H undreds of Seventh-day Adventist leaders from across all levels of the church throughout the Inter-American Division were called on to continue rising to serve faithfully and effectively, as the 4th Annual Segment Leadership Development (SeLD) Conference concluded Thursday, July 9.
Nearly 3,000 administrators, department directors, institutional leaders, church pastors and elders connected via the Zoom video platform in what became a historic online leadership training event meant to empower leaders to sharpen their decision-making skills as they oversee church organizations focused on the mission amid the pandemic crisis and beyond.
“We have a lot to worry about these days for our [IAD] institutions, our members, our churches, and our church organizations, but we have a mission to fulfill,” said Pastor Elie Henry, president of the church in Inter-America. “We may be worried as to how we can find the means, the strength, or the health to advance and move forward at this time, but we have been reminded to rely on God for He has called us to accomplish the task.”
Trust in God
Just as the Adventist world church launched its strategic plan coined as I Will Go this week, Pastor Henry encouraged church leaders to align their leadership efforts with the mission plan as they engage employees and church members in the task of preaching, teaching and serving the community across Inter-America.
“Go with the assurance that God is with you wherever you go,” he said. “Trust in God, be strong, be of good courage and do not fear.
Pastor Henry challenged the leadership to utilize the training, skills and knowledge they received during this year’s SeLD training conference, share it with those they manage and oversee, relying on the narrative found throughout the bible sharing the gospel everywhere they can. “Wherever God places us, is where we can do something extraordinary for Him.”
The four-day training event was themed “Leadership in Unusual Times,” and focused on assisting leaders to reassess their emergency responses, empower leadership responses to members and community in times of difficulties, accelerate decision-making for addressing challenges within the organization, and provide a forum for leaders to network on disaster challenges within the organization, organizers said.
Leadership in uncertain times
“There’s always a need for the enhancement of our leaders’ competencies and it was important for this conference to provide opportunities and avenues for each participant to be so equipped amid the realities of COVID-19,” said Pastor Balvin Braham, assistant to the IAD president in charge of leadership training and the main organizer of the conference.
The intention of the program was for leaders to glean information from experienced leaders who have managed crisis in uncertain times and could share their experience, vision, and collaborative efforts to achieve more in the mission, explained Braham. “It was essential to expose IAD leaders to experts that could give guidance in the areas of crisis leadership.”
Earlier, Day 4 of the SeLD Conference saw leaders being reminded to keep the team they lead united and engaged wholeheartedly in the mission of the church.
“Develop love and integrity, faithfulness and consecration as leaders united to face any challenge or any emergency that we will have in the future,” said Pastor Billy Biaggi, vice president of the Adventist world church. “Be watchful, prepared and keep on serving in the midst of any emergency or crisis.”
Delbert Baker, president of the Adventist University in Kenya, Africa, provided practical and effective leadership skills on bible principles especially in difficult times.
Progressive bible leaders
Baker encouraged delegates to become progressive bible leaders, which he described as “exceptional people who look beyond their immediate life, leadership and workplace challenges and envision greater possibilities, using godly principles to continuously self-develop, take initiative and advance the mission for God, others, and the higher good.”
“Base your actions on the bible and the Spirit of Prophecy,” said Baker. He told leaders to operate with calm, grace and strength, and show love and compassion while nurturing piety, poise and purpose in their team members.
“Be aware and in tune with the times in which we are living. Model distinctive biblical leadership traits, and move to action with God’s mission before us,” Baker said.
Administrators and leaders at every level of the church were called on to embrace head-on the opportunities, tools and media most effective today, especially during the pandemic which has caused so much disruption.
Navigating in the virtual world
“We must navigate in this virtual world we have been forced to delve into so that we can survive,” said Abel Márquez, communication director for the church in Inter-America. “The access to the physical world as we know it is closed. Take a look around you. Malls are closed, entire buildings and offices are closed. We have had to enter this new virtual world, which is our new normal.”
Márquez told leaders to think outside the cultural and traditional ways of reaching the masses, and focus on connecting with the hypermodernism culture prevalent today.
“Large companies sell their products, but we have a message that is free to everyone. Become the digital leaders reaching millions on social media platforms,” he challenged. Márquez encouraged church administrators to invest in technical equipment to better reach those online, and support Adventist young people or Adventist influencers who are engaged in sharing the gospel online to hundreds and even thousands of their peers. “We need to be more practical, take risks and learn the to speak the ‘virtual’ language to be more effective as church leaders.”
For Ana Lorena Mora, academic vice president at the Central American Adventist University in Costa Rica, the SeLD conference, helped her be more motivated to collaborate closer with her co-workers and employees who work in institutions. “I learned to see myself as a mentor, to be a better leader responsible for a more positive influence with colleagues as well as seeking out to help shape others in the mission,” said Mora. “Spending more time in communion with Jesus and following Him as the leader is what I focus on.”
Pastor Leslie Butcher of the Tobago Mission said the SeLD conference gave him the confidence, knowledge and reassurance to face the ongoing pandemic through the various presentations and seminars he attended. “I feel I have new skills to implement and help the congregation move forward no matter what the crisis brings,” said Butcher.
Health Ministries Director of the South Bahamas Conference Nathelyn LaCroix said she was committing to do more team work and to collaborate more with other teams. “One of the main takes from the entire conference has been the need to lead as Jesus led,” she said. “In order to do that, we need to have a connection with Jesus, a prayer line open on a daily basis.”
Cutting edge leadership
SeLD training is not an event, or a program but about cutting edge leadership training that connects with people, with stakeholders, with constituency, moving people in one direction to fulfill the mission, said Braham.
“This is about a journey we are all on to the kingdom and we are inviting all the leaders to see themselves to be empowered to be effective kingdom builders, and in the process kingdom business,” Braham said.
All registered delegates at this year’s SeLD conference will be certified with 20 hours of continuing leadership education, said Braham.
SeLD participants this year prayed together, attended general sessions and dozens of seminars on effective pastoral leadership, boosting leadership performance, succession planning, financial management, dealing with critical issues and more.
To read about this year’s SeLD Conference coverage, visit us at interamerica.org
To find SeLD Conference’s program schedule details and resources, go to seld.interamerica.org