#MeToo; Busting Seven Myths about Clergy Sexual Misconduct

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I watch in horror and amazement as high-profile celebrities and politicians fall like the leaves of autumn; horror at the tsunami of sexual misconduct, and amazed at the Silence Breakers who no longer allow perverts to do harm with impunity.

Pastors are not immune from sexual misconduct and the clergy/member relationship presents unique opportunities for abuse. One case of sexual misconduct can erode the sacred trust that congregants have in all pastors, to say nothing of the irreparable harm to the victim. I served in a congregation where more than one of my predecessors had engaged in sexual misconduct and it took me years to regain the trust of the congregation, and some, never would trust a pastor again. Because of the far-reaching consequences of clergy sexual misconduct, I thought I would take this moment to share seven myths about clergy sexual misconduct that need busting as well as seven tips to avoid clergy sexual misconduct.  

Myth #1:  Clergy sexual misconduct is only when a pastor has sex with a minor.

Clergy sexual misconduct (CSM) is not limited to pedophilia.  CSM also includes adult sexual abuse and sexual harassment. It is CSM when any person in a ministerial role of leadership or pastoral counseling engages in sexual contact or sexualized behavior with a congregant, client, employee, student, staff, member (etc.) in a professional relationship. CSM can include rape or sexual assault, sexualized verbal comments or visuals, unwelcome touching and advances, use of sexualized materials including pornography, and stalking. 

Myth #2: Adventist clergy do not engage in CSM.

CSM is a widespread problem in congregations of all sizes and occurs across all denominations including Adventists. A Baylor University study found that 3.1 percent of adult women who attend religious services at least once a month have been victims of clergy sexual misconduct since turning 18. Between 1994 and 2013 Adventist Risk Management processed 75 claims of CSM  including child abuse, clergy malpractice and sexual harassment.

Myth #3: Pastors sometimes have ‘affairs’ with church members.

The word ‘affair’ implies ‘mutual consent’ between two adults. Because of the asymmetrical role of pastor and congregant, any sexualized relationship between a pastor and a congregant (except for the pastor's spouse) is clergy sexual misconduct and cannot be considered ‘mutual consent.’ Even if it is not physical coercion, the clergy is the one in a position of spiritual and emotional power and must be held responsible for the abuse of power.

Myth #4: Clergy sexual misconduct usually happens unintentionally.

In a landmark study, 46 victims of CSM from a wide range of religions, including Adventists, were asked to tell their stories of abuse. In most of the cases the clergy offenders, in a series of small acts, broke down the natural defenses of the offended, and took advantage of a position of spiritual power to eventually sexualize the relationship. Victims, families, and the congregation, did not seem to notice, or if so, refused to confront the clergy with inappropriate attention given to the victim. Other contributing factors of CSM included a lack of accountability for the clergy, intimate knowledge of the victim’s personal challenges and secrets, and almost all the stories included multiple counseling or spiritual direction sessions.

Myth #5: Spiritual pastors are above temptation.

Pastors have unique temptations. The role of pastor may attract a congregant to perceived power, fame, spirituality, caring and implied holiness any of which may fill a void in the congregant.  As the pastor ministers to the attracted congregant, the pastor’s need for validation in ministry is increasingly fulfilled. The mutual satisfaction of needs may be conflated with a personal attraction in both the minds of the pastor and the congregant. The mutual attraction can easily become sexualized.

Myth #6: Adventists have largely been silent about abuse.

Since 2008, Adventists have championed ending abuse with the End it Now campaign in which over 600,000 signatures were placed on a petition of solidarity with the United Nations campaign against violence toward women and girls. The campaign continues in the North American Division with a Summit on Abuse in 2011, 2014, and a streamed summit in 2017 where thousands of pastors attended virtually.

Myth #7: There is equal gender representation in decision making groups that oversee CSM policy and CSM allegations against pastors.

Most of the decision-making positions within the Seventh-day Adventist church are restricted to those with ordination credentials, which at this time, according to General Conference policy, can only be men.  It is possible to empower women now to address CSM whether they are in positions of leadership or not. This though, relies on responsible men to  intentionally include women's voices. 

Seven Tips to avoid CSM

Tip #1: Don’t engage in therapeutic counseling.

The formal training of pastors in the NAD does not equip them to engage in therapeutic counseling. Counseling should be limited to assessment and referral to professionals. Core Qualities suggest that pastors “build a network of mental health care providers and make appropriate referrals.”  Only those who have received specialized degrees in therapeutic counseling, and are licensed should engage in long term counseling.

Tip #2: Discuss relationship questions with mentors or colleagues outside of the congregation.

If you have any question about ambiguity in relationships or boundaries with individuals in your congregation, discuss the nature of the relationship with a trusted experienced colleague outside of your congregation.  Be honest about sharing your personal feelings with your support group/mentors about a relationship.  Naming temptation to others takes away its power over you and enables you to construct effective boundaries.

Tip #3: Avoid meeting alone with anyone.

Find places to meet people where you can be observed by others. Meet people in your office only if you leave your door open and someone is within eyesight. Meet at a public place. Make sure you choose the setting. Don’t go on frequent drives alone with someone else. Don’t go by yourself to a home visitation.

Tip #4: Keep messaging professional.

Email, text messaging, phone calls and other forms of personal communication can be channels of CSM. Avoid conversations of a personal nature by having more than one person in on the communication. 

Tip #5: Keep physical contact professional.

Avoid physical contact with individuals unless it is in a public setting. And even in a public setting keep physical contact short and appropriate.

Tip #6: Beware of giving and receiving personal gifts.

In some cultures, gifts can be misperceived. They may take on more meaning than you intended.

Tip #7: Keep current on the best practices to prevent abuse

Attend sexual harassment/abuse classes. Take the Sexual Abuse – Reclaiming Hope course from Adventist Learning Community. Become familiar with the resources available from  www.enditnownorthamerica.org.


