Some Basic Principles of Organization

FEATURES: Some Basic Principles of Organization

"Entirely unique in the field of denominational organization are Seventh-day Adventists."

Secretary, General Conference Medical Department

Entirely unique in the field of denominational organization are Seventh-day Adventists. With an official administration com parable to that of other conservative Protestant bodies, we have developed auxiliary features of our organization that are Adventist in concept. Ultimate administrative authority in this organization reposes in the seven hundred thousand members round the world. Through the constituency, meeting in quadrennial session, this authority is vested in the General Conference president and his associate officers. Eleven vice-presidents act as administrative heads of our eleven divisions in the world field, and four vice-presidents based at the home office assist in the general administration of this General Conference. The General Conference treasurer and his associates, the secretary and his associates, complete the official group at the home office.

It is obvious that for realization of greatest effectiveness in the promotion of such a comprehensive, varied, and far-flung work as that maintained at home and abroad by Seventh-day Adventists, there would need to be well-planned integration of all resources and instrumentalities. The president and his associated officers, though concerned with direction of all phases of denominational effort, could not reasonably be expected to give a great degree of attention to all the various details and phases of our over-all program.

In an early period of our history the publishing, Sabbath school, and educational work developed to such interests and pro portions as to demand the attention of full- time promoters. As time passed and as the work expanded, these promoters, or secretaries, were provided with associates for the strengthening of their work. Other departments have from time to time been added. The Young People's, Medical, Home Missionary, Religious Liberty, and Radio departments are now important phases of our work, each with a secretary in charge and with one or more associates and assistants. These departmental men, though carrying heavy responsibility in the promotion of their particular phase of work, are not officers of the General Conference. Their role is not administrative but advisory; and their duties, beyond that of counseling, each in his line, are those concerned with the promotion, of the work each represents, in harmony with accepted policies and under the general direction of the officers of the General Conference.

DIVISION FIELD ORGANIZATION. Following this same outline of distribution of responsibility into the divisions of our world work, we are easily able to orient the status, responsibility, and limitation of the personnel of the staffs of our field organizations. Charged with the responsibility for the administration of the work in the di vision field, the vice-president has associated with him, as fellow officers, his secretary and his treasurer. For the effective promotion of this work there are again the various departmental secretaries to assume responsibility for specific interests. These men also, as in the General Conference office, have no administrative authority. They are promoters and advisers in their lines to the division officers, as well as to the various units within the division.

Except for the outstanding contribution of the leaders in our Sabbath school departments, in the development of this very important instrument, our Sabbath schools would doubtless now be little more effective than the Sunday schools of other denominational groups. Our educational institutions, except for our strong educators and their application of the instruction of the Spirit of prophecy, would now be well on the way to the status of many other denominational colleges and universities. The same could be said of our publishing work and other departments. The genius of this plan of delegating responsibility for promotion of specific phases of our worldwide work to departments in charge of personnel qualified in such lines is essentially Adventist.

PRINCIPLE APPLIED TO INSTITUTIONS. The man in sacred writ most widely reputed for his wisdom states on three occasions that "in a multitude of counselors there is safety." How much happier many people and some institutions would be if this principle were more generally observed! Reviewing these principles involved, and tracing the origins and distribution of responsibility, we find that ultimate authority resides in the world membership of the denomination, implemented through the constituency that delegates its authority to the officers of the General Conference. Obviously, the General Conference cannot of itself directly operate mission fields and institutions at a distance. It can, however, set up authorities in these areas to accomplish its purposes. These are our division organizations.

Again, these divisions, for greater effectiveness, delegate authority to union missions and conferences. The actual administration of an institution by a union or local mission or conference is accomplished by delegating, in turn, the necessary powers for the intended purpose to the principal of a school, the president of a college, the medical director of a sanitarium, or the manager of a publishing house. Generally there is appointed, by the same administrative unit, a board charged with the final responsibility for the interests of the institution. The administrative head in such cases answers to the board for the conduct of his institution's affairs. Institutional management may be accomplished in different ways by different people. The administration of a school or hospital will be, in a sense, a reflection of the personality and character of the administrators.

Generally speaking, the types of administration fall into two classes: one, the administration in which the institutional head holds every major responsibility in his own hands, assigning but the smallest spheres of duty to his associates, no matter how capable; the other, the administration in which responsibility is parceled out to associates just as far as consistency, common sense, and the best interests of the work in hand permit.

In the former case the administrator is usually a harried, overworked, unhappy individual, always behind in his work and unable to see why others do not work as hard as he does. The other staff members of such institutions are also understandably unhappy. They know little or nothing of institutional plans and objectives. They would be glad to share in the heavy duties, and relieve the director of his burdens in the phase of the work of their greatest interest, but their status is that of one who "just works there." The ultimate results for both the administrator and his charge are decidedly unsatisfactory.

Once, while I was meeting with the staff of an institution, I was discussing their plan for distribution of duties. The staff included a number of capable workers. As I inquired concerning the various features of the institution's activities, and who was in charge of this or that department, I was quite surprised to see the very same hand raised in response to every question. With each inquiry all eyes turned unquestioningly to this greatly overburdened administrator. On closer observation I learned that this individual, who with proper organization should have had a reasonable amount of leisure time, was rising before daylight and working into the late night hours, while his associates were left quite without responsibility.

The successful institution administrator is one who, while recognizing his account ability to his employing board, is not afraid to work in close confidence with associates. He will share responsibility with those who are worthy of such trust, and then in the interest of strength, coordination, and good will, he will call these associates into regular council. Weekly, or not less than monthly, his group will be called together in good fellowship in staff meetings to study problems of interest to all. In this way the director, or head, of the institution becomes a coordinator, or integrator, of all the strength, interest, and activities of his institution. How much more such a leader accomplishes than the one who so ill-advisedly attempts to do all! Not only will he be accomplishing more, but he will assuredly be walking in wiser and safer paths. In a multitude of counselors there is not only safety but wisdom.



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Secretary, General Conference Medical Department

August 1952

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