Resources for the members of the United Church of God

Council Discusses Relocation, Strategic Planning and More

You are here

Council Discusses Relocation, Strategic Planning and More

Robert Dick called this session of Council of Elders meetings to order at 9 a.m. Dec. 11. He mentioned that we have a jam-packed agenda that he had e-mailed to the General Conference of Elders. After the opening prayer and the approval of the minutes of the August meetings, he turned the meeting over to the president for his unified report. President's Report Clyde Kilough began his report by quoting from a written report that he received from the treasurer, Tom Kirkpatrick. Mr. Kilough mentioned that within the report there were indications for encouragement and thankfulness, especially within the last few weeks. The income for the first four months of this fiscal year (July 1 to Nov. 2) was almost exactly flat, when compared with the same period last fiscal year. The income for the five weeks ending this past Friday (Nov. 3 to Dec. 7) is a different picture. For that period, the total income is up by 16.57 percent (and Category One income, which encompasses almost three quarters of the total budget) was up by 17.14 percent. Of course, we all understand that five weeks does not a long-term trend make, but neither does four months. The effect of this very good recent period has been to increase the total fiscal year-to-date income, through Dec. 7, to a positive 2.45 percent growth rate. For the last 365 days, ending Dec. 7, the total income is a positive 4.56 percent growth. For the two 365-day periods ending Dec. 7, the total income is a positive 6.98 percent per year growth rate. Mr. Kilough mentioned that it's hard to explain the ups and downs of income. Sometimes finances are seasonal, and so we hope that the first four months were an aberration. Finances can be the easiest part of operations to measure. But, we have to pray for our daily bread. God intended for us to pray often and hard that He would provide us with our daily needs, so we look to Him for our blessings. After reporting on the finances, Mr. Kilough gave reports on the Media and Communications Services and Ministerial Services areas (see sidebars). The Urgency of Ministerial Training Mr. Kilough then turned the floor over to Jim Franks, who presented the challenges and opportunities facing Ministerial Services. Mr. Franks mentioned that as we near the end of another civil year, Ministerial Services has been very busy. He said that we are seeing the leading edge of a very difficult situation regarding our manpower. We have the potential of 18 pastors retiring in the next three years—assuming age 70 for retirement. Currently, we have no replacements for these men. We currently have six congregations waiting for a pastor—because of health issues, transfers and other reasons. We are also seeing a few more men experiencing serious health situations. All of this leads to the inevitable conclusion—we must develop an aggressive plan for training new men and preparing them to become pastors. If we don't, then it may be necessary within three to five years to close congregations and make others into video groups with no assigned pastor. Of course we aren't planning to close congregations—we will simply need to assign more work to current pastors. The situation in the United States is only the tip of the iceberg. Canada needs help with manpower; Africa is in desperate need; and so on around the world. Canada has six full-time men who cover the entire country. Without an aggressive training program, the United Church of God will be unable to fulfill its goal of having pastors for all congregations within the next five years. If we do nothing, within 10 years it is quite possible that the United Church of God will be unrecognizable, having lost as many as 46 pastors to retirement or health problems. Mr. Franks then showed the Council the presentation he made to the regional pastors, to the Northwest Region at their recent meeting in Portland and to the Canadian National Council. He said that this is a critical issue for Ministerial Services. At the beginning of the United Church of God, he said that we had a desire to provide each congregation with a full-time pastor. We didn't want to have just video groups. In the first few years of United, we had 125 pastors. We now have 90 covering the same territory. We have hired 17 men from the leadership workshops over the past several years. Mr. Franks mentioned he had a meeting at the Leadership Training Program last September with four couples, who were in their late 20s to early 30s. He asked the men if they would be willing to walk away from their jobs to be a minister. They mentioned that they would be willing to do so because they want to see the Church thrive and grow. Mr. Franks mentioned that in order to plan for the future, we need to know where we are today. He quoted a Chinese proverb, "The best time to plant a tree is 20 years ago; the second best time is today." Mr. Franks asked, "How and where will we train the ministers? How can we do more? How do we upgrade our ABC program?" He also asked, how can we retain our youth? He mentioned that we have a whole cadre of young people who are part of the Church. Many have a passion for the Church. Yet, he said, it is sometimes shocking the lack of biblical doctrinal knowledge among the youth. So, how much of the truth is being retained by our young people? He also asked how we assist in the international areas. We provide money, resources and manpower to help get the areas up and running. But we need to help more. He mentioned that Ed Macaraeg pastors 16 congregations in the Philippines. Kingsley Mather has the major responsibility for the Caribbean. Africa has serious needs in training issues. Dave Baker has all of Asia. He now has letters from Laos and Cambodia. There has to be an extensive training program put into place now. Mr. Franks then quoted Paul in Galatians 1:4 Galatians 1:4Who gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver us from this present evil world, according to the will of God and our Father:
