Starting in January 2024, the Manitoba-Saskatchewan Conference of the Seventh-day Adventist Church is commencing a thrilling five-year strategic journey to create a positive impact on our communities.

This 5-year strategic journey was developed collaboratively by pastors and elders through a participatory process and voted on by the Executive Committee.

The objective of the 5-year strategic journey is to equip and empower local churches, schools, and care homes with the necessary tools, training, experience and resources they need to develop a culture of making disciples and healthy environments for faith to grow in their specific communities.

Lonely tractor on agricultural field with rows of plowed soil. Agricultural fields prepared for planting crops.

The Framework Inspired by Prairie Farming Practices

The strategic framework draws inspiration from the agricultural rhythms of Manitoba and Saskatchewan, mirroring the patience, calculated risks, persistence, unwavering faith, plenty of prayers and understanding of contexts required in farming and disciple-making.

In consultation with Elder Ron and Patti Hetland of the Quill Lake Seventh-day Adventist Church and using Jesus’ harvest cycle as a guide, the five essential stages of the strategic framework are:

1. Preparing the Soil: Community Services

2. Planting the Seed: Friendship Evangelism

3. Crop Care and Protection: Christ-centred Bible Studies

4. The Harvest: Public Evangelism

5. The Usefulness of the Harvest: Spiritual Gifts for Mission

The Impact of Annual Themes

We believe every church, school, and care home embodies God’s love, each with its unique story of faith, perseverance, and community spirit.

In the Manitoba-Saskatchewan Conference, 73% of our 41 congregations are small. Yet, despite their limited resources, they are at the heart of our mission to build and empower local communities.

We understand these smaller congregations’ challenges: limited resources, constrained workforce, and diverse needs. Yet, we also recognize their potential in fostering spiritual growth and adding value to the local community. This understanding underscores the significance of having an annual theme and purposeful planning.

The Role of an Annual Theme and Purposeful Planning

“Where there is no vision, the people perish.” Proverbs 29:18

An annual theme guides each church, school and care home throughout the year. This theme unifies our focus and ensures that every effort, no matter how small, contributes to a broader shared collective purpose.

The ultimate aim of the planning process is not just organization but empowerment. As Ellen G. White wrote, “The Lord desires His people to reach the highest round of the ladder that they may glorify Him by possessing the ability He is willing to bestow.

Through the grace of God, every provision has been made for us to reveal that we act upon better plans than those upon which the world operates. We are to show a superiority in intellect, understanding, skill and knowledge because we believe in God and His power to work upon human hearts.” 

By working with our churches, schools, and care homes to develop a plan, we empower them to focus their efforts on initiatives that directly contribute to community development and spiritual growth. With a clear theme and strategy, we can better measure progress. We can track achievements, learn from experiences, and continuously improve our approaches.

Effective planning goes beyond a mere administrative task; it is an act of stewardship. It involves maximizing our limited resources to make a significant impact.

Five-Year Focus

To maximize our limited resources, churches, schools, and care homes must plan and unite in prayer and supplication.

The five-year annual themes will help churches plan accordingly as the Holy Spirit guides.

2024 involves Community Service to prepare the heart’s soil by performing acts of kindness through community services.

2025, we focus on Friendship Evangelism and sow the seeds of God’s Word in open hearts due to our community services.

2026 is dedicated to fostering spiritual growth through Christ-centred Bible Studies.

2027 is all about Public Evangelism, leading to spiritual decisions and commitment.

Finally, in 2028, we will explore spiritual gifts and prepare new disciples to contribute actively to the church’s mission.

Implementing this strategic framework is expected to yield positive results such as increased membership, improved community engagement and impact, and a stronger connection between our members and Jesus, our Lord and Saviour.

2024: Year of Community Service (Preparing the Soil)

A profound commitment to community service is at the heart of the five-year mission strategic framework. As the first pillar in the discipleship process, community service is the bedrock upon which all other pillars stand. It’s about preparing the soil of the heart through acts of kindness—preparing the ground for planting the seeds of God’s Word.

As Ellen G. White beautifully expressed, “The sowers of the seed have a work to do in preparing hearts to receive the gospel…In Christlike sympathy, we should come close to people individually and seek to awaken their interest in the great things of eternal life. Their hearts may be as hard as the beaten highway, and apparently, it may be a useless effort to present the Saviour to them; but while logic may fail to move and argument be powerless to convince, the love of Christ, revealed in service may soften the stony heart so that the seed of truth can take root.

“Christ’s method alone will give true success in reaching the people. The Saviour mingled with men as one who desired their good. He sympathized with them, ministered to their needs, and won their confidence. Then He bade them, ‘Follow Me.’

Our community service activities must mirror Christ’s approach of mingling, demonstrating empathy, and addressing needs. To do this effectively, we actively strive to understand our communities’ unique needs and challenges.

Understanding the community’s needs and challenges is pivotal to effective community service. We foster this understanding by using the church profile tool, undergoing training provided by ADRA Canada, meeting with community stakeholders and participating in prayer walks.

The church profile tool is a comprehensive community snapshot, providing insights into its unique needs and challenges. It helps us identify where we can best serve and positively impact.

ADRA Canada, our partner in this endeavour, provides invaluable training that equips our members to respond effectively to these identified needs.

As a part of our approach, we also conduct prayer walks (contact your church pastor for the prayer walk tool). These walks are intentional and aim to connect our church members with the people in their communities. By walking through specific areas, our church members can pray for the community, build relationships, and better understand the lived realities of those in the area.

When the church understands the needs and challenges of its community, it can take action to address gaps.

For example, identifying food insecurity could lead to organizing a food bank or community garden.

If loneliness among seniors is a prevalent issue in the community, the church could establish regular visitation programs or host events that foster intergenerational connections.

Community service is the first pillar of the discipleship process, and it’s not just important; it’s foundational. This pillar prepares the ground for the seeds of God’s word to be sown by opening the hearts and minds of those involved to the transformative power of God’s Word.

Ellen White wrote: “If less time were given to sermonizing… greater results would be seen. The poor are to be relieved, the sick cared for, the sorrowing and the bereaved comforted, the ignorant instructed, and the inexperienced counselled. We are to weep with those that weep and rejoice with those that rejoice. Accompanied by the power of prayer, the power of the love of God, this work will not, cannot, be without fruit. In almost every community, many do not listen to the preaching of God’s Word or attend any religious service… Often, the relief of their physical needs is the only avenue by which they can be approached.

Community service is our opportunity to be those loving and lovable Christians, showing God’s love in tangible ways and setting the stage for the next steps in our faith journey. It’s our first step towards creating a disciple-making culture and connecting people to Jesus in our communities.

If your congregation requires assistance with community services, please do not hesitate to contact your pastor. The Executive Committee of the Manitoba-Saskatchwan Conference has allocated more than $110,000 for community services in 2024.

 

Pishshapmishko.

Charles Ed II Aguilar, President