These six years have been an exciting adventure. The very length of tenure gives a clue to part of that journey.
Since our last session, at the suggestion of Leslie Louis, the Ministerial Council was formed so several departments could work together to coordinate activities and initiatives to further God’s work more efficiently here in the Carolinas.
The Ministerial Council consists of Haskell Williams, ministerial director; Glen Altermatt, associate ministerial director and evangelism director; Darryl Bentley, associate ministerial director; and Ricardo Palacios, director for Hispanic ministries, church planting, and church revitalization. Samuel Romero, the previous Hispanic ministries director (now retired) and Brad Cauley, the previous church planting/revitalization director served much of the six-year term and were replaced by Palacios and Bentley. The Council meets weekly, often with the Conference officers in a joint council, to address the many ministerial needs across our territory. Some of the issues processed through the Ministerial Council are personnel placement, evangelism strategy, church revitalization, and pastoral training and enrichment. The Council also assists pastors and churches in addressing difficult and challenging situations.
Each director has a specific sphere of responsibility. Williams chairs the Council and serves as liaison to the Conference administration for all ministerial matters. Altermatt oversees evangelism and serves as pastor of the local congregation in West Columbia. Palacios directs the Hispanic pastoral team, Spanish-speaking Volunteer Lay Pastors (VLPs), and supervises church planting and church revitalization. Bentley supports the non-Hispanic VLPs and provides oversight for the progress of all ministerial interns. In addition, each member of the team provides pastoral oversight and support for a specific region of the Conference, but each team member is also available to meet the needs of the entire pastoral cohort as needed.
One of the most groundbreaking initiatives was the establishment of the VLP program. In coordination with the local congregations, these men and women serving as VLPs are trained to lead their local fellowship when new mission groups are established and in locations where pastors have multiple congregations that would benefit from additional support and attention. Since current Carolina Conference Church Planting guidelines require that all mission groups be lay led, training our lay pastors is a high priority. We have conducted training at Nosoca Pines Ranch, during Evangelism Impact, and via Zoom. Each VLP serves in their local church under a supervising pastor who is either a licensed, commissioned, or ordained pastor in the Carolina Conference. We are thankful for the more than 90 VLPs who work alongside their supervising pastor to provide leadership and pastoral guidance to their congregations.
The Ministerial Department also works closely with Southern Adventist University (SAU) and Andrews University. A team consisting of the Ministerial Department and Conference administration visits both campuses to interview and select dedicated ministerial candidates. Some students are invited to complete an internship in the Summer-in- Ministry program in our churches before their senior year at SAU. We sincerely appreciate the strong theological training that the professors provide students at our universities. It makes our job a pleasure!
Upon graduation, training transitions from the classroom to the field. Some students become assistants under senior pastors in larger churches, while others are placed as lead pastors in their own districts, mentored by experienced pastors and the Ministerial Department. Each fall, all ministerial interns participate in “Interns Boot Camp” along with the interns of the South Atlantic Conference. Every pastor eagerly looks forward to the day they will be ordained or commissioned, and we accept and relish the special responsibility and honor of preparing them for the world Church’s acknowledgment of their pastoral calling.
The Ministerial Council and Carolina Ministerial Association also plan enrichment meetings throughout the year to maintain connection with the pastoral staff. Meetings at Nosoca Pines Ranch in the summer and winter provide practical in-service training in evangelistic methods and matters of pastoral efficiency. In addition, professors from across the denomination provide additional theological understanding of the precious Scriptures. One-day meetings in the six regions of the Conference, called Area Ministerial Associations (AMAs), support a coordinated effort for Conference-wide initiatives. Ministers have studied church growth principles with Natural Church Development as well as peacemaking and mediation with the Institute for Christian Conciliation. In 2017 the pastors caucused with Conference educators to facilitate greater cooperation of our churches and schools in training for service.
One of the greatest privileges of the Ministerial Department is to walk with pastors through difficult times, whether those challenges are within the ministerial family, in the congregation, or in community and civic affairs. One of the most challenging situations our pastors and churches faced was how to maintain ministry and exercise safety during the COVID-19 pandemic. It has been difficult for everyone, but our pastors have borne the brunt of threading the needle between safety and service, along with its heavy emotional stress. We tip our hats to our pastoral team.
The calling, skills, training, passion and commitment of the 93 Carolina Conference ministers in the field is second to none, and we are so very thankful for each one. Please pray for each of us as we press forward to “the high calling of God” and a completed work and soon return of the One whom we lovingly serve— Christ Jesus.