At the Ontario Conference’s second virtual workers’ meeting (Monday to Wednesday, September 13 to 15, 2021), Ontario Conference workers gained timely tools and wisdom for “Connecting Like Jesus”—our current theme. Bible workers, pastors and teachers alike appreciated getting equipped to navigate ministry given COVID-19 and other challenges. Raul Gonzalez, pastor of Brampton Spanish and Spanish Bet-el Churches, expressed a common sentiment – “Thank you, administration and OC leaders, for these three days of training, motivation and inspiration.”
Each morning, a Conference leader provided a spiritual framework, followed by practical training from experienced presenters. New to workers’ meeting, Bible workers and pastors benefited from meeting with their regions each afternoon. There, they answered discussion questions, shared best practices and wrestled with applying tools based on the day’s presentation; the smaller groups also facilitated raw conversation about personal or church-related struggles.
Teachers, who were present on Monday, split into two groups to discuss their ministry of education, the return to school and COVID-19 policies. One group ended with a 30-minute season of prayer for the school year.
Spiritual Framework for Connecting Like Jesus
Each devotional thought offered a different take on “Connecting Like Jesus.” For example, on Monday, Pastor Mansfield Edwards, president, spoke on being before doing or connecting with Jesus. Giving the example of Daniel in captivity, he said, “Daniel purposed in his heart [to remain faithful to God]. And so should we. Being connected to God clarifies our true identity, drives our purpose and orders our priorities.”
In Tuesday’s devotional, Pastor Jakov Bibulovic, executive secretary, compared the biblical metaphor of labourers in the field with a childhood experience. He and his family would occasionally visit his grandparents’ farm to help out. There, he’d observe his father out-working the paid day-labourers. His takeaway that we should labour out of love for our Father and His people hit home. “Amen! Let’s work as sons and daughters and not as a day-labourer,” said Alexander Gietsel, pastor of Brantford and Paris Churches.
On Wednesday, Pastor Halsey Peat, assistant to the president, shared what connecting like Jesus can look like with a descriptive retelling of the story of Jesus resurrecting the only son of a widow at Nain (Luke 7:11-17). He noted both the depth of Jesus’ compassion and the far-reaching implications, as the crowd shared what He’d done with their community. Finally, he stated that, as illustrated in this story— “We should never be satisfied with the thought that someone could die without receiving Jesus.”
Home-grown Speakers Nail Training on Connecting Like Jesus
As evidenced by the chat, having “home-grown” speakers increased worker engagement and camaraderie. Monday’s presenter was Pastor Orville Parchment, former Ontario Conference minister, Seventh-day Adventist Church in Canada president and General Conference assistant to the president.
Tuesday’s presenter was Ida Smith, associate pastor at Willowdale Church and psychotherapist.
Wednesday’s presenter was Dr. Philip Baptiste, Adventist Laymen’s Services and Industries (ASI) secretary/treasurer.
Baptiste spent his formative years in Ontario, where the seed of ministry was planted. “Welcome home!” Workers happily greeted Baptiste and Parchment, also warmly greeting Smith.
Like the devotionals, each presentation tackled different aspects of connecting like Jesus. On Monday, Parchment shared biblical principles for spiritual leadership. First, he cited two central biblical standards: the great commission to make disciples (Matt. 28:16-20) and the great commandment to love God and others (Matt. 22:36-39). Second, Parchment listed traits of a spiritual leader as being an influencer and watchman, exercising self-control and making time for family; moreover, spiritual leaders recognize that without Christ, they can do nothing.
Workers especially appreciated that he wasn’t afraid to call out leadership issues, like prejudice or lack of humility. “Mercy!” said several.
Daniel Cucuteanu, Lindsay Company pastor, added, “These are some things that needed to be said for a long time.”
“Amen for a practical, uplifting presentation on spiritual leadership. My soul has been watered,” Glenn DeSilva, College Park Church pastor, concluded.
On Tuesday, Smith shared the importance of maintaining your spiritual, emotional, mental and physical health, giving the example of Jesus: He gained strength for ministry via rest and time with the Father.
She shared many gems, including:
- HALT – never make a decision when hungry, angry, lonely or tired
- During setbacks, focus on what you can be grateful for
- Reach out for support as needed
Then, touching on healthy leadership culture, she said leaders must be transparent about challenges, listen actively, follow through and shift from “know it all” to learn it all.” Among the many positive responses to these tips was, “I will take this to my next board meeting!!” (Andrew Thomas, assistant pastor, Ruth Church)
On Wednesday, workers listened attentively as Baptiste presented eight proven business success principles for ministry development:
- Don’t run from giving or receiving feedback
- Develop the relationships needed to be influential
- Have a growth mindset
- Ask the right questions of team members and customers
- Leverage digital communication to increase engagement
- Develop and keep a healthy staff
- Strive for a fully funded church
- Create direction, alignment and commitment
During the administrative reports, workers received vital information about COVID-19 protocols and other risk management issues from Kevin Benta, Property Management director, and Vilma Reynolds, account executive, Adventist Risk Management. Other reports indicated that we are heading in the right direction.
Treasurer Virene Meikle shared that school enrolment has increased after declining last year, and tithe has increased by 1.7%. And Bibulovic revealed that, despite lockdowns, we experienced a 0.7% growth in membership; 380 baptized and 77 by profession of faith.
This workers’ meeting signals a continued commitment to helping our churches and schools experience growth and multiplication. Workers were challenged to fulfil tasks derived from what they learned within a specific time frame:
- outline a plan to walk their churches through the process of being more spiritual; and
- outline a brief plan of how they would lead with hope, wellness and resilience in this time of pandemic and uncertainty
Finally, they were asked to submit their ministry strategy for their churches by March 2022.
The three days concluded with a powerful charge by Edwards. He reminded workers of the two
purposes of the church:
- the building up of the body of Christ, or ministry, and
- reaching others for Christ, or mission. He reiterated that we alone are incapable of fulfilling God’s disciple-making mandate, but when we put on the full armour of God, He empowers us to serve.
Edwards concluded, “Lean on Jesus; connect with Him afresh; go back on His authority; be strong in the Lord and the power of His might.”