In Northern Nigeria, over 380 Adventist pastors, pioneers, and their spouses gathered at Jengre, Plateau State, Nigeria, for a ministerial retreat with the theme "Called to serve.”
From April 12–16, 2023, participants drawn from the three local conferences in Northern Nigeria Union Conference had amazing interactions and thought-provoking lectures and devotional messages, which re-echoed the uniqueness of their call as Gospel ministers.
The ministerial retreat provided an avenue to speak clearly and openly to the ministers and their wives to hold fast the fundamentals of their lifetime call for the salvation of souls.
Pastor Yohanna Harry, president of the Northern Nigeria Union Conference, said, “The pastoral family retreat is intentionally planned to enable us [to] check ourselves and reexamine our calling as pastors and pastors’ wives.”
Pastor Harry added, "We are living by our calling; therefore, we need some overhauling in our daily pastoral activities. We are gathered here in the name of Jesus. He will surely equip us for this noble job. No going back; forward, we move until we see King Jesus face to face.”
Pastor (Dr.) Iliya Kwarbai, Ministerial secretary for the union, under whose department the retreat was organized, said it was necessary at this age of ethical uncertainty to reexamine and refocus the ministers of the everlasting Gospel and their families for effective pastoral ministry in northern Nigeria.
Topical issues discussed at the ministerial summit included, pastors' spiritual formation, clergy sexual abuse, biblical responsibilities of wives and husbands in marriage, and the pastor and the multi-church district.
Other topics included: living before God: the pastor and ethics; the pastor and soul winning; understanding your community; the pastor and little things; the 21st-century pastor; church growth; and planning for retirement.
In his presentation entitled “The Challenges of Pastoral Family in the 21st Century,” Pastor Haruna Bindas, former vice president of the West-Central Africa Division, now retired, noted the challenges of pastoral families in the 21st century, such as dealing with criticism, time management, physical and mental issues, emotional fatigue, communication failure, the “fix-it” syndrome, financial struggles, unfilled expectations, changing in family values, infidelity and promiscuity, child rearing and training, rising cases of divorce among clergy, infiltration of foreign culture and urbanization, and frequent transfers, among others.
Pastor Bindas, however, appealed to ministers and their spouses to be intentional in addressing issues capable of truncating their physical, mental, and spiritual lives, which, by extension, could impede the progress of the Gospel in northern Nigeria.
Speaking directly to the pastors’ wives, Nimonte Dorcas Donkor, Shepherdess coordinator for the West-Central Africa Division, maintained that “no woman serving next to a minister is called to serve the church [to the point of] neglecting her husband and their children. As a wife and mother, your primary ministry is at home, where you seek to help and bless your husband and nurture your children.”
Donkor noted that children of the pastoral family are always under scrutiny of not only the congregation but also the community and the neighborhood. They are always on display because of the public role their parents play.
Pastoral ministry, which involves caring for God’s people and walking alongside them in their Christian formation, is a team ministry requiring collective efforts for sustainability and empirical growth.
Other speakers, including Pastor Theodore Dickson, head of the Department of Religious Studies for Babcock University, underscored the need for Gospel ministers and their wives to learn from one another, walk closely with the Lord, do ministry individually and collectively, live life together, and honor God's calling upon their lives.
Such virtues, according to them, were critical to achieving sustainable growth in pastoral ministry in northern Nigeria.
The speakers affirmed that a Gospel minister occupies a unique role among all vocations, stressing that no vocation is as ethically demanding as the pastoral ministry is. Hence, a Gospel minister is expected to model morality.
What more can be said? “He has shown you, O man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8, NKJV).