No one is above temptation. If you say, ‘it is different for me’ or ‘the rules don’t apply to me’ then you are exposing yourself to false accusations, or even worse, engaging in CSM yourself. As pastors, let’s take the momentum of the #MeToo campaign to heart, and let this be a reminder that our role as pastors also makes us vulnerable to the temptation to hurt others. Let us take the steps necessary to guard our reputation and our congregants, and use our roles as pastors to end sexual abuse in our communities. 

[1] Special thanks to Carla Baker, David Fournier, Ernie Furness, Erica Jones, Esther Knott and Willie Oliver for their research for this essay.

The opinions in the essay are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the North American Division Ministerial Association. Here are some resources for further study: 







Where Are We Headed? Adventism After San Antonio

Where Are We Headed?  Adventism After San Antonio

Two years after the General Conference Session in San Antonio, church members and leaders are still wrestling with the implications of the gender-inclusive ordination decisions made there. Here is a book review of William Johnsson’s Where Are We Headed?: Adventism After San Antonio

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What Pastors Want Ministerial Directors to Know

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A pastor opinion poll we did a few years ago tells the story of what pastors really desired in a ministerial director. 

They did not want micro-managers or strong-armed connectivity making them feel like you are the boss.  They did not want autocratic czars or constant pessimistic examples of the way it used to be for you.

They simply wanted someone to support them in consistent ways.

They wanted a provision of resources to help them flourish.

They wanted an accountability partner who would walk with them along the journey.

They wanted a spiritual shoulder to lean on. 

They wanted a voice to speak up for them or at least to share their viewpoint.

They did not want a ministerial director with all the answers, all the time, but one who would be present in the fray of ministry.

In order to meet the needs of the pastors, we need to find natural ways to communicate, connect, share, and support.

Here a few suggestions. 

1.  You may be tempted to feel like more consistent communication with your pastors in a world already flooded by the loud techno-communication which includes 24-7 social media and news bytes is not essential. I would suggest the opposite is true.  Communication done well is a key essential to our role in pastoral support.

Ask your pastors what is the best way to communicate with them. Ask about their preferred method, best time or day, type of device they use most, form of communication they use – texting, email, blog, social media, etc.

Use your communication to inform, influence, lead, encourage, share essentials, resource, and connect. When pastors only hear from you in a crisis, or have to guess what’s going on regarding conference issues, or have to hear through the grapevine, essential influence wanes.

2.  Celebrate the celebrations in the pastor’s life. Celebrate anniversaries, birthdays, births, major accomplishments, milestones, etc.  These will be celebrated by family and friends, why not join in to truly celebrate with them? 

3.  Coach and encourage pastors in their passions and giftedness.  Focus on supporting the strengths and God-given abilities of pastors.  Also, encourage pastors to train and equip parishioners in the same way. Give them assignments to enhance and grow their giftedness.

4.  Connect with the support systems of pastors.  Because of the demands and expectations on the minister’s family, connecting with their family can alleviate the false expectations of ministry placed on the family by others.  In addition, through prayerful education of congregations, a real supportive ministry can be established in congregations all across our Division.

Finally, ministry becomes a lot simpler when we remember, it’s all about relationship. Relationship! Relationship! Relationship!

Pastoral Continuing Education: Fast Food or Planned meal?

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A four-day conference "Fragile Earth, Island Home" promises to help clergy understand "preaching connections for theology and science"; a university extension program announces its top billing, "From Civilization to Planetization: The Gospel of John"; a Resource Center for Christian Spiritual Disciplines offers a two-day seminar entitled "Sexual Spirituality: An Approach to Integration." And the list goes on.

There is no lack of opportunity for continuing education for pastors today. Seminaries, colleges, retreat centers, institutes, conferences all offer a great wealth of professional study that, strangely enough, has the potential of becoming a professional hazard.

Pastors who respond impulsively and without planning and forethought to the array of continuing education opportunities that cross their desks are like a family that eats too many meals at fast-food restaurants. They are not going to starve. Once in a while they will even receive a real burst of energy. After all, some fast food is good food.

The point is that, like fast food, many of these continuing education opportunities are good but could be better, especially if haphazard seminar-hopping has become the pattern for one's engaging in continuing education.

Over the short term fast foods may keep one on the go, but over the long term they lack variety, sustenance, and even interest. The same is true of ill-chosen education events. Clergy may fall into the trap of selecting on the basis of impulse as at the fast-food place where the staff seems to expect you to order as you walk in the door, before you've even located the menu! Over the long period of ministry, the fast-food mind-set can deprive pastors of the broad, solid basis and depth of learning required to do effective ministry today. The randomly selected growth opportunity may delight and please one occasionally and for a brief time, but finally, real education is like good nutrition: there is no substitute for planning.  What is the best way to plan your meal?

1. Separate interests from needs. Just as certain foods may appeal to your palate without contributing to your health, so the seminar that attracts your fancy may not enhance your ministry. To select from this vast menu the meal that will provide the nutrition you need, you must take a look at yourself. What are your strengths and weaknesses as an evangelist, preacher, counselor, visitor in the home, teacher of children and youth, administrator in the parish, leader in the home, and so forth?

2. Separate professional competencies from weaknesses. Select at least one strong area for further development and one problem area you want to strengthen. For the former choose a seminar that will challenge you to an even higher level of competency profession ally or personally. For the latter select a seminar that will help you remedy a weakness. Don't choose all seminars from either category. Choose a balanced meal.

3. Separate immediate needs from long-range goals. Weight control may necessitate an immediate reduction of high calorie foods. The strategy is to set priorities. So also in planning a continuing education program. The needs that you have may be many and varied, but you cannot deal with all of them immediately. You should identify those areas of concern that need attention now. 

