With the Seventh-day Adventist Church’s 61st General Conference (GC) Session just less than four weeks away, GC administration is ramping up communications and finalizing details in time for the official launch on June 6, 2022. Specifically, the GC Communication Department is focused on ensuring this first-ever hybrid Session—held locally in St. Louis, Missouri, as well as online—is accessible for Adventists across the globe.
ANN recently sat down with the GC Communications team to explore their approach to circulating information during Session this year, and to clarify the best ways to access news and stay up to date with what’s happening.
FOUR LANGUAGES—MORE COMPLEX COMMUNICATIONS THAN EVER BEFORE
“This will be the most complex operation in communications of any GC Session before,” explains GC Communication director Williams Costa Jr. “This is the first truly digital GC Session. We’ve had social media in the past, but people didn’t expect the same first-hand experience like they do now. Now, it’s digital first. We want people to feel a part of this global movement, even if they can’t come to St. Louis in person.”
To ensure that as many people as possible can access the daily business sessions and other programs, the GC is producing all Session content in four languages: English, French, Spanish, and Portuguese. Certain programs will also be available in Russian as well as in sign language.
“The GC has taken the responsibility of providing the ‘face of the church’ in the languages that span multiple divisions,” explains Costa Jr. “In the past, the GC only communicated through its Divisions, and the Divisions would then choose what they shared with local members through print, radio and television. Google disrupted that. Now when people search for Adventist content, they find our global channels first, and then the local channels. This means we need to put our best foot forward. We are the window of Adventism to the world.”
OFFICIAL CHURCH PLATFORMS—WHERE TO ACCESS CONTENT
“We have consolidated all GC Communications through the official Seventh-day Adventist Church channels on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube. ANN also has its own Twitter account. ” explains GC Associate Communications director Sam Neves.
To make this process possible, the Communication Department has approximately 50 people working from across the globe—writers, designers, videographers, and management staff.
“Coordinating this process is a monumental task,” explains Neves. “We want to represent the Church in the best way possible. We are also blessed to have the Adventist Review Ministries running a seperate team of experienced communicators covering every aspect of GC Session. They have been doing this from the first GC Session over 150 years ago.”
THREE SESSION NEWS BULLETINS—AVAILABLE VIA OFFICIAL CHANNELS
The Communications Department is also producing three separate news programs for the duration of the Session. These are: “ANN Daily”, “Ann In-Depth” and “ANN Late Night-ish”.
ANN Daily is a full 30-minute news program, which will begin on Sunday evening and continue until Friday. This will inform attendees of the events of each day, and act as a great video record for the future. “If in 20 years you wanted to know what Session was about, these videos would give you a phenomenal overview,” says Costa Jr.
“ANN In-Depth is our podcast, and as the name suggests it goes deeper into different topics,'' adds Jennifer Stymiest, an assistant director for GC Communications and editor of ANN. “The program includes a lot of interviews with people who are experts in their fields. We will have a program on Sunday night for two hours to open Session, welcome everyone to St. Louis and outline what Session is—how it works and why it’s important.”
ANN In-Depth will be broadcast live at 12:30pm and 6:30pm local time from Monday to Thursday during Session. Each episode will be about half an hour.
“We also have ANN Late Night-ish, which as the name suggests, is a little bit more light-hearted and fun,” says Stymiest. “Kenia Reyes and Mwenya Mpundu from the GC Youth Department are our hosts and the content will focus on young adults. They will have a lot of fun interviews and videos from around the GC Session.”
All three news programs will be available via the official Church channels, and ANN In-Depth will also be available on Spotify and iTunes. All video content produced in English will be subtitled in 4 languages.
LIVE BROADCAST—CAPTURING ALL OF SESSION
In addition to daily news bulletins, regular news and social media content, GC Communication is broadcasting the entire event live on stage.
“From the moment the floor opens, everything on stage will be broadcast live through the official world church channels on YouTube in English, French, Spanish, Portuguese, and also in Russian (facilitated by the Euro-Asia Division). Hope Channel for the Deaf will also be broadcasting,” explains Daniel Bogdanov, GC web manager.
DIGITAL PASTORAL CARE—TRANSPARENCY AND VULNERABILITY
A priority in the communications plan for Session is to provide online pastoral care to Adventist church members by creating inspirational and educational content for social media, as well as engaging a team to actively engage with prayer requests posted to social platforms.
“We want our members to grow in faith, as well as understand and fall in love with the Church they belong to,” says GC Digital Evangelism manager Alyssa Truman. “We also want to create content that’s attractive and that people can easily share with their friends.”
Being a global church event, Truman says that Session is the perfect opportunity to foster a greater understanding of the global Adventist Church structure and provide education and transparency about how it operates.
One aspect of transparency is providing historical and global context around the Adventist Church and its development. “During Session, we hope to create content that helps us to see that again clearly—that we are not just a local congregation, but a global church family,” explains Truman.
In addition to creating content, a team of Adventist prayer warriors will be engaging with prayer requests and comments that reach world Church channels 24 hours a day.
“You can write a personal message to an official Church page, or comment on a post, and someone will answer it. And it’s not a chat bot. It’s an actual person, because we believe people matter,” says Truman. “The power of our church is in our pews, not only behind our pulpits. The best thing we can do is equip them with content and opportunities to engage in spiritual conversations and share their faith. That’s what we’re here to do.”
CHALLENGES—PROVIDING CONTEXT IN THE DIGITAL AGE
Speaking about the biggest challenge of communicating with more than 21 million Adventists at an event like GC Session, Neves says that providing context is always difficult.
“We’ve got 200 characters. Or we’ve got 800 words in an article. Let’s say you’re scrolling Instagram and see a picture of Session. What you’re seeing is very complex, but we need to condense and simplify it somehow. How do we provide the context necessary without knowing the person’s background? Providing meaning and context - that’s the real challenge,” he says.
With one business session happening each morning, one in the afternoon, and another in the evening, Neves says that condensing that into a 6-minute recap is not only a challenge, but fine art.
“Anyone can fill 6 minutes of content, that’s easy. But we’re not going for easy. This requires a tremendous amount of concentration, and a full understanding of context,” he says. “We don’t want anyone to misunderstand what’s happening.”
Over the course of Session, the Communication Department estimates that its employees and independent contractors will publish more than 4000 posts across all languages and platforms. They will operate through two teams. The first team will be based in St Louis and will count with 45 professionals. The second team will consist of 23 professionals who will be living on the campus of the North Philippines Union for the duration of Session.
“This year, it’s a condensed session. We only have four days of business. On Friday morning is already Sabbath in Asia and this is a hybrid Session. We don’t want people to miss out on business discussions because it’s Sabbath where they are, so both Friday and Sabbath will be considered Sabbath. This means a very packed schedule, we must be really on top of things,” Neves continues.
SUMMARY—WHERE TO FIND OUT MORE
To read an overview of what to expect at this year’s Session, including more information about the Virtual Exhibition Hall, visit GCSession.org. You can also visit ANN and Adventist Review for news and insights.
To stay up to date with all GC Communications leading up to Session, make sure you’re following the official Adventist World Church Channels in your language as listed below. As you post your own thoughts about Session, please use #GCSession.
Adventist World Church Channels
Twitter (ANN): https://twitter.com/adventistnews