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.