The Benediction: Blessing those you Shepherd


I'll never forget the first time I experienced receiving a benediction at the end of a worship service that was different than a closing prayer. The pastor walked to the front and said these words: "Now, I want to give you the good word. Please stand." He kept his eyes open and with raised hands and palms facing outward, he began to pronounce a blessing on the entire congregation. Some people closed their eyes. Others extended their hands in front of them with palms facing upward as if they were actually receiving something tangible. A lady to the left of me started weeping, and with a quick glance I could see a gentle smile on her face as if to say, "These are tears of joy!"

At first, I was taken off guard. Even as a seasoned pastor and churchman, this was foreign to me. With every service I'd ever led, I simply offered a closing prayer at the end and dismissed the people. But this was different. This felt personal and powerful, and the words the pastor offered lingered with me for days afterwards.

I was so moved by the words of blessing I received that day that years ago I made a decision to adopt this and use it whenever I close a service. Since then, I've had some amazing opportunities to offer a blessing upon pastors and lay people in various settings. I truly consider it to be one of the greatest privileges I have as a pastor.

As you know, the word benediction literally means "good word" or "good speaking." While there are many wonderful activities that take place in a worship service, I believe the benediction is a final word that you can offer people which serves to give them an extra measure of hope, faith and inspiration as they depart that setting and enter fully again into the realities of a broken, fallen world.

It's important to keep in mind, though, that this time is not intended for you to preach a second sermon or cover new information that you overlooked or forgot to cover during your actual message. For me, there are three keys to an effective benediction: it's concise, memorable and most importantly it's ultimately God's word to the people, not yours.

When crafting a benediction, it helps for me to think about the big idea of the sermon. With that in mind, I try to use a thought or a verse that I've emphasized in the message that supports that idea and then reiterate it in such a way that it encourages people to accept these words as God's words to them, not mine. This is huge. The last thing people need to sustain them during and beyond the benediction are my feeble words. Because these are God's good words to them, they can trust them. They can lean into them far beyond the safety and security of that moment.

I suppose the benediction has become the exclamation point at the end of the service for me. It's a way for God to shout or even whisper emphatically to people, "I love you!" "I'm here for you!" "I will see you through this difficult time." "You can cry out to me because I'm listening." "You can wait on me because I'm working." "You can trust me because I'm faithful." Those are always good words to rest in, whether you're giving or receiving the benediction.

If you're one who's been offering these types of benedictions, you know the richness and the blessing this is to you and your people. If not, I'd encourage you to give it a try. While it may be a bit awkward at first, as it was for me, I believe in time you'll discover a freshness that never grows stale as you get to stand and offer people words of life from the Father week after week.

Enjoy the journey as you continue being a blessing to so many along the way!

Wade Brown
Director, Church and Community Care
Focus on the Family

What Members Wish Pastors Knew

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I live in a strange world. I’ve spent most of my professional life pastoring churches. Churches large and small. Churches large enough for multiple staff and multiple worship services. Churches so small that I had to wash my own feet at communion. (Think about it.)

These days I’m not pastoring. I’m training pastors and members. I live in that grey area between pastor and member and I hear the comments and concerns of both groups. Of course, people are different.  What turns one member on, turns another off. What makes one member happy makes another miserable.

But I want to share with you some comments about pastors that seem to be fairly consistent no matter where I go. These are some things that members may not tell pastors directly, but they wish pastors knew. Incidentally members, before you get too excited, your turn in the spotlight is next.

We Need A Pastor, Not a Preacher!

Now they really don’t mean that. What they actually want is both. But something has shifted. If I had a dollar for every time I heard this comment I’d be a rich man. “All these pastors today want to do is preach. But they can’t pastor!” Since my default is to protect pastors, I try to listen without being defensive. But it’s impossible to ignore the comments.

Fairly or unfairly, many members think that priorities have shifted and we are producing better preachers than pastors. Some of this is nostalgia, a selective memory of the “good old days.” But some of this is probably true. Preaching resources and workshops are everywhere. Gifted preachers are on line and on television. It’s probably a lot easier to be a great preacher these days and the rewards seem greater.

But we live in a broken culture that’s begging for healers, for listeners, for pastors. Ministers function in many roles, but the role of shepherd is desperately needed today. The shepherd certainly feeds the flock through effective preaching and teaching, but the shepherd also loves the flock, leads the flock, tends the flock, and protects the flock.

Given the size of our churches, it’s not possible for one person to shepherd the congregation one by one. It seems that even Jesus could only reasonably attend to 12. But according to Ephesians 4:12, the primary work of a pastor is to make sure that the work is being done.  Shepherding is a shared responsibility, but it must start at the top.

We Want You To Succeed

The vast majority of members want their pastors to succeed. Now, I’m not talking about the weekend warriors. The frustrated few whose purpose in life seems to make everyone miserable, especially the pastor. Frankly, those are largely people who are badly broken and deeply hurt. And it’s true that hurt people hurt people. But in the main, members want their pastors to succeed.

Most members want the pastor to be productive and happy. Most members want the pastor’s family to feel loved and supported. Most members dislike long and unproductive board meetings.  Most members hate out of control business meetings. Most members want the church to grow. Most members want visitors to feel comfortable. The problem is that the handful of complainers can seem like the crowd. But they aren’t. The vast majority of church members sincerely want the pastor to succeed. When he or she succeeds, so do they.

You Don’t Know Everything

It’s the curse of leadership. Omni competence. The idea that because I can do one thing well, I can do all things well. It is a pressing problem of leaders from the local church to the General Conference. It is particularly problematic for local pastors. Why? Because pastors are immediately confronted with people who know more about the church, the city, the context than them. There are certain things that the members absolutely know better than the pastor!

There is a distinct difference between the school house and the church house. Some things that fly in a classroom fail in the church. When a pastor arrives at a church, any church, some things will be working and some things won’t. Even if it’s working for the wrong reason, there’s a reason that it’s working and the pastor needs to discover the reason. Pastors who are convinced that their way is the only way or always the best way will eventually find themselves proving it. Alone.