American King James Version×
and Titus 2:11 Titus 2:11For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men,
American King James Version×
and asked how can we provide a community environment in which to immerse these men in training? How do we teach righteousness and godliness in this present evil age without having some type of an immersion program? Mr. Franks also mentioned that the youth program addressed this to some degree. The summer camps were the start. What is special about the camps? He reviewed the recent camp video that talked about "God's immersion education program." He also asked us to look at Christ and the disciples, Paul and Barnabas, and Paul and Titus. He said it seems to be the model that God gives to us. This is immersion education for the entire ministry. He then took time to give some historical evidence, and he quoted from Mr. Armstrong in 1953. It was a major announcement in which Mr. Armstrong wrote: "This is not a one-man work, but a work that is done through his called, educated and experienced ministers." In the next 20 years, to 1973, the attendance went to 100,000. Mr. Franks went on to mention that new people aren't going to come to just watch a video week after week. Pastors are critical for the stability and growth of the Church. Mr. Franks also reviewed the registration numbers for the Feast in the United States and Canada: 26 percent are over age 60, 11 percent are young adults, 13 percent are 13 and under and 9 percent are teens (33 percent are under age 30). He said that, in many cases, the young people coming into their best earning years are replacing those who are older, with higher incomes than those who are retiring. He also mentioned that the mission of ABC is to pass on the truth, but we have to focus more effectively on building character in our students. Currently there is little follow-up with the ABC grads. He felt that with onsite housing, character issues can be more effectively addressed. We have to provide comprehensive training for our ministers, and ABC needs to be upgraded to a nine-month program with onsite housing to provide that 24/7 environment that focuses on character development. Exceptional students can be further trained. Mr. Franks then pointed out that we are in a very good position to begin these changes. For instance, financial reserves were only $37,000 10 years ago; now, they are $7.2 million. He said that last year our income of $23.5 million was the best ever. He said that even with the subprime loan problems, and other issues such as the periodic drops in the stock market, the income of the Church has not been adversely affected in the last 10 years. "We have no long-term debt." He said the plans are now to hire three men per year for the next four years. Then we need to hire six men every year for next six years. And that is just to remain even. He said that the need for training is now. The elders are aging. The pool of AC graduates is drying up. We need an aggressive program for training. We need to change ABC from a commuter school. We will need to replace almost 50 percent of our current pastors in the next 10 years—assuming age 70 for retirement. He closed with the point that now is our window of opportunity. He also said that we all pray that Christ will return before this time, but we have to be prepared as well. He said that the United States has fueled the work of God around the world for the last 75 years, and that United is now in the best financial position we have ever been to implement the changes we need to make. Strategic Planning Surveys In the afternoon session Mr. Dick reviewed the timeline of the strategic planning in which the Council will be involved. He also reviewed each of the questions on all the surveys that are designed to gather input regarding our strategic planning. Resolution to Rescind May 2007 Relocation Ballot Five members of the Council of Elders (Bob Berendt, Aaron Dean, Bill Eddington, Roy Holladay and Victor Kubik) have submitted to the secretary for inclusion in the agenda for the 2008 annual meeting of the GCE a resolution to rescind the May 2007 relocation ballot. Mr. Dick asked, with the property approved for purchase and an obligation to act upon a GCE-approved ballot to relocate, "How do we proceed from here?" He then led a discussion on these topics in open session. He felt there was a need to have discussion on both topics, especially since the topics were going in opposite directions. Mr. Holladay spoke on behalf of the five members who presented the issue. He mentioned that some in the GCE are also bringing forward a similar resolution as well. He believes that they, too, will come up with enough names to put it on the agenda. He said that a number of elders are not upset where the home office might be, but that they were upset by how things were handled. The thought was that this resolution was a way to bring about peace and unity. After much discussion, Mr. Dick mentioned that this is still an issue that the Council needs to address. He also thanked the Council members for their decorum and for conducting themselves honorably in these discussions. The meetings for the day adjourned at 5 p.m. GCE Planning Task Force Robert Dick called the Dec. 13 meeting to order at 9 a.m. After the opening prayer, Mr. Dick introduced David Register to lead a discussion on planning for the 2008 GCE annual meeting. Mr. Register handed out the preliminary schedule of