Urgent change needed: Church structure report

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A landmark report from the first phase of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Australia’s (AUC) review of Church structure indicates the need for change in a number of areas.

The review revealed that the local church, the local conference and the Seventh-day Adventist Church nationally are in need of a significant overhaul so that there is greater focus, efficiency and effectiveness in “mission”. In particular, it noted the need to reduce duplication across the corporate Church system, and to address inefficiencies in the multiple layers of Church governance.

The report not only considered organisational structural issues but, importantly, highlighted practical day-to-day operational factors at schools, aged care facilities and local churches.

In the context of being more effective in achieving the Church’s mission, the report specifically called for:

(a) a renewed level of prayer, spirituality and guidance by the Holy Spirit “as never before”;
(b) re-focusing more resources to “the front line”;
(c) a much greater degree of integration, collaboration and networking among and within each of the entities (churches, schools and aged care operations);
(d) a far more intentional approach to “engaging with our communities” (internally and externally);
(e) extending the “formal boundaries” of local churches to include “life groups and centres of influence”, to enable greater community reach;
(f) a clear and full focus on discipleship, mentoring and training at local church level;
(g) local churches being less “pastor dependent”, with more direct and formal lay member involvement in ministry, outreach and church planting activities;
(h) transforming our churches, schools and aged care facilities into “mission hubs”;
(i) a greater use of technology; and
(j) more fully empowering and equipping youth and young adults.

“The overall report constitutes a considerable and necessary re-focus in many areas,” said AUC president Pastor Jorge Munoz.

“We do not see the growth in our churches that we once enjoyed. This is an urgent issue that we need to address, without delay. We have to be very careful with how we utilise all of our resources, and, particularly, be significantly more intentional about the way we approach our mission. It requires considerably greater focus, energy and, most of all, urgency!”

A summary of the report is available for all church members to read online at https://corporate.adventist.org.au/australian-church-structure-review

"We have very clearly received the message from our stakeholders that there is a strong desire for change. And given that this change impacts the Church across Australia, we must all work together as one."

In May 2017 the AUC Executive Committee (comprising a mix of church members and employees) committed to a formal, multi-staged process of assessing and addressing the Church’s structure in the context of mission.

Subsequently, 70 workshops were conducted throughout the Australian conferences, inviting input and ideas from a broad range of stakeholder groups. In addition, a staggering 21,000 posts, comments and reactions were made on a dedicated Facebook page, a key communication channel for the process. Members are encouraged to join the group. It can be found by searching for “Structure Review — Seventh-day Adventist Church in Australia”.

Pastor Munoz praised the efforts of the hundreds of people who contributed to the process. “The input from our people was outstanding, and we are extremely grateful for the practical suggestions,” he said. “They signal the need for important and urgent changes to the way we approach our work in the future.”

The AUC Executive Committee embraced the report and recommendations, requesting the AUC leadership team collaborate with each of the nine local conference executive committees to draw up action plans to both model and implement the ideas.

AUC officers and members of the structure review leadership team will meet with all of the local conference executive committees between February and April.

The structure review change process is being facilitated by Anthony Mitchell, a lay member and professional organisational change management specialist. The chair of the Structure Review Committee is Lindsay Borgas, a retired senior business executive, and the committee includes a number of lay members, all Australian local conference presidents and AUC officers.

“Given the significance of the recommendations, working with all of the local conference executive committees is a very important next step,” said AUC secretary Pastor Michael Worker.

“We have very clearly received the message from our stakeholders that there is a strong desire for change. And given that this change impacts the Church across Australia, we must all work together as one. The local conference executive committees provide an opportunity for us to do this as, officially, they are the representative bodies of the Church for each region across the nation.”

“This is a very exciting beginning,” said AUC associate secretary Pastor Ken Vogel. “Our people have spoken and we have made a concerted effort to listen. There is a huge amount of work to do but we are firmly committed to the overall process and very serious about seeing tangible results.

“Ultimately those results will only come about if leadership and membership together see the urgency for, and are committed to and involved in, this change process.”

The AUC’s structure review process is ongoing. Further reports, updates and announcements will be provided online, by email and via Adventist Record. To be added to the contact list for email updates, send your email address to: StructureReview@adventist.org.au.

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