We Don’t Know Everything Either!

Here’s a little secret that many pastors don’t know. Most of the members know that they need help.

·       They know that some of their friends are nuts!

·       They know that the church isn’t growing as it should.

·       They know that only a handful are showing up for business meeting.

·       They know that the bathrooms are dirty or in disrepair.

·       They know that prayer meeting is boring.

You get my drift. Pastors can get the feeling that they are living on an island with no visible or vocal support. But the reality is, most members are busy Christians trying to navigate their own crazy world. Many of them are experiencing some of the same issues as the pastor where they work. They want to do better, but they need help to do better. And they want the pastor to help them do better.

We’ll Be Here When You Leave

Most members have seen pastors come and they’ve seen pastors go.  Some churches have been the “science experiment” of many a starry-eyed pastor. Other churches have been the “training wheels” for many a young pastor. They have heard it all and they have seen it all. Since most of them will be there when the pastor leaves, the pastor should keep at least two things in mind.

·       Make changes that will last – Don’t move things around solely because of your taste or comfort level. Make changes that are consistent with the culture of the church and community. If not, the church will “put all of the furniture back” when you leave. And it will create a mess for the next pastor.

·       Don’t start fights you can’t finish - Even necessary change is challenging. Every pastor will have battles. The problem is that people take sides. These people will be living and working and worshiping together long after the pastor leaves. Pastors should work to resolve conflict, especially conflict that grows out of changes they started.

So, there you are. What do you think? Anything else you think members wish pastors knew?

Jesse Wilson is an associate professor of religion and theology at Oakwood University and director of PELC/Pastoral Evangelism and Leadership Council.  You may also want to read his article What Pastors Wish Members Knew

Having Influence

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It was my first church where I was the senior pastor and the 7th and 8th grade teacher was for a reason that I can’t now recall needed to be gone and I was asked to teach Bible and PE for a week or so.  I had never had any pedagogical training but went to the elementary school to be a teacher.  I quickly learned to appreciate the challenges provided by pubescent boys and girls.  They were quick to give all the right answers in Bible class but when then we went to recess the Bible lessons we spoke of in class did not have any effect on behavior when it came to playing baseball.  I quickly learned that the theory of Christian living in a Bible Class did not always translate into behavior on the ball field. 

What is true for pubescent boys and girls is also true of adults who listen to preachers giving moral instruction in church, and is true of some university students who find the freedom of university life releases them from the moral constraints of their home life.  After my week of substitute teaching I was ready to go back to pastoral ministry with a greater appreciation for those who have given their lives to teaching.  I would encourage every pastor to have such an experience.  I not only had a greater appreciation for teachers and the work that they do but I had developed a relationship with many students who were also parishioners of mine and who would, hopefully, pay more attention to the pastor when he/she preached on Sabbath because he/she had spent time on the ball field with them. 

Leadership, as John Maxwell says, is influence, and the influence of a pastor is dramatically increased with parishioners when he/she spends time with the children of those parishioners.  Whether those children are in elementary school or in college or university.  Influence is gained through relationships and there is no quicker way to develop a relationship with church members than to connect with their children.  And there is no better way to do that then to spend time either in a local elementary school, academy or college connecting with the young people of the church.  It is said that “the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach,” well the way to the heart of parishioners is through their children.

My experience as pastor of the university church in Collegedale strengthened the conviction of the importance of building relationships.  Being at the university church enabled me to connect with many college students and I learned that they are just older elementary school students.  They appreciate personal attention in the same way as younger children do.  Connecting with them on the racket ball court or the ball field developed the relationships that enabled my spiritual influence to be more significant.  As previously said, “leadership is influence” and you don’t gain influence without building relationships and you don’t just do that from the pulpit.

When I became president of the university I tried to build relationships by teaching a class or two but found that my schedule did not allow it to be done effectively (and besides that I was not the most effective teacher), so I sought other means to build relationships with students.  Once again it was playing on the ball field, just watching football/basketball games or eating with students in the cafeteria that enabled me to build connections with students.  Showing interest is building influence.  When it comes to college students it is not necessary to play games with them.  (In fact, given my skill level it was better if I didn’t play with them.)  It was just important to show up, listen, and talk to them.  The word transparency comes to mind.  Influence is developed when the students see the “real you” without putting on the pastoral cloth.

Ellen White wrote in the book Education that “the work of education and the work of redemption are one.” (page 30) For many pastors the most significant evangelism campaign that they embark on will be the work they do among the young people of the church. 

I have found that what is true for students in elementary school and academy is also true in the university setting.  The expression “out of sight out of mind” too often applies to students who leave home and the local church and make their way to a college or university to continue their education.  They are often forgotten by the local church.  There are those who complain about the young people leaving the church when they graduate from academy or when they go away to college or university, but do those people remain connected with the young people?  As previously indicated, “Leadership is Influence.”  We have no influence over those with whom we maintain no connection.  It is about relationship and maintaining relationship with the church, and that is not a building, but it is people who love and care for young people and show that through actions.

The single most significant thing that a pastor can do after establishing a position of influence with the young people in his church is to use that influence in encouraging them to attend a Seventh-day Adventist school.  Generally, parents and students, particularly those of modest means, believe that they can’t afford higher education.  They have heard stories of tuition rates in the multiples of 10 thousand dollars and on their wages, they don’t see how it is possible for them to even think about having their child go to one of the 13 SDA higher education institutions.  But the fact is that when you consider scholarships, government aid and work it is not as expensive as it sounds.  In fact, it is generally less expensive than sending a student to a boarding academy.

Research[i] demonstrates that when young adults attend Adventist higher education they are

·      Eight times more likely to experience professors who helped me develop spiritually.

·      Seven times more likely to experience professors who studied the Bible, and prayed with me.

