One of the more difficult moments in a church leader’s life is
when no invitation is extended to return to work.
With elections looming at the General Conference session in
July, world church administrators got busy this week preparing the 338 church
leaders attending the Annual Council, a major yearly business meeting, for the
reality that their days in office might be numbered.
“We are called to serve and minister and not to an office or
a position,” General Conference vice president Pardon Mwansa said in a Friday
devotional talk titled “The Nominating Committee Decided to Make a Change.”
Invoking lessons from Old Testament characters Daniel and
Samuel, Mwansa said that a person elected to office had inevitably replaced someone else,
and that the change would also happen to those attending the Annual Council.
At a conference later in the morning, church officials from
various parts of the world offered case studies on how to prepare for a change
in leadership or, in some situations, how to make a needed change at an
administrative office within a church territory. Several delegates said a change
in leadership could help the church and send a signal to the person assigned to
“Change brings innovation. Change ensures that we keep
focused, and we might step back if we do not change,” said Maria Fraser, a lay
member from the Southern Africa Union Conference. “There will be weaknesses in
everyone, but the secret is for the team to synergize all their attributes and
energies so that we can have the best for the church.”
Don Livesay, president of the Lake Union Conference in the
North American Division, urged his colleagues in the room to subject themselves
to periodic evaluations.
“We as administrators typically would rather have a root
canal than be evaluated. Therefore, we don’t know where we’re hitting it right
and missing it wrong,” Livesay said.
He also called for evaluations to be formalized throughout
the church, saying the move would enhance accountability and balance in an
administrator’s leadership and personal life.
General Conference Executive Secretary G. T. Ng implored the
338 delegates, who include officers of the church’s 13 divisions and presidents
of each of the 132 unions, to view their jobs as a matter of stewardship.
“If you are elected to the same position, then you will
become a steward of that new position,” he said.
Ng suggested that delegates imitate his custom of bringing a
moving box into the office at the end of each term and thanking administrative
assistants for the time they have worked together.
Injecting some humor into the discussion, Ng passed out miniature
moving boxes to the delegates to remind them to follow his lead. As the
delegates lined up to receive boxes, an organist played the hymn, “It Is Well With
My Soul.” Ng noted with a laugh that this was a better hymn to embrace during
election season than traditional favorites such as “I Shall Not Be Moved” or
“I’m Pressing on the Upward Way.”