Dr. Willie and Mrs. Elaine Oliver, family life ministries directors for the Adventist world church speak to more than 600 administrators and leaders  on July 16, 2019, on the importance of balancing work and family, to preserve the family and better fulfill the mission of the church. Day two of Inter-America’s third annual Segment Leadership Development took place in Miami, Florida. Photo by Libna Stevens/IAD

July 16, 2019 | Miami, Florida, United States | Libna Stevens/IAD

Day two of Inter-America’s Segment Leadership Development (SeLD) Conference drew hundreds of church administrators, pastors, and local church elders on July 16, to focus on the importance of balancing work and family, addressing conflict and building consensus, financing the organization effectively and becoming steward leaders promoting transparency and accountability in the workplace.

Preserving the family

“When pastors are happier, they preach better sermons,” said Dr. Willie and his wife Elaine Oliver. The Olivers serve as co-directors for family ministries for the Adventist world church. “When you’re sleeping in the same bed and there’s no barrier between you and your spouse, you will baptize more.”

Ensuring that the family is preserved while fulfilling the mission and keeping a balance between work and family was the main message for the more than 600 leaders gathered in Miami, Florida.

In order to have a successful ministry, leaders must live by principles as a people of God, said Dr. Willie. “We believe in the Bible, we preach the Scriptures every day and yet sometimes we make decisions which are not principled,” said Dr. Oliver. “If our ministries are going to be effective, we are going to have to be balanced, refer to the Word of God and the Spirit of Prophecy to see what direction it gives us to live in family the way God wants.”2

SeLD delegates laugh as they point to where they think north is during a short activity led by The Olivers. Photo by Libna Stevens/IAD

“When we live by our principles, our lives, marriages and our leadership in ministries will be strengthened,” said Mrs. Oliver. “When we do not live by our principles, we reap negative results.”

Balancing work and family involves having the right priorities when it comes to God, family and work, said Mrs. Oliver.

The Olivers shared that in the surveying they have done, for most church leaders it seems, work comes first, sometimes God is next and family comes last. “We don’t realize that we have put families last, because we are trying to do this balancing act of work and family and God fits in first and the balance is between work and family,” said Elaine.

It’s about shifting the paradigm, the Olivers said. “You have to see your marriage in a different way, do things differently to get a different response.”

Dr. Karnik Doukmetzian, general counsel for the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, said that church leaders must pick their battles and build consensus during a plenary session on July 16, 2019. Photo by Libna Stevens/IAD

The delegates were given tips on making marriages and families stronger, about prioritizing responsibilities and keeping to timelines.

“It’s time to shift the paradigm, live by principled values and watch your family go from good to great…watch your ministry go from good to great,” Willie Oliver said.

Dealing with conflict and building consensus

Church administrators and leaders must learn to choose battles and make decisions by consensus, said Dr. Karnik Doukmetzian, general counsel for the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists.  Doukmetzian pointed out the importance of recognizing the impact of conflict in its administrative settings.

“One of the problems we face while the church and society upgrades is seeing how the paradigm shifts,” said Doukmetzian. “We face a membership better educated, more sophisticated, that is less trusting, not as accepting of church leadership, who’s not afraid to challenge or take grievances to court as well as employees who are more challenging of authority.”

A delegate takes notes during one of several SeLD plenary sessions on July 16, 2019. Photo by Libna Stevens/IAD

Conflict is inevitable and understanding what conflict is and how to address it is important in resolving it, whether through mutual collaboration or compromise in order to accomplish peace, said Doukmetzian, as he offered tips on achieving positive outcomes for the organization and its internal and external constituencies.

“We need to think of the impact this [conflict] will have in relationships, your job and perspectives of the organizations,” said Doukmetzian. “Pick your battles,” he added. “As we work together, we have to learn to create consensus which is one of the most difficult things that we have to do as leaders. It requires us to be inclusive, involve individuals other than ourselves, not only to hear opinions but also to collaborate to seek agreement and also to look for cooperation.”

Financing the church effectively

Financing the church effectively can take place smoothly when administrators accurately follow the mission of the church.  “The mission statement of an organization paves the way to establish the financial strategy, and it’s important to define the strategy to fund that mission,” said Filiberto Verduzco, treasurer for the church in Inter-America.

As administrators, there are questions that must be pondered every day, said Verduzco. “Are we effectively applying the resources provided by church members to carry out the mission of the church?” he said.

Pastor Filiberto Verduzco, treasurer of the church in Inter-America, speaks on the importance of effectively managing the church’s resources with transparency. Photo by Libna Stevens/IAD

The treasurer explained that the balancing of the systems of the church such as the operating system–which deals with systematization of operations and the strategic system—which deals more with the financial culture of the church, is of great importance for effectively managing and moving the church forward, especially in difficult times.

Verduzco also reminded administrators to embrace and focus on technology to run accounting and financing system across church organizations successfully and with transparency.

“We need to create an environment of trust so the church member can be clear and understand that we are financing the church in an effective manner,” Verduzco said.

The role of transparency

General Conference Auditing Service Director Paul Douglas spoke to the delegation on the fact that a lack of transparency in organizational leadership can lead to whistleblowing which can arouse a great deal of fear among employers and employees.

Paul Douglas, director of the General Conference Auditing Service challenges leaders to be steward leaders in full transparency and accountability as they oversee the church.Photo by Libna Stevens/IAD

Douglas discussed how transparency and accountability, and whistle blowing are defined, described the fear from the perspective of an organization and a potential whistleblower and went over characteristics of leadership best suited to over come that fear.

“As you invest in your people in your organization and as leaders set the proper example and tone in their organization as steward leaders, there wouldn’t be any fear of whistleblowing,” said Douglas. “The reason it is because for that organization everything is out in the open. What is seen is discussed, what is of concern is addressed.”

Delegates were reviewed on the benefits and barriers of transparency and accountability and were reminded that someone is always watching what they do as leaders.

“Whatever happens in your organization regardless if you have good leadership or bad leadership and a transparent atmosphere or not someone is watching,” said Douglas. “Someone is watching and above all heaven is watching,” he concluded as he invited each delegate to become steward leaders.

SeLD delegates listen in a morning plenary session July 16, 2019. Photo by Libna Stevens/IAD

Day two of SeLD Conference also saw delegates attending two dozen breakout seminar presentations, taking time for prayer and networking.

For additional stories on Inter-America’s SeLD Conference, visit us at interamerica.org

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