·      Seven times more likely to participate in mission service or mission trips.

·      Four to five times more likely to work on campus.

·      Three times more likely to experience positive dating interactions

·      Three times more likely to participate in campus activities, such as sports teams, music groups campus publications, student clubs.

·      Two to four times more likely to develop lifelong friendships with classmates, faculty and staff.

·      Two times more likely to learn the importance of healthy living.

Churches have school boards to monitor the function of schools, they have Sabbath School Departments that plan programs for all age groups.  It would be helpful, even if the church has no young adult class, for there to be a young adult ministry department that maintained connection and therefore relationship with young adults no matter where they were living.  When my daughters left home and went away to school you can be sure I maintained close connection with them through care packages, phone calls and visits.  It would build influence with our young adults if the church family worked at maintaining close connections with their young adults who went away to school.  Why not:

1.     Send a care package of goodies.

2.     Make a pastoral visit to the campus and take the students from you church out for a meal.

3.     Send personal notes or call on birthdays

4.     Make a special announcement and welcome students back when they come home for vacation.  (“You are missed and loved.”)

5.     Make a financial contribution to the student’s education (no matter how small. Education is expensive and your gift will send a significant message of support.

On more than one occasion when I was president of Southern Adventist University I received a thank you email from a student when I simply showed up to watch a basketball game or football game.  The pastors who made the effort to travel to Southern once or twice a year to simply take the students from their congregation out to eat developed a positive influence in the lives of those students.  So, to sum up the pastor and his//her relationship with college or university students – just show up.

Gordon Bietz serves as the associate director for higher education for the North American Division Education Department


Reprinted from the second quarter 2017 issue of CALLED


[i] CollegeImpact research report results from a study of the college experiences of alumni of Adventist colleges and universities and Adventist graduates of public colleges and universities in North America November 2014

Active Shooters at Houses of Worship

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Our hearts grieve the innocent loss of life as 26 worshippers were gunned down at the First Baptist Church in rural Sutherland Springs, Texas on November 5, 2017.  Headlines of major newspapers read: “Evil has invaded the Sanctuary” and “Can any church be open and welcome to All?”.  Reasonable concerns when you look at a death toll of 48 lives from active shooter situations at houses of worship during the past five years:

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Gaining Courage to Confront Evil

Houses of worship are places where a person finds safety and belonging. Society believes families will be safe as they attend services or participate in church events.  Tragically, the evil of this world finds no boundaries to prevent tragedy and harm. Pastors, church elders, deacons, greeters and Sabbath school leaders must be trained and prepared to confront unthinkable situations and act responsibly when evil strikes.

Active Shooter Response Planning

Situational Awareness is the critical first step in a congregations Emergency Planning You cant pat someone down and give them a hug at the same time, said Lt. Todd Caron of the Anderson County Sherriff’s Office in South Carolina.  Caron believes, congregations and church members must be aware of their surroundings.  We can still be open and loving and be cautious and prepared you should notice if someone is disgruntled or upset, they may need some help or you may just want to keep a watch on them. 1

Many churches have an informal security or emergency plan.  Some congregations use off-duty police officers, retired military or hire security personnel to watch for signs of danger as they observe those who enter for services.  Extra care must be taken if armed security is going to be used on church property.  Pastors should always seek counsel from Conference officials before any security contract is signed.  Consideration must be given to applicable state laws concerning weapons on church property, local Conference policy and liability insurance to protect both the security officer, local church and Conference. (See Resource #6 – Firearms on Church Property for more information) Being welcoming and open doesn’t begin with songs, sermons or bible studies.  It begins with awareness at the door.

Even talking about an Active Shooter scenario is a difficult conversation that church leaders want to avoid or believe it will never happen here.  Most active shooter situations last less than five minutes and are over before law enforcement arrives on scene. Church leaders cannot be complacent; they must face the issue that the unthinkable may happen and be ready to respond.

This can be achieved through five action steps:  1) Discussing “what would we do” with the church board, 2) Establish an emergency response plan for your church facility, 3) Review your emergency plan with local law enforcement agencies, 4) Conduct practice emergency drills with church leaders and 5) Be aware of what is taking place during all church activities and report all threats or suspicious behavior to law enforcement officials. Building strong relationships with local law enforcement is key so they know your facility before an emergency 911 call is placed in the event of an emergency. Remember, situational awareness begins at the front door.  Knowing how to respond, knowing alternative ways to exit, taking immediate and appropriate actions can save lives. 


Arthur F. Blinci is senior risk consultant and owner of Azure Hills Risk Management


Helpful Online Resources…

1.   https://www.ready.gov/active-shooter

2.   Detailed Emergency Planning Guide for Houses of Worship 


3.   https://www.dhs.gov/sites/default/files/publications/active-shooter-how-to-respond-2017-508.pdf

4.   Run, Hide, Fight Training video:


      Resources from Adventist Risk Management

5.   https://adventistrisk.org/en-US/Safety-Resources/Solutions-Newsletter/How-to-Prepare-Your-Church-For-an-Active-Shooter-S

6. https://adventistrisk.org/Adventist_Risk/media/ARM/Resource%20Page/PDFs/English/IFS_FirearmsOnChurchProperty_NADENG.pdf

Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary Releases Hybrid MDiv Degree Option

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The Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary on the campus of Andrews University has released a new hybrid Master of Divinity (MDiv) course delivery option. The hybrid MDiv makes the degree more accessible to students by allowing them to earn up to 50% of their required credits off-campus.

Previously, MDiv students were required to spend two to three years on campus to complete their program. Now, with the hybrid MDiv course delivery option, students can decrease their residency time by up to 50% by utilizing online courses, intensive courses taught on-campus, and the Master of Pastoral Ministry courses offered in various unions.  The remaining required credits can be earned on-campus through intensives and full semester courses.

