Remedy for Dying Districts

Here is a plan that works. Try it and watch your district take on new life.

James Zackrison is president and Ministerial secretary of the Honduras Mission.

WHAT  would  you  pastors  who  have only  one  church  to  attend  to,  or  even three or  four,  do  if you had eight or ten churches  and  twenty  or  thirty  companies to take care  of?  In some  areas of the  world  pastors  do  have  this  many, and,  of  course,  a  number  of  problems arise when this situation exists.

In  the  first  place,  no  one  man  can adequately  take  care  of  even  a  small district  without  some  kind  of  coordinated  plan.  The  organizational  structure of the Adventist Church runs from the  local  conference  to  the  individual church.  Departmental  leaders  seem  to forget  the  district  pastor  in  their  pro motion  and  may  send  bulletins  to  all the  district  churches  informing  them that  Ingathering is  starting  on  X  Sabbath,  and the  pastor will  be there with the materials.  Or the pastor is supposed to  promote  a  certain program in all his churches  on the  same  day,  which is,  of course, physically impossible.

Another  problem  unique  to  district pastors  is  that most  churches  and companies  feel  that the church in the town where the  pastor lives  gets more  attention  than they  do,  whether this is true or not.  It is  only natural that the pastor is more available to the "central" church of the district.

In these, and many other ways, there seems  to  be lack of  organizational  concern  and  understanding  as  far  as  the district  pastor is  concerned.  Because  of this we have been experimenting with a plan  to  help  remedy  this  condition.  So far it has worked  quite well.

In  our  particular  field,  no  pastor  has fewer  than  three  churches  and  most have from five to seven. One district has seven  churches  and  two  schools.  We have  organized  district  councils.  These councils are composed of representatives of  all  churches  and  companies  in  the district.  They meet at  set intervals, depending  on the situation of the district. Some meet once a quarter, others once a month.  The  diagram  below  illustrates the organizational plan

The  district council is basically a consultative  body  and  exercises  only  as much  executive  authority  as  is  given to  it  by  the  local  church  boards;  especially  is  this  true  of  finances.  It  is  authorized  to  coordinate  the  plans  of  the district.

How It Works

Specifically,  our  district  councils  are involved in six  activities. They:

1.  Coordinate the preaching program in  the  district.  Pulpits  are  assigned  to elders or visiting ministers so that there is a systematic preaching program in all the churches.  On occasion, pastors have worked  out  a  sermon  series  for  the whole district, studied the material with the elders,  and no matter who preached in which church on a given Sabbath, all churches heard the same topic.

2.  Coordinate  the  evangelistic  pro gram.  Campaigns,  both  pastoral  and lay,  are  coordinated  in  the  council,  so that  all  churches  for  at least  a  year in advance  are  aware  of  the  evangelistic program of the district.

3.  Organize  district  meetings.  There is  nothing  that  will  tie  a  district  together like periodic mass meetings. Present  the  district  leaders.  Have  such combined meetings as Dorcas and youth meetings.  It  is  amazing  how  much life the district program brings to  an other wise dead program. Most of our districts program  periodic meetings  of the council in different churches, so the members get the feel of thinking in terms of "district" and not just "my church."

4.  Coordinate  a  training  program. Denominational  church  education  and training programs  such  as Charismatic Countdown,  New  Testament  Witnessing,  and Ministry of Healing classes are scheduled  by  the  district  council  for  a year in advance, so that everyone knows what is  going on.

5.  Establish  a  district  communications  system.  This  varies  according  to the  place.  The  elders  should  be  contacted  on  a  weekly  basis.  In  our  area, telephone  service  is  unreliable,  if  it exists  at all,  so  we  depend on telegrams and  messengers. We  hope  soon to  have a fixed-frequency radio  net set up.

6.  Coordinate  the  itinerary  of  the pastor throughout the district. After this is  organized,  post  a  copy  on the  church bulletin  boards.  That  way  everyone knows  where the pastor is and what he is doing. Post the program for the whole quarter.

Suggestive  Program  for  Council Meetings

We  use  the  following program at district council meetings:

1.  Opening hymn and prayer.

2.  "State  of  the  district" message  by the pastor.

3.  Study  of  the  agenda—problems, plans,  et  cetera.  Each church has equal voice  and vote.

4.  Reports,  experiences,  et  cetera, from the various churches. It is amazing how  these  reports  encourage the members present.

5.  Final hymn and prayer.

Results of District Council Plan

Our  pastors  report  that  few  ideas have been as effective as this one. Their work load  is  lessened while the  district produces  more  results.  The  laymen are happy  because  they  are involved in the organization  and  administration  of the district,  and  they  know  what  is  going on.  The  pastor  becomes  a  real  district leader  and  not  a  district  driver.  Every one is working toward a common goal.

Stronger  churches  help  the  weaker ones.  Speakers  and  choirs  can be inter changed  on an organized basis.  In some cases  we  have  even  had  families  move from  one  town  to  another  in  order  to strengthen  the  leadership  in  a  weak church.

This is  a plan that works.  Try it and watch  your  district  take  on  new  life and spirituality.

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James Zackrison is president and Ministerial secretary of the Honduras Mission.

April 1976

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