During the morning session of the LEAD Conference, Galina Stele, Research and Evaluation Manager at the General Conference Office of Archives, Statistics, and Research, encourages attendees to stretch after sitting for a long period of time. [Photo credit: Lucas Cardino / Adventist Media Exchange (CC BY 4.0)]
United States | ANN Staff

On October 5, 2023, the first day of Annual Council 2023 kicked off at the world headquarters of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in Silver Spring, Maryland. 

Driving the news: Executive Committee members and invitees from around the world gathered to attend the LEAD Conference, an annual event that focuses on leadership training, education, and development for fulfilling the mission of the World Church. The conference is held every year at the beginning of Annual Council.

  • The conference, which was themed “Mission Refocus: Disciple Making,” comes as the TMI (Total Member Involvement) initiative continues to help local churches and conferences develop new ways of reaching their communities.
  • Erton Köhler, the General Conference (GC) executive secretary, told attendees at the beginning of the morning session that the conference’s main focus was on “disciple-making and reclaiming.” 
  • Köhler further emphasized that the day’s focus was mission, and that disciple-making is a part of that.

Context: Disciple-making is the process of nurturing new church members. Without a plan to “make disciples,” new members often leave the Adventist faith or remain “spiritually weak.” 

Why it matters: Between 1965 and 2021, over 42 million people have left the Adventist church. “Our net loss rate is 42 percent. Four out of every ten church members slip away,” reported David Trim, director of the GC Office of Archives, Statistics, and Research.

  • According to Trim, there is a problem with maintaining the active involvement of church members. He said members need to be guided in becoming active disciples—which would assist in stemming the tide of membership loss.
  • “Disciples need to be actively involved in the mission of the Seventh-day Adventist Church,” Trim said. “Disciples [also] need to be actively involved in the community of disciples,” he continued.
Samuel Neves, GC Communication associate director, leads a breakout session on using technology in discipleship. [Photo credit: Lucas Cardino / Adventist Media Exchange (CC BY 4.0)]

Samuel Neves, GC Communication associate director, leads a breakout session on using technology in discipleship. [Photo credit: Lucas Cardino / Adventist Media Exchange (CC BY 4.0)]

Details: Over 20 presenters trained committee members on multiple initiatives, and reviewed case studies on the implementation of those initiatives within local regions across the globe. The topics included: the power of the invitation, small groups, and helping new members get involved. Additionally, 17 additional breakout seminars on various topics were available to attend in the afternoon.

Other new initiatives, such as the redemptive membership review policy instituted during the 2022 GC Session, were reviewed. Gerson Santos, GC associate secretary, emphasized that the membership reviews were not “membership audits,” but rather, a better way to ensure that members remain spiritually nourished.

  • A new website for LEAD Conference materials was introduced during the evening session. The website will house recordings and materials from all the breakout sessions during the LEAD Conference. “The purpose of this website is to give you some resources on disciple-making, reclaiming, and membership [reviews],” Santos said. The website can be found at: www.adventistdisciples.org.

Go deeper: Visit the new website (www.adventistdisciples.org) or read the full LEAD Conference article here.

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