events, suggested themes and proposed workshops, and he asked for comments. The location this year will be at the Kings Island Resort and Conference Center, which is just north of Cincinnati in Mason, Ohio. It is the same place where the Winter Family Weekend was held for a number of years. The date of the annual conference will be Sunday, May 18, 2008. The full schedule of the Sabbath and the day following the annual meeting will be included in the packet of information that will be sent to the GCE. The Council asked the president, Clyde Kilough, to give the sermon. Last year, Mr. Dick spoke. It was decided that there should be just one sermon and no sermonette. By telephone hookup and webcast, over 100 congregations are able to hear the Sabbath service during the GCE conference. Then the Council decided that the keynote address, which sets the tone for the meetings, should be given by Chairman Robert Dick. There is a possibility that the facilitator the Council has contracted for advice on strategic planning may present a lecture to educate the GCE on what strategic planning is all about and why organizations use it in their business plans. The discussion of the theme for the meeting was next. There were a lot of comments about the importance of "Going on to Perfection—Increasing Spiritual Maturity." That theme was chosen by unanimous decision. The workshops, also unanimously decided upon, will follow the tone of this theme. • "The Spiritually Mature Congregation." • "Pitfalls to Godly Wisdom." • "Ministerial Calling." • "Planning for the Loss of Life." The future GCE annual meeting dates were also confirmed: Sunday, May 3, 2009, and Sunday, May 2, 2010. Mr. Dick thanked Mr. Register and the GCE planning committee for their hard work. Discussion About Developing the Property Mr. Kilough stated that since the Council approved the purchase of the property, the next step would be to enter into negotiations with a developer. A number of Council members asked questions about funding. Mr. Kilough mentioned again that the price of the land is very good. He also said that the Church is in very good financial shape, we have cash in hand, and we have some very competitive financing options. We are in a good position to eventually choose from several options that would best benefit the Church. The Council decided to go into executive session to continue the discussion, which lasted for the remainder of the afternoon. "No concrete decisions were reached, but the administration is expected to bring forward proposals for development of the property for further discussion and review," Mr. Dick wrote in his "Chairman's Commentary" for the meetings. 2008 Feast Video Jan. 10 Robert Dick opened a teleconference of the Council shortly after 5 p.m. EST. All Council members were present for the open session except for Victor Kubik, who was in transit on his way home from Scandinavia. After the opening prayer, Mr. Dick asked Clyde Kilough to discuss the proposed content for the 2008 Feast video. Mr. Kilough had sent the Council members a proposal that he, Larry Salyer and Jim Franks had worked on together. The proposal was intended to be a change of pace, at least this year, for the Feast video. The proposal emphasizes the heritage of the past as well as looking into the future of God's Church. The concept of the video would be to build appreciation for the Church's identity as the Body of Christ. It would include what Christ has done and what He still will do in this age. The video would include some of the early history of Sabbath-keepers in New England. Then it would move to the calling of Herbert W. Armstrong, and it would also discuss some highlights from his autobiography. The Council spoke very positively about this concept. Roy Holladay asked who would be presenting the sermon. Mr. Salyer mentioned they had discussed having Mr. Franks talk about some of the history of the Church, and that Mr. Kilough would also speak. Leon Walker mentioned that he liked this concept, and that the videos in the past few years have focused on some of the international areas, which was good, but a change of pace from time to time is also good. Bob Berendt also mentioned that he liked this theme. Richard Thompson also agreed with this concept for the Festival video. He said it would put our heritage in a prominent position at the Feast. He further stated that it would be good for the young people and young adults in the Church, as it would give them some contact with where the Church has come from. Mr. Kilough followed up and said that this video would speak to a need in the Church. He said that knowing the heritage of the Church would help to preserve the Church's identity. As the Church gets further down the road, he said that some young people could lose a sense of identity with the past. He said that what we are now is a result of our past. He also said that this would validate a lot of those members who have been around for a long time, and it would tie in the next generation in understanding that they are part of the continuation of rich traditions of keeping the truth of the Church. Roy Holladay mentioned that he liked the theme very much and that it would show our connection going back to the first century and the early Sabbath-keepers and what Mr. Armstrong did. He said that would be a very important link, as some in the Church have felt this particular aspect has been overlooked. Mr. Kilough said that this video could contain some interesting classic footage. He mentioned that Ed Smith, an elder in Cincinnati, has some old videos of the Feast in 1953. Mr. Walker mentioned that he probably has some video of the 25th anniversary of the work of God, which included scenes of Mr. Armstrong doing radio. Jim Franks mentioned that this Feast will be the 75th