“The hybrid MDiv is an exciting new opportunity,” said Fernando Ortiz, MDiv program director. “It allows busy professionals who are eager to start their Master of Divinity, but cannot immediately transition to the Seminary, to begin their program from home.  In addition, on-campus students who need to return to their conferences sooner than expected can complete their degree remotely. It opens up a world of options for students, pastors and conference administrators.”

To learn more about the hybrid MDiv or to enroll in the program, email mdiv@andrews.edu or visit www.andrews.edu/mdiv.

Core Qualities


   Core Qualities            Called to Ministry?           Formal Education          Internship          Continuing Education        Personal/Professional Growth

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The mission of the Ministerial department of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in North America is to empower the ministerial community in leading churches to reach their world for Christ with hope & wholeness. Pastors who are the most effective in this mission are proficient in identifiable core qualities of ministry.  These qualities serve as benchmarks for professional growth from the initial call, through undergraduate and Master of Divinity education, internship and continuing education. 

Core Qualities of the Pastor There are two days in a congregation where pastors can make everyone happy. For some, it is the day we arrive, for others it is the day we leave.

The Pastor of Our Dreams

How to Know if You're Called


   Core Qualities            Called to Ministry?           Formal Education          Internship          Continuing Education        Personal/Professional Growth


Have you ever wondered if you may be called to serve as a full time professional pastor? If so, how would you know? And how do you distinguish the call to full time professional ministry from other equally important callings?
God calls everyone to ministry. When you become a believer, you are called into ministry. Peter writes “10 Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others, as faithful stewards of God’s grace in its various forms (1 Peter 4:10).
Paul, in his letter to the church in Corinth, gives an extensive listing of the spiritual gifts. “There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work. Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good (1 Corinthians 12:4-7).
All are called to serve in ministry, yet each calling is unique. Some of the spiritual gifts are given to individuals who serve the servants. These are the ‘equippers’ in the body of Christ. To the church in Ephesus Paul writes “So Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. (Ephesians 4:11).
In the Adventist denomination volunteers many times can fulfill the role of ‘equipper’. However, because of the depth of knowledge and experience needed for this role, many conferences find that a full time professional pastor can excel in this role. This unique role is not so much to be doing the tasks of the church, but rather equipping and enabling others to discover and live out their gifted roles in ministry. This is not a superior role but rather a supporting role, facilitating the entire discipleship process within the congregation.
For many years the job openings for full time pastoral ministry have been less than the number of students interested in the positions. Yet that may all be changing soon. The Adventist Church in North America is about to experience an increased need of pastors because 50% of the current pastors will be eligible for retirement in the next few years. Schools will need to double the number of graduates and conferences will need to double the number of hires in order to mitigate the anticipated loss.
Could that be a role that you are called to take on? If so, how would you know? Here are four suggested indicators that could validate your calling to full time professional ministry:
a.       Inner sense of calling from God
b.       Confirmation from others
c.       Professional Education
d.       Offer of employment from a conference
The journey to full time professional ministry takes at least ten years. This includes four years for an undergraduate degree in pastoral studies, three years for the Master of Divinity degree, and about four years of internship leading up to commissioning/ordination. This is a major time commitment. You may wish to have a strong validation of your calling as you journey down that path. Let me break that out into a suggested sequence of steps to ministry. Take the time to work through each step before moving on to the next one. If you move too quickly down the pathway without validation, you might find yourself someday with a Master of Divinity diploma hanging on your wall and a realization that your calling may to something other than full time pastoral ministry.   Here are some suggested sequential steps for validation:
1)       Pray for wisdom from God to lead and give you direction. A calling to serve eventually as a full time professional pastor must be generated in heaven. As you pray, study, meditate, and engage in your spiritual disciplines, ask God if He has wired you for this unique role. Listen to His voice, and watch for His leading in your life.
2)       Study the role of the pastor. It is difficult to know if you are called to professional ministry without understanding what exactly a pastor does on a day by day basis. One of the best ways to do this is to seek out a pastor and if you could shadow him or her for an extensive period of time. In your shadowing, be sure to get a complete picture by spending time in all aspects of ministry. Then reflect on the day to day work of the pastor. Is this something that gets your juices flowing? Or does your mind start to wander as you shadow the pastor.
3)       Volunteer in your local church. Find an area of ministry where your passion and spiritual gifts align with the needs of the community and let God work through You. Look especially for those opportunities to equip others, since this is the core gift of the pastor.
4)       Help lead out in a small group. In fact, if you find success in leading a small group it may be a predictor of your potential as a full time pastor. The gifts needed for a small group leader are essentially the same gifts needed to pastor.
5)       Seek out the advice of several godly individuals who know you well. Ask them to take the time to fill out a survey that helps compare your profile to that of pastors who excel. Ask them straight up ‘can you visualize me serving as a full time pastor some day?’ Listen carefully for the things that they see as natural for you as well as parts of the role of the pastor that they may see as difficult for you.
6)       Take a personality inventory such as the PXT to discover if your personality is within the norms of those who are most likely to excel in ministry. If you are far outside the norm it may be that you are wired for a different calling.
7)       Pursue professional education starting with undergrad and undergrad
8)       Continually use your spiritual gifts in a congregation as you are enrolled in formal education. Look for ways to integrate your coursework with practical experience in a congregation.
9)       Make your availability known to conference leadership. You will most likely be hired by a conference leader who already knows you.  Don’t wait until graduation to get to know conference leadership. Let them know where you are in your journey and what pastoral experiences you are currently engaged in.
I’ve been in full time professional ministry since 1978. Although the journey has meandered a lot of different directions I would not trade my ministry experience for any other career. I continue to be amazed as I get a front row seat watching God work his miracles in the lives of his people. As I write this final paragraph be assured that I am praying for you, that God will reveal His calling to you, whether it be a calling to serve as a volunteer in ministry or a full time professional pastor.


