Jerrell Gilkeson, EdD, is director of education and children’s ministries for the Atlantic Union Conference, South Lancaster, Massachusetts, United States.

There are many questions being asked in Adventism today. One of the most compelling is this: How necessary is Adventist education to the survival of the Seventh-day Adventist Church’s mission? For us in the Atlantic Union Conference, this pertinent ques- tion needed a practical answer; we believe we found one. What was it—and how did it come about?


After the turn of the century, there was mounting evidence that forces were at work which were destroy- ing the Adventist Church from within. The North American pastorate was becoming decidedly less educated through the church’s K–16 system. Large numbers of pastors were being seminary educated without ever having set foot in an Adventist church school. They were then being asked to pastor churches where 50 percent or more of the church budget was being used for a school, and they had received little instruction about its importance and no direction on how to operate it. In 2003, the Atlantic Union Conference education directors, under the leadership of Rosemary Tyrrell, held the “Niagara Summit” in Niagara Falls, New York. Dr. R. Clifford Jones represented the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary at Andrews University, and thus began the movement toward seminary-trained pastors having one class in Christian education.1 It was now time to take it to the next level.

In 2009, more than 700 Seventh-day Adventist pastors and teachers from the northeastern United States and Bermuda met together for a first-of-its- kind convention in Providence, Rhode Island, with the goal of uniting educa- tors and ministers in Christian service for young people and their families. Keynote speaker and veteran educator, Dr. George R. Knight, applauded the Union for the “understanding that brought both pastoral clergy and edu- cational clergy under one roof for a shared professional convention.”2

The union ministerial and education offices determined that there must be a bold action to unite the church and school in the effort of soul-winning. The grassroots evangelism of our children could not be allowed to dwindle and take a backseat to public evangelism. The 180 formal school days were now viewed as a platform for the evangelism of church and community students, one that could no longer be overlooked. A comprehensive Pastors and Teachers Manual was needed to make the work of this convention more than a one-time event.

The Manual could live on to guide pastors and teachers in how they could work together to accomplish their shared goals.3 Uses Under the leadership of union presi- dent/ministerial director, Dr. Donald G. King, and director of education, Astrid Thomassian, a team of pastors and teach- ers created a manual that was to direct nearly one thousand pastors and teach- ers in the northeastern United States and Bermuda.4 As Dr. King stated, “One of the goals of the . . . Pastors and Teachers Manual is to help to create a monorail from these two distinct rails or services of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.”5 The Manual was filled with practi- cal instruction and ideas for a united, complementary ministry in the local church with a school. It can be used:

  • as a study guide for a conference ministerial and education retreat, teleconference series, or another area for professional growth;
  • by conference ministerial and edu- cation directors in the mentoring of pastors and teachers joining the ministry workforce;
  • as the launching platform for a pastor (pastoral staff) and teacher (teaching staff) to meet for prayer and sharing of vision/mission;
  • in a constituent school setting with multiple churches supporting a single school; and
  • by ministerial and education direc- tors as a map to aid dysfunctional church and school districts when problems or conflicts occur.6

We praise God that He has given us our children, the commission to tell the world of His love, and a school system to accomplish our task. The Manual was created to be a blessing to the church with a school. As a single unit, the church/church school can be a wonderful evangelistic tool for the students in the church and the community. It has been said that 60 percent of the church’s baptisms are people under the age of 18. The teaching of these members, as they mature into disciples of Jesus Christ, is possible through the teaching ministry.

Jesus prayed, “Father, I pray that they may be one, even as we are one” (John 17:22). This prayer includes the church and church school. This prayer includes the pastor and the teacher—that they may be one in the anointing Holy Spirit power to fulfill the commission and ministry that each has been given.

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Jerrell Gilkeson, EdD, is director of education and children’s ministries for the Atlantic Union Conference, South Lancaster, Massachusetts, United States.

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