anniversary of when Mr. Armstrong first started in1933. Since comments from the Council members were supportive of the concept, the decision for the administration to pursue this theme of "Our Heritage" for the 2008 Festival video was approved by consent without resolution. Strategic Planning Update Mr. Dick informed the Council members they would receive documents in the mail in preparation for their first face-to-face meetings with the strategic planning facilitator in Houston, Texas, Jan. 16-17. Each Council member will be receiving a 2-inch-thick notebook filled with the survey results from members, subscribers, elders, employees and the Council of Elders. The notebook, known as the briefing book, will also contain statistics from the Ministerial, Financial and Media areas, along with demographic studies. Each Council member will also receive a CD with all the verbatim comments that came from the surveys. The comments are also being placed in a 3-inch-thick notebook that will be mailed to Council members. Mr. Dick encouraged the Council members to spend the time necessary to take the online classes that will help them prepare for their two days of meetings. Mr. Dick mentioned that the first two days of strategic planning in January will center on situation assessment—the assessment of all the documents in hand to make a clear determination of where we are as a Church. The product of the first two-day retreat will set the stage for the creation of the actual Strategic Plan. Full Council reports can be found on the Web at http://members.ucg.org/council/reports/. UN Leaders From Living Church of God Visit Home Office On Dec. 13, Clyde Kilough updated the Council of Elders on the Dec. 5 visit to the home office of three ministers (Richard Ames, Dibar Apartian and Douglas Winnail) of the Living Church of God. This was a reciprocal visit, as Mr. Kilough and Jim Franks had visited the headquarters of the Living Church of God in 2006. Mr. Kilough gave them an office tour that lasted over two hours. Some previously scheduled activities had brought some UCG elders into town. Many of them, as well as many in the home office, had known these men years ago, and so friendly conversations took place. Mr. Kilough said it was very good to be able to talk through various issues of mutual concern in a respectful manner. The men presented a gift of a beautiful globe to the home office. It has Isaiah 11:9 Isaiah 11:9They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain: for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea.
American King James Version×
engraved on it. Mr. Kilough mentioned that this globe can be seen on the Dec. 6, 2007, About Our Father's Business program. Media and Communications Services Update As part of his report to the Council of Elders, President Clyde Kilough discussed the activities in the media operations of the Church. We are now moving material such as sermons from the main UCG Web site (www.ucg.org) to the newly created members' Web site (members.ucg.org). The members' Web site is not password protected, but we don't advertise it to the public. It includes About Our Father's Business, and these programs are new each week. This presentation is a means of educating the Church, and we encourage the members to watch the programs. The numbers of donors and coworkers continue to climb. We have just over 10,000 donors, and just less than 4,000 coworkers. We will be reviewing our methods of developing deeper relationships with subscribers and viewers. Thus far in the fiscal year, we are spending at about the same rate as last year. None of the additional funds allotted to media have been specifically designated for new thrusts in preaching the gospel. Rather, while we are focusing on developing long-term revisions of our strategies, we have duplicated our previous efforts in advertising. We have received over 53,000 responses from our three ad campaigns in Readers' Digest, Parenting and American Baby. The Media Steering Group met in mid-October to review and crystallize previous discussions and agreed that the Internet should be seen as our primary vehicle for reaching the world. Therefore, beginning as soon as practical, the media staff will pursue increased effectiveness in our use of the Internet, which is ever changing. One interesting idea is to create "viral" activity by profound postings, blogs, etc. Web users, particularly the young, now share what they find useful or exciting. This is described in the Web environment as a viral post. For example, here is a comment from one such user who wrote to us in response to the BT program "Christmas Without Christ," which was on the YouTube Web site: "You guys are Great! This was done gently and backed by THE TRUTH—The Bible not Tradition—Loved it and shared it with many. :)" Note the comment about sharing! This method of spreading our message is not labor intensive, but we will have to allow others to share our material. Some other ideas we are looking at are: • "Sermons for the world" (this would include short messages on basic doctrinal and Christian living topics intended for a non-Church audience). • Numerous one- to three-minute videos. • Interactive Bible studies. • Possible online Bible course. • Daily live commentary. The Media Steering Group also discussed at length the concept of the "voice of the Church" as a description of the tone and conviction with which we write and speak. This is a critical element of our unified effort to make the truth stand out in a world of religious confusion. It is particularly needful in the absence of an identifiable personality who is the primary voice reaching the world. It is apparent that our message should be recognizable, no matter who is presenting it, or in what form. The Beyond Today planning meeting in