Formal Education



                     Core Qualities            Called to Ministry?          Formal Education          Internship          Continuing Education          Personal/Professional Growth


The mission of the Seventh-day Adventist Church can only find its fulfillment through the ministries practiced by local congregations. It is in these congregations that people hear and then proclaim the everlasting gospel of redemption found in Jesus Christ. It is here that members who are nurtured as disciples, look forward to our Savior’s soon return. This is God’s church and its members are God’s people--gifted for the purpose of doing ministry.
Among God’s people are those called specifically to pastoral ministry. Their response and commitment to ministry are encouraged and guided by the church. Included with their calling is an education process providing basic training necessary to meet the professional expectations for ministry. The church shall help them affirm their call as well as provide resources for the development of professional skills needed to perform ministry.

Preparing for serving as a professional pastor in the North American Division takes about ten years.  Candidates should plan on taking an undergraduate bachelor of arts in religion or theology, a Master of Divinity Degree, followed by an internship in a church setting leading up to ordination/commissioning. A lifetime of learning follows through continuing education.

Undergrad Options

Masters Options






                     Core Qualities            Called to Ministry?          Formal Education          Internship          Continuing Education          Personal/Professional Growth


With about half of Adventist clergy eligible for retirement within the next few years, the mentoring of new pastors through the internship program becomes increasingly important. A growing number of beginning pastors will need to connect with seasoned pastors who have mentoring expertise.

To raise the level of expertise in internship programs a representative group of conference ministerial directors gathered on June 7, 2017, at Walla Walla University, and shared their best practices of internship. Below are some of the ideas that were gleaned from this gathering that could serve to start building a standard template that other conferences could draw from. 

Time Period

The Ministerial Internship describes the time of employment in pastoral ministry between seminary and ordination/commissioning. It could also include the time spent employed in pastoral ministry between college and seminary. Internship is normally completed with ordination/commissioning after about five service credit years. The completion of MDiv qualifies as one year service credit.

The Intern

The intern should have a strong desire to learn, be a self-starter and willing to spend at least ten hours a week focused on learning activities. In addition, the intern will also be given ministry assignments that may not directly contribute to learning activities. 

The Mentor

The Mentor assists the intern in building up skill sets and experiences in preparation for ordination/commissioning. The mentor and the intern work together to identify and engage in ministry activities that will build up the portfolio of evidence of proficiencies as defined by the Core Qualities. It is ultimately the responsibility of the intern to manage the development of the portfolio.  If there are not enough learning activities to cover all the Core Qualities in the district, the mentor may work with the intern on occasional activities outside of the district. At least ten hours a week should be devoted to skill development. During an internship, the intern may be served by several mentors, some at the same time.

The Supervisor

While the intern is developing the skills for ministry, there is also an expectation that the intern is productive in ministry. The supervisor oversees the intern’s performance of ministry tasks in the church district. The role of the supervisor and the mentor are different. These two roles may or may not reside in the same person. The supervisor’s authority is positional and the intern is accountable to the supervisor. The supervisor is supportive of the intern devoting about ten hours a week in learning activities that may not necessarily contribute directly to the pastoral needs of the district.

The Congregation

Interns ideally are placed in a healthy congregation/district where members are patient, tolerant, supportive, and affirming. Members should have the ability to teach and acknowledge the authority of the intern supervisor. They are willing to invest in the future of the denomination knowing that the pastor is still in development and may not yet be as productive as a seasoned pastor.

The Core Qualities ‘Check off List’ for ordination/commissioning

The goal of the internship is for the intern to develop the skills/attributes of ministry as outlined in the Core Qualities. Each of the seven core qualities has several descriptors that serve as a definition. Each of the descriptors have an Intern Learning Outcome that serve as the ‘check off list’ for each attribute of ministry. An Intern Learning Outcome consists of an attribute (what is the skill), context (where the ministry will take place), criteria (the quality at which the task is performed).

The Learning Cycle

1)    The Intern and the Mentor first select an Intern Learning Outcome and then create learning activities where the intern can develop the skill set.

2)    The mentor either demonstrates the core skill or directs the intern to someone else who can demonstrate the core skill. The intern observes and then the intern and the mentor discuss what they saw.

3)    With the support of the mentor, the intern practices the core skill set. The mentor observes and then the mentor and intern discuss what they saw and did.

4)    The intern continues to practice the core skill set on his/her own until the mentor can show evidence that the intern has performed the task at the level of quality called for by the Intern Learning Outcomes. The intern and mentor post the evidence into the intern’s portfolio. Evidence could consist of documents, videos, or a description by the mentor of the achieved performance by the intern.

The Weekly Meeting

Ideally the mentor and the intern meet for at least an hour every week. During that time, they will review the previous week’s learning activities. What went well? What could be done better? What might be tried next time? Or is it ready to post to the portfolio? Next, the intern and mentor create the next learning activities, and the learning cycle continues.

Readiness for Ordination/Commissioning

1)      When an intern has reached the proficiency standards for ordination as outlined in in the Core Qualities of Ministry, the local conference administration will arrange for a preliminary interview with the prospective candidate and his/her ministry. In the interview, the candidate will provide evidence of readiness for ordination/commissioning through the ministry portfolio. If the conference ordination/commission committee is persuaded that the intern has provided sufficient evidence for readiness for ministry, the committee will recommend the name of the candidate to the local conference executive committee.  

2)      If approved, the conference executive committee will recommend the candidate and supply evidence for readiness for ordination/commissioning as outlined in the Core Qualities to the union committee.

3)      The union committee will evaluate the candidate by the Core Quality evidence supplied by the conference. If the evidence is sufficient, the union committee will approve of the ordination/commissioning.

4)      The conference will schedule and perform the ordination/commissioning service.





