Division Hosts Media Summit
in Simi Valley

Delegates meet to discuss strategy, social media

BY GEORGE JOHNSON, JR., North American Division communication director

Approximately 100 communication professionals, which included local church members, pastors, media ministry leaders, and denominational leaders, came together on May 22-23, 2011, in Ontario, California, for the first-ever media summit sponsored by the North American Division. Themed “The Media Imperative: Harnessing Modern Media to Proclaim the Gospel,” the purpose of this event, according to division executive leadership, was to “converse on the various uses of media today and the practical ways in which these powerful mediums can be used in proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ in our territory.”

In his opening remarks to the attendees, Pastor Dan Jackson, president of the 1.1 million-member church in North America, explained how media has developed over time—from radio stations to Facebook being the third-largest nation in the world. And he pointed out the focal points of the summit: (1) Revival and Reformation (Reach North America); (2) Administrative: Signaling Priorities; and (3) Use of Technology.

PRESENTATION SPEAKER: Juliette Powell presents “Strategic Connections” at the NAD media summit May 22 in Ontario, California. PHOTOS: Gerry Chudleigh
He also shared some sobering facts of how unknown the church is in the division’s territory and how much money has been spent on media ministries in the past. “We need to be honest enough with ourselves to find out how we react to an ever-changing world. Are we looking at all the tools that are available to us?” said Jackson. He, however, told the audience that this meeting was not set up to condemn past actions and decisions, but to “move into bold new horizons for God. These days are the beginning of a godly revolution in the Seventh-day Adventist Church in North America,” he exclaimed.

Jackson’s opening presentation set the stage for the two-day intensive, which included various presentations from other media professionals dealing with topics of social media, radio, and television. “We wanted to have fruitful dialogue on content, distribution, and production for each of these media forms,” said G. Alexander Bryant, executive secretary for the North American Division. The first day of the summit included presentations from media “heavy hitters” such as filmmaker Phil Cooke and social media “guru” Brian Solis, just to name a few. The second day of the summit allowed participants to break into groups to give aspirations and recommendations to division executive leadership. “We hope that we have received significant ideas on the use of media as we look to the future,” said Bryant. A committee has been formed that will look at the recommendations and how to implement them in a comprehensive media strategy for the division.

During the meeting Jackson also noted that the division is celebrating 82 years of media ministries and recognized the leadership from the past and present. “When we think of the media ministries that we have, we really need to praise God and thank Him for the love, effort, and guidance of the Holy Spirit.” Currently, the division operates seven media ministries: Breath of Life, Esperanza TV, Faith For Today, It Is Written, La Voz de la Esperanza, LifeTalk Radio, and Voice of Prophecy.

Program planners also offered the opportunity for people to view online. Nearly 250 people registered for the “online” summit and were also able to ask questions to the presenters and make comments about the presentations. “I have not been a huge fan of social media, but the presentations showed me how powerful it is—I just have to use it better,” said David S. Battle, who is a member of the Pioneer Memorial church, in Berrien Springs, Michigan. Additional technology allowed for participants to answer polled questions by using the Web and smartphones.

Delwin Finch, pastor for Web ministries at Forest Lake church in Apopka, Florida, attended the summit because he was curious to hear what his church had to say about social media in a formal public forum. Finch and his team use various social media tools to enhance church services including texting prayer requests during the church service.

PIONEER LAUDED: Dan Jackson, right, president of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in North America, thanks Walter Arties and other pioneers of media ministry at the NAD media summit in Ontario, California, May 22-23, 2011.
Gordon Harty, a software engineer for the North American Division, who currently resides in Temecula, California, attended the summit because he wanted to be part of the discussion on the implications of social media and ministry. “In the past our church has been afraid of it because when you put your information out there it isn’t being moderated. But I’ve always felt that if we aren’t out there, we don’t exist. We have to take the plunge. We can either stay where we are and remain irrelevant, or move forward, take the risk, and stay relevant,” he said.

At the conclusion of the two-day meeting, Jackson opened the floor for comments. During this time of transparency, he shared with attendees that the division’s leadership didn’t have all of the answers, but that he wanted everyone to find a way to work together.

“I admire Pastor Jackson for taking ownership in this new direction that the division is taking, and forging a new alliance with grassroots and denominational leadership to create a platform for dialogue,” said Paula Sanders Morris, a member of the Decatur Seventh-day Adventist Church in Decatur, Georgia.

Jackson also shared with the audience his vision for the division. “God has a dream for the North American Division that is far greater than any of us can think of. What is the dream? It is that we see utilization of all human and financial resources joining together to herald the soon coming of Jesus.”

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