In a delegation headed by British Union Conference president Eglan Brooks, the presidents of the three British Union missions — Ireland, Scotland, and Wales — joined recently elected conference presidents in the North American Division (NAD) for training sessions. They met at the regional headquarters in Columbia, Maryland, near Washington D.C.
The purpose of the training was specifically to introduce the role, function, and expectations of serving as president of a constituency. The three days of presentations, which took place during the last week of November, included examining governance and financial models and learning about the working of committees and relationships at every level of the church.
“Just as you don’t just place a doctor of a hospital at the top to run a hospital, you don’t just pick a pastor from within a conference and make him president,” Trans-European Division president Daniel Duda said, commenting on the importance of training and differentiating roles.
What follows is a summary of some of the ideas and concepts shared during the training.
Looking for Noisy Presidents
God is looking for noisy presidents. This was the application given to the Bible story of four friends who carried their paralytic friend onto a roof, so they could let him down to Jesus. Church presidents need to be with Jesus, and the noise they make needs to attract others to Jesus.
Another aspect of the story of the paralytic was that at some point he had to ask for help. It is a question not only for presidents but for every leader. How do you ask for help? Presidents know that they have a team of leaders who collaborate with them, and of whom they are “the first among equals,” but colleagues and fellow leaders are there to provide help and answers, facilitators said.
Doing What Is Right
In a lengthy statement of purpose to the new presidents gathered, Brooks laid down the hallmark of what he expects from presidents.
“We cannot continue to lead the church as we have done in the past,” Brooks said. “If we are to survive the uncertainty of the future, the leadership in our union, conferences, and missions, must be Spirit-led in dealing with our officers, directors and associates, colleagues, and not least our faithful members.
“We need to value the relationships that we forge with each other as Christians, and we need to do more than what is spiritually right. We must do what is morally, ethically, and legally right.”
Crisis Communication and People
As part of the training, the presidents also looked at crisis communication. Since it’s inevitable that something will happen that could put the mission or conference in crisis, the delegation learned about the communication process in such a situation. Reflecting on the recent global pandemic, Irish Mission president Dan Serb reminded the group of the need to be prepared: “COVID-19 has proved that crises can occur at any time and leaders need to be well equipped in managing the unexpected.”
Following proper process is important, while keeping in mind we are always dealing with people. Leadership also means prioritizing and choosing our battles. “It is the responsibility of the leader to ensure that mission remains central and is not hijacked by artificially created crises and worldly agendas,” Serb said.
Reflecting on the Training
Welsh Mission president Graham Allcock reflected on the training experience.
“I have been so blessed to be able to attend the NAD new presidents’ orientation. Two and a half days of meetings have enabled us to better understand our role and responsibilities. Meeting other presidents and hearing their experiences gave credibility and potency to the various presentations. An air of camaraderie, respect, and inclusion was palpable throughout our time together.”
Scottish Mission president James Botha noted, “We all know that the different officers in church have different roles to fulfil. And although I have worked within church structures for many years, you do not just pick up what needs to be done by simply observing another individual, from a different perspective. For me, one year on since I began my tenure as president, the time spent with these individuals was invaluable. I know that the content covered in this short time is going to make my work more efficient.”