Making an Annual Church Calendar


The Bible says, “For God is not a God of confusion but of peace” (1 Corinthians 14:33). Too many churches approach ministry with a fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants mentality. Instead of carefully making plans for outreach and church life they coast along hoping something good will happen by accident, dumb luck, or God simply taking pity on their depressing lack of effort. I have found that it isn’t only local churches that struggle with this, but schools and occasionally conference departments too. A lack of planning creates an undercurrent of stress that saps energy and fun out of serving Jesus. While planning is hard work,  it prevents even harder work in the long run.

Several years ago, our church rented to a Methodist congregation and I was blessed to form a friendship with their pastors. One of their practices was to gather ministry leaders together once a year for a “war room” session. In this meeting they plotted out the entire year—from social events to sermon series. I have since adapted this concept to my ministry and have found it to be a huge help for both our church and school. While it takes creative energy and time the process isn’t hard to implement.

The first task is to pick an annual date for war room (or whatever name you like better) and make it permanent. Ours is the first Sunday of November. In the lead up to the meeting, pastoral/elder staff should be roughly sketching what sermon ideas/series/concepts they intend to preach. Other leaders should be notified of the upcoming meeting and asked to plan what special event their ministries intend to participate in and on what date. The congregation should be notified with a bulletin insert asking members if they know of any special events they plan on being involved with or that they think the church should host. The various events and outreaches should have dates attached to them and be sent to the secretary or pastoral staff.

Prior to the final planning session, a rough draft calendar should be created and emailed to all board members/ministry leaders. The pastor should be mindful of school, conference, and academy calendars as well to avoid conflicts. This calendar should have the sermon title, speaker, and text for each Sabbath, as well as times for church outreach/social events. Encourage people to make corrections and notes on the calendar and bring them to the meeting.

During the actual meeting food may be served while leaders go through each month, with the pastor chairing, finalizing events. Once everything is written out the information can be handed to a secretary to draft or, and this is recommended, given to someone in the church with graphic arts skills. The goal is to produce, on card stock, a document that has one side with the church logo/motto and all the Sabbaths with their corresponding sermons/speakers. On the other side a calendar of events should be displayed with pastoral/elder contact information underneath. Once completed, it should be made available to people in the lobby—ideally by January. This helps reduce communication, create an overarching flow with church events and sermons, and reduces a lot of stress as everyone knows what’s going on.

Seth Pierce is the lead pastor for the Puyallup church in Washington

Securing Your Church


Pastors and ministry leaders are often the first to arrive at church on Sabbath morning. You unlock the doors, turn on the lights and equipment, and prepare to greet members as they arrive. Often the same people close the doors, shut off the lights, and lock-up the building until the next scheduled program.

As a pastor, you are probably quite familiar with this process and have become accustomed to opening and closing the church every week. Each time you lock the church doors, someone may be lurking in the shadows, watching and waiting for an opportunity to sneak in. Sometimes, they succeed and you are left with a theft and stolen or broken equipment.


The claims department at Adventist Risk Management, Inc. (ARM) receives a variety of theft and burglary claims each month. Is the answer armed security or simply improving lock up procedures?

Before hiring armed security, there are five questions you must ask yourself:

1.     Have you consulted with local conference leadership and the conference attorney to review the gun use laws in your jurisdiction?

2.     Does your conference have an established policy that no firearms will be allowed on conference-owned property? Your church is considered private property. In many states, the property owner can establish their property as a weapons free zone. Some jurisdictions require specific announcements or postings.

3.     Does the individual who may be willing to provide armed security for the congregation have the proper license or concealed weapons permit and firearm liability insurance? State laws vary on gun licensing and whether a concealed weapon permit grants permission to the owner to have a gun in a house of worship.

4.     What level of training in firearm use does the individual have and do they have law enforcement experience in the use of deadly force in a public assembly area?

5.     Is the armed security service provided by a licensed and bonded security company? Be sure the person has insurance or be willing to purchase such insurance for the church.

If you decide to move forward with hiring armed security, work together with your conference to make sure your ministry has the correct insurance coverage, chooses from a professional security provider, and follows the procedures for keeping both members and visitors safe. It is important to note that most church organizations insurance coverage does not provide protection from liability arising from the use of firearms. Please work with your conference and ARM for needed insurance.


ARM has created a check list to use each time you lock-up after each event. These steps will help further secure your church building.

Step 1: Check the exterior of the building

Begin by walking around the perimeter of the building and lock all doors, windows, and gates. If there are other buildings such as a gym, fellowship hall, or a storage shed be sure to securely lock all windows and doors for these buildings as well. As you conduct your perimeter check, look for and pick up any trash, personal items, or non-secured items.

Step 2: Sweep and secure the inside

Take time entering each room, and making sure they are empty before locking windows and doors, and shutting off lights. Collect any misplaced personal items for your lost and found containers. Check each stall in the bathrooms and make sure faucets are completely turned off before locking doors. All electronic equipment should be shut down and put away in its corresponding storage area. If there is no specific storage area for your equipment, lock equipment in an interior, windowless room.

Step 3: Set your security system

Once you have secured the exterior and interior of your facilities, it’s time to activate the security system. Some alarm systems will alert you on a digital screen if a door or window is unlocked or open. Check to make sure your system does not detect any unlocked entrances. Then set the security system and exit the premises in the appropriate time.


Besides a security alarm, there are various other security systems and steps available for installation to better protect your facilities and your church members. These include:

·      Security lighting around the facilities’ perimeters and in the parking lot.

·      Motion sensor lights in hallways, near entrances, and by the perimeter security lighting.

·      Security cameras

Taking the extra time to install these security systems and work together with your conference can save your ministry from avoidable incidents. Combining security systems and a thorough, regularly conducted lock-up process, you can rest easy knowing that your church is better protected.

For more information on church safety, visit AdventistRisk.org/Prevention-Resources.

Elizabeth Camps is a writer and public relations specialist for Adventist Risk Management