The Council of Elders has just concluded its first quarterly meeting of the current 2017-2018 fiscal year. The Council maintains an air of transparency and some of the meetings are recorded and can be viewed by all. This helps everyone understand how we come to some of the thinking behind the main pillars of the Church, which is the proclamation of the gospel to the world and the care of congregations.
The meetings began with the reading of the Code of Ethics by the Ethics Committee chairman. This was followed by reports from the president and operation managers that contain a lot of narrative about activity in the Church since our May 2017 meetings.
A review of the recent member survey was summarized by Julie Zutz Brown, a professional in the field of survey management and interpretation. In her work, she was supported by Nathan Ekama and Paul Wasilkoff. The conclusions from this survey will be very helpful in modifying our strategic plan for the next fiscal year.
The discussion about the effectiveness of our public proclamation shows some of the challenges we face as we search for effective methods to share the gospel of Jesus Christ with this world.
Council of Elders 2017-2018
The review of Good Works and LifeNets was of particular interest to me, as I was involved in the founding of LifeNets in 1999 and Good Works in 2003. Both of these outreach arms have served the needs of the disadvantaged and vulnerable in and out of the Church of God. LifeNets has provided millions of dollars of assistance in the form of scholarships, food security, wheelchairs, water, agriculture, livelihood and more. We provided handouts of the history of Good Works and LifeNets and showed the missions, the relationship to each other and to the Church. You can read them yourself at http://lifenets.org/ucg. This discussion was helpful to new Council members to understand the work of the LifeNets charity as well as the totality of the Church's outreach through Good Works. You can view this vigorous discussion online.
Ambassador Bible College
The ABC class of 2018 has 24 students starting this autumn, which is the same number as last year. There are a few more ladies than men, and we expect our two new ministerial trainees to be in class most of the time.
This year's class is even more internationally diverse than last year's. We will have two from India, one of them completing the study he began here in the last Spring semester. There will be distance learners from Germany, Brazil, Mexico and another originally from the Philippines. Of the Americans in this year's class, most come from the Midwest or Northeast.
Changes to the job description for our regional pastors were approved, making it a line function within Ministerial and Member Services. We are very pleased with the regional pastors who are currently serving. They have become active mentors, consultants, facilitators and advocates for the field ministry. Our regional pastors are doctrinally sound, faithful servants, versed in policy, people-oriented, good listeners, sympathetic and empathetic. We will be holding a conference for our regional pastors in Omaha, Nebraska, the week after Labor Day to discuss some of their new responsibilities.
In my report to the Council, I also spoke separately about improvements in Good Works.
In the past six months, we have streamlined and made it more robust. Lena VanAusdle is the very active director. We have upgraded the website at www.ucg.org/members/outreach/good-works, making it mobile-first and more relevant and up-to-date. Lena keeps it vibrant and current.
Since she's taken over the program, the revenue has doubled. All donors are personally acknowledged. The program is assisted by a committee comprised of Chelsea Dawe, Milan and Sarah Bizic, Lena VanAusdle and Rudy Rangel.
We have also incorporated Youth Corps into Good Works. We have just completed four projects in Ghana, Malawi, Chile and St. Lucia. Altogether, Youth Corps has provided an opportunity for more than 100 young people to serve in various areas of the world.
Brief summary of United Youth Camps Summer Program
Because of God's blessings, the United Church of God has successfully completed its 23rd year of sponsoring teen camps in the United Youth Camps program. The five summer camps hosted a total of 445 campers and 289 staff. Winter Camp will be held in late December. Camper attendance was: Camp Cotubic—103, Camp Pinecrest—90, Camp Woodmen—58, Northwest Camp—115, and Hye Sierra—79.
The Christian Living theme this summer at all the camps was very personal. It was "Building Your Relationship with God." Campers, staff and parents agree that this was one of our most effective themes so far. The campers seemed to really desire to get into the meat of this theme. Next year, the theme will be "God's Vision For You." This theme is intended to show that God has a plan for youth, all the way from youth, through adulthood and eventually into the Kingdom of God, and how they should plan their lives with God at the center.
For the first time, the camp team published a camp notebook for the daily Christian Living classes, distributed to each camper and staff member. The daily sub-themes were listed along with the main scriptures for that theme. There was space for notes each day, including Sabbath services. We plan on doing it again next year since it really added to the effectiveness of the Christian Living aspect at camp.
We know the success of the UYC program is not measured in the statistics or the number of activities at camp. The success of the program is found in the lives of the campers and young adults. Specifically, it is our collective goal to help each camper deepen their individual relationship with God while enjoying their week in the Zone.
From a mother of a camper: "I wanted to send a quick note personally to say thank you for taking such great care of my son. He had an excellent camp experience for all the right reasons, in all the right ways. I cannot properly express how impactful his two camp experiences have been at Hye Sierra and Northwest this past summer. A wonderful fire has been ignited and he is filled with hope and expectancy about reuniting with friends again next year! He particularly respected his dorm counselors and enjoyed enriching conversations with them and his dorm parents. Thank you for your kind hospitality. God's way never disappoints and is a warm home for those who experience it. As parents we are thrilled he has found so much value in these experiences and support him in pursuing more in the days ahead."
As always, the camp team would like to thank all the brethren for their prayers and financial support of these camps, and we especially thank the parents and the hard-working staff.
—Steve Nutzman, on behalf of the six camp directors
Festival Youth Activity Booklets
Once again we have had a great team of volunteers who have spent countless hours since February working on the booklets for our pre-teens and teens. We are currently in the final stages of editing and will have the booklets printed in the next two weeks. The number of booklets being printed is based on the number of registered children and teens for each site. The activity booklets will then be mailed to each Feast site to be distributed at the beginning of the Feast of Tabernacles. So far we have over 1,000 booklets to be distributed.
One exciting option we have added this year is to have the booklets translated into Spanish by Josue Lopez and David Salek. In addition, we are hoping to have Jessica Hendrickson translate the materials into French as well. We have had much positive feedback on last year's booklets and we are excited for the kids to get their new booklets this year!
This project is truly a team effort. Many thanks go to: Linda Merrick, Sue and Frank Dunkle, Milan Bizic, Peter Eddington, John and Peggy McClain, Dawn Booth, Brooklyn Booth, Chelsea Dawe, Gary T. Mathers Sr., Kathy de Campos and Lisa McKinney.