major institutions making up the financial system of the Division.
Montemorelos will offer the postgraduate program in public accounting in English, Spanish and French. The IAD will finance the first group of 24 students – one student per union – and will cover both tuition and room and board during the 2019-2021 summer programs.
“I am really excited that through this academic program we will strengthen the financial system of the church while forming young people in the denominational management of the church’s financial system,” Verduzco said.
To learn more about Inter-America’s Year-End Meetings, visit us at interamerica.org