Adventist leaders preview new leadership program
A newly elected President of the United States has almost three months to prepare to take office after Election Day. In the Seventh-day Adventist Church, a newly elected president takes office immediately.
For Artur A. Stele, the speed of his rise to the presidency of the Euro-Asia Division (ESD) in 2000 shocked him. Stele had leadership experience as a pastor, university dean, and president of Zaoksky Adventist University in Russia, but he had never led an entity such as the ESD, which oversees the work of the Adventist Church on 11 time zones in Russia and other former Soviet republics.
“I was shocked,” Stele said. “I was young and inexperienced.”
But he received a lifeline shortly after his election at the General Conference session in Toronto, Canada. Former General Conference (GC) President Neal C. Wilson spoke to him in an informal mentoring session that helped Stele get started.
“It was maybe 15 minutes, but I remember it so far,” said Stele, now a general vice president of GC, the administrative body of the Adventist world church.
Recognizing the importance of mentorship in leadership, Stele and other Adventist leaders made it a pillar of a proposed GC leadership development program which they enthusiastically affirmed at the 2nd Annual Leadership Council. World Church, titled “Developing Leaders for Mission,” Feb. 9-10, 2022.
The initiative, once formally approved and voted on, would be funded by the GC and implemented with assistance from the Global Leadership Institute at Andrews University. The innovative program would seek to provide church leaders with three learning tracks: (1) LeadLAB, a series of short-term, targeted leadership development seminars and workshops offered to divisions that wish to participate; (2) LeadCONFERENCE, an annual leadership development conference that coincides with the denomination’s Annual Council; and (3) LeadMENTORS, an individualized and personalized mentorship program offered to emerging leaders.
Training Leaders for Mission
GC President Ted NC Wilson emphasized that the purpose of the leadership development program was to advance the church’s mission of preparing people for Jesus’ return.
“The theme of the leadership development framework is to develop leaders for mission,” he told the World Church Leadership Council, during a Zoom videoconference with about 80 leaders from GC, the 13 global divisions of the Church. church, its three related areas, the Adventist Development and Relief Agency (ADRA), several universities and other entities.
The purpose of the mission was reiterated by GC Treasurer and Chief Financial Officer Paul Douglas, who along with GC Secretary Erton Köhler works closely with Wilson on the GC leadership development program.
“The ultimate goal is to develop leaders for mission who will display the character of Christ,” Douglas said during the Zoom conference.
The ever-evolving LeadLAB component of the program was piloted in 2021 in the South Pacific Division (SPD) and Inter-European Division (EUD). LeadLAB has its roots in a proposal that was presented two years ago at a leadership conference in Cape Town, South Africa. Church leaders agreed at the 2020 Global Leadership Summit to establish a leadership institute based at GC headquarters in Silver Spring, Maryland. The COVID-19 pandemic disrupted those plans, however, and led the hosts to opt for a largely online program.
Wilson, emphasizing that the program remains a work in progress, said it was optional, not mandatory, and was intended to augment, not replace, existing leadership programs that divisions may have in place. Divisions can help shape the program as it develops, and their involvement in shaping it will be appreciated, he said.
“This is a collaborative work, as all will be involved to help create something that will provide ‘Growing Leaders for Mission,'” Wilson later said via email.
It is also envisioned that other GC educational institutions such as the Adventist International Institute for Advanced Study (AIIAS), Adventist University of Africa (AAU), and Loma Linda Health University (LLUH) ), as well as others, can be involved in the program. .
During the Zoom meeting, Wilson presented a proposal in which the GC would provide “substantial funding” for the program until 2025, after which a decision would have to be made on how to proceed beyond that period. He expressed hope that all 13 church divisions, as well as the Middle East and North Africa Union Mission, the China Union Mission and the Israel Field could participate. in the near future until 2025.
The pilot program is a success
SPD and EUD leaders expressed strong support for the leadership development program. Several hundred church leaders in both divisions have participated in a pilot project of LeadLAB seminars over the past year.
“The South Pacific Division is very happy to be a trial, I guess guinea pig,” said SPD Chairman Glenn Townend. “The material we have received so far is absolutely excellent.”
He praised the LeadLAB program as “truly spiritual, biblical, and practical,” adding, “We really like the direction General Conference is taking, and it’s great to be a part of it.”
EUD President Mario Brito said he had prayed for years to find good leaders, and was in “seventh heaven” with the program and specifically the training offered by the Global Leadership Institute in Andrews University.
“We are thrilled,” he said. “I thank the Lord that you are truly interested in understanding our needs and helping us meet them…This is an opportunity to grow into the image of Jesus Christ…I thank the General Conference and Andrews.
Erich Baumgartner, founding director of the Global Leadership Institute at Andrews University, said he was encouraged by the pilot projects with the first two divisions and looked forward to the expansion.
Many other division heads offered wholehearted support for the program during the Zoom conference. G. Alexander Byant, president of the North American Division (NAD), and Si Young Kim, president of the Northern Asia-Pacific Division (NSD), called it a welcome enhancement to the leadership programs already in place on their territories. Zoom participants also highlighted the importance of leadership training in fulfilling the mission of the church.
“Leaders must be trained to focus on the mission,” said Guillermo E. Biaggi, conference organizer and general vice president of the GC. “The mission is so important to us.”
Randy Siebold, associate director of the Global Leadership Institute at Andrews University, added, “The ultimate achievement is to do what Christ said: ‘Go and make disciples of others.’ ”
The World Church Leadership Council, held for the first time amid the COVID-19 pandemic in 2021, covered various aspects of strategic thinking and planning in an effort to proclaim the messages of the three angels with the power of the Holy Spirit and to see the latter rain take the gospel work to its conclusion. Speaker presentations took a closer look at mission-oriented activity within Adventist Church organizations, self-assessment and evaluation techniques, future leadership development, the benefits of training in leadership after elections, the beauty of mentoring young leaders, the need to think strategically to achieve the goals set out in the world church’s “I will go” plan, and encouragement in the Bible and the writings of Ellen White to accomplish the mission of the church together.
A way forward
Expanding on the initial illustration at the beginning of this article, Artur Stele shared a lecture presentation on the importance of developing leaders immediately after elections, noting that the US presidential election takes place in early November every four years and that the President takes office on January 20 of the following year. During the interim, the new president has time to prepare. But, he said, the Adventist Church does not have such a gap, which initially left him anxious when he was elected ESD president in 2000.
Immediately after his election, Neal Wilson, Ted Wilson’s father, pulled him aside and asked, “Artur, who do you see as Division Secretary and Treasurer?”
“He asked for my understanding,” Stele said. “I said, ‘I need someone who knows the division. I do not know. ”
Stele offered two names, and Wilson replied, “You are a very wise man. I wanted to recommend them myself.
The brief interaction gave Stele the encouragement and foundation he needed to move forward.
Stele called on the church to do more to train leaders. “Nobody really advises you to swim,” he said. “You just learn to do it. But important strategic decisions must be made early on.
Reading Ellen White’s Manuscript 149, 1902, he concluded, “If you think men don’t have all the experience you have, then refrain from expecting of them all that the Lord expects. from you. If they need instruction, try to instruct them as you were instructed.