late October focused on brainstorming ways to improve effectiveness. In the next six months, we will be experimenting with different formats on Beyond Today. These can include programs that feature a panel discussion, a presentation before a live audience, a magazine format or even what we call a "talking head." We will put every idea on the table. We recently recorded a Beyond Today program titled "Life After Death." The opening and closing segments were shot in a cemetery in Milford, Ohio. The crew then returned to the studio to record the middle segment with one guest and the final segment with all three presenters in a panel discussion of the resurrection. Mr. Kilough mentioned two terms that we will be hearing in the next few months: "critical success factors" and "barriers." As we develop media strategies, we will have to address the positive factors critical to success and how to deal with barriers in the way. Manpower and resources are key to virtually every possible project in furthering the reach of our media. Manpower means more expense. Yet these jobs are critical for success. There is a lot of potential for preaching the gospel more widely and effectively. We just have to be prepared to carry out these plans. Ministerial Services Update Ministerial Development: The six-week pastoral training program that began in 2007 was hugely successful, and we plan to continue it in 2008. (See article "14 Attend Second Annual Pastoral Training Classes," page 2.) Ambassador Bible Center: We are preparing to begin the ninth year of ABC. (See article) ABC Continuing Education: Ambassador Bible Center faculty members have been quite busy since the Feast of Tabernacles, conducting seven ABC Continuing Education seminars. As a result, hundreds of brethren from all across the United States have been able to get a little sample of the actual ABC classes. Education Advisory Task Force: The EATF met in Houston Nov. 16-18 to discuss assessments and outcomes. Five areas of education were specifically discussed: teen camp assessments, women's education survey, preteen camp outcomes, marriage seminar outcomes and race relations outcomes. We plan to begin marriage seminars in the U.S. regions next year. Ken and Kathy Giese will be taking classes to become certified instructors in "Intimate Life" to train other facilitators for marriage seminars. We are also now ready to begin Focused Education Seminars in various cities in the United States and Canada. Due to an extremely busy calendar, in addition to budgetary considerations, we are tentatively planning to schedule two or three seminars per year. A subcommittee of the EATF is the Women's Education Task Force. Its major work since its inaugural meeting in late April has been to develop two surveys, which are near completion. The first will be for pastors, to try to accurately "get a handle" on all of the women's activities and programs that have been instituted in various congregations and regions. The aim is to compile a "best practices" clearinghouse for good ideas of programs specific to women's education. The second survey is for the women in the Church to ascertain their needs. This one will be administered only after the results of the pastors' survey are compiled. World News and Prophecy Seminar Update: Two World News and Prophecy seminars have been held in recent weeks, with an appreciable number of new contacts attending. Godly Leadership Task Force: This task force has taken up the challenge to research and write a booklet on child rearing for Church members. Several members and elders have requested a booklet for our young families on this vital subject to supplement the Growing Kids God's Way program. Youth Education Task Force: This task force is developing new Festival Youth Instruction material for the 2008 Feast. They are also beginning the process of reviewing and evaluating the 240-lesson Sabbath youth lessons. When the review is completed, they will recommend changes in the program and material. Teen and Preteen Camps and Challenger II Programs: The teen camp directors, Challenger II directors and the preteen coordinator met in Cincinnati Oct. 16-19 to review budgets, policies and other topics to plan for the camps in 2008. The camper and parent surveys reported an extremely high satisfaction rating. A new survey to help assess outcomes and effectiveness instead of satisfaction with our camp programs will be implemented. We are expecting a record number of preteens and teens to attend camp next year. Regional Conferences: With the beginning of a new fiscal year on July 1, we began a new round of regional conferences. We have conducted three regional conferences so far this fiscal year, and we have plans for two more—South Central (Houston) in January 2008 and Southwest (Los Angeles) in March 2008—and four for the next fiscal year. Church Statistics (Figures from Church Information System—number listed as attending fluctuates from month to month): U.S. Church attendance according to file December 2006: 15,145. U.S. Church attendance according to file Nov. 30, 2007: 15,485. U.S. baptisms 2005 through December: 171. U.S. baptisms 2006 through December: 181. U.S. baptisms 2007 through November: 173. Festival Attendance This year's Feast saw the number attending in the United States drop below last year, but the total for all sites was up slightly. We know from registration that 35 percent more U.S. and Canadian members traveled outside their countries for the Feast this year than last year. This was the largest number for any one year in several years. If the same number had transferred in 2007 as in 2006, we would have roughly the same number this year as last year. Total Feast of Tabernacles (all sites) attendance: 2004 = 19,765 2005 = 19,765 2006 = 20,436 2007 = 20,476