2019 Nurture and Retention Summit – Report

2019 NURTURE AND RETENTION SUMMIT – RECOMMENDATIONS

We have been called by Christ to fulfill the Great Commission to make not merely members but disciples. With this goal in view, local churches should aim to create a warm and caring environment for spiritual growth in which youth, adults, and visitors feel loved and supported. All ministries of the church must be united together in the mission of making mature and faithful disciples. A healthy church develops a nurture plan with respect to the cultural context. This plan includes equipping every member to be active and personally involved in disciple making using his or her talents and spiritual gifts. Plans for nurturing and training disciples may also include networks and small groups that provide opportunities for members to grow in Christ, serve people, and express their faith through various skills and interests. 

Recommendations for the Local Church 

            1.         Implement a systematic process of discipleship with clear and practical steps:

                        a.         Prepare new Adventist believers before baptism and integrate them into church life: train new Adventist believers through baptismal classes and Bible studies; involve them in church life through small groups, Pathfinder, youth activities, prayer, social and other meetings; and recovery programs such as Inter-Generational Church of Refuge (iCOR), and other programs and ministries.

                        b.         Integrate new members into church life and ministries: invite new disciples to church events and programs outside of Sabbath worship; involve them in prayer, small groups, Pathfinder, youth activities, etc; recognize individual skills and spiritual gifts; help people find ways to express their faith through different services to the community and ministries in the church; and help each one become a part of a ministry team or small group.

                        c.         Develop spiritual habits: train and mentor members on how to develop spiritual habits including personal devotions, regular prayer life, personal Bible study and Sabbath School lessons, reading Ellen G White’s writings, faithful tithing, Sabbath School, and church worship attendance, etc.

                        d.         Foster growth in biblical & doctrinal understandings: conduct special series on Adventist doctrines, prophecy seminars; provide tools for personal Bible studies; and involve members in small groups and evangelistic events to deepen their biblical/doctrinal knowledge and witnessing skills, etc.

                        e.         Train and involve new converts in personal witnessing and mentoring others: train members in soul-winning and mentoring; involve them in different evangelistic initiatives; and provide practical tools to aid them in mentoring all new members, e.g., Discipleship Handbook or similar tools.

            2.         Create a warm and nurturing atmosphere in the congregation:

                        a.         Encourage members to be kind and welcoming, and to take an interest in others: train members how to demonstrate friendliness, acceptance, sensitivity, interest in visitors, and in conflict resolution; and set up a welcoming ministry with all ages involved, etc.

                        b.         Create small groups and train/equip elders, Sabbath School leaders, and church members in mutual nurture and care in small groups.

                        c.         Establish a culture of hospitality and member care: identify and assign gifted members and leaders to connect with visitors and include them in service projects based on their comfort level and interest; invite members to adopt a visitor, neighbor, or co-worker and regularly invite them into their homes for fellowship; have a visitation plan—each member/ family visited or met with once a year; ministry to homebound members, etc.

                        d.         Develop active social and prayer ministries: create a prayer list for church needs; have an active social calendar; etc.

                        e.         Move congregation toward being a missional community: build relationships with and provide services to the community outside the church; and create comfortable environments for members’ witnessing and services.

            3.         Develop and implement a strategy of reclaiming former and inactive members:

                        a.         Regular membership audit process and plan: develop and implement a system for the periodic review of the church membership list to identify those who may require transfer due to moving away, removal due to death, or redemptive ministry due to no longer attending or supporting the church, etc.

                        b.         Former and inactive member ministry plan: identify and assign gifted members and leaders to connect with former and inactive members by using a step-by-step process based on building strong relationships, implementing a visitation plan, and holding reclamation events such as music concerts, holiday programs, and reunion or homecoming day, etc.

            4.         Monitor and evaluate discipleship, nurture, and reclamation efforts:

                        a.         Utilize an assessment and planning tool to identify and develop key ministries. Assess the strength of your church’s ministry in each area listed in the above recommendations by using the provided sample or a similar instrument.

                        b.         Utilize an evaluation tool to periodically review disciple-making effectiveness. Beyond merely tracking baptisms and attendance, assess the effectiveness of your congregation’s discipleship plan by examining spiritual growth, especially of those recently baptized, and their involvement in different aspects of Christian life.

Recommendations for Administration (Already presented to and voted by the Summit)

            1.         The General Conference to have a dedicated Associate Secretary whose responsibilities are to monitor progress, especially achievement of goals in the area of nurture, retention, discipleship and reclamation; this Associate Secretary to be secretary of the General Conference Nurture and Retention Committee (ADCOM-S).

            2.         A new section to be added to the Church Manual on the following:

                        a.         Conducting periodic/annual membership audit from a redemptive/pastoral care perspective.

                        b.         The need for local churches to craft and implement a customized strategy to move the congregation towards being a missional community that builds relationships with one another and with the community in order to create comfortable environments wherein they can—through service—share their faith and their testimonies of God’s love and grace.

                        c.         Intentional mentoring of young people and newly baptized members.

                        d.         Training in conflict resolution and reconciliation to be implemented in the local church.

3.         Clarify the meaning of evangelism and discipleship in the Church Board section of the Church Manual.

4.         Add to the Sabbath School section of the Church Manual regarding the vital role of Sabbath School in discipleship.

5.         Each division to have an active discipleship plan, tailored to their local context and drawing on resources prepared by General Conference and division departments.

6.         Each union to actively encourage the adoption by their local churches of a clear strategy on how they are going to nurture and train their disciples and reclaim missing members.

7.         Seventh-day Adventist Church leaders and educational institution leaders to establish initiatives to increase the availability of Adventist education to children and youth, given the relationship between attendance at an Adventist school and retention of youth in the Church.

8.         Specific training in nurture, retention and discipling to be foundational of all ministerial and theological education programs.