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TogetherAgain Newsletter

Volume 6, Number 1; January 1999

Editor: Gary Russell
Managing Editor: Curtis Rittenour
Designer: Matthew McVane
Type Placement: Ginger Calkins
Content Consultant: Paul Richardson, Monte Sahlin, and Ralph Martin

Published by the Center for Creative Ministry for the Reclaiming Committee of the Seventh-day Adventist Church in North America. If you would like to contact us with questions, want to be on the mailing list, or would like to share your ideas, write: TogetherAgain Resource Center, 5040 Prescott Avenue, Lincoln, Nebraska, 68506, Or send us an email, fax: 1-402-486-2572, or phone: 1-800-272-4664. © 1998, BBMRC, Inc.


FEATURE article

Ministering to Former Pastors

"Who, having put his hand to the plow, turns back . . ."

Dear Gary,

I appreciate your reply to my letter. The reason I'm interested in reaching missing members is my dad. He was an Adventist pastor for 20 years when he resigned. He no longer considers himself an Adventist. When he resigned, he was the pastor of a rather large Adventist Church. In fact, there were those who considered him conference president material.

In my dad's case there were a number of complicated issues that brought about his resignation, among them a severe mid-life crisis. I must tell you that the silence from the "organized" church was deafening. A few pastor-friends visited him on occasion as did a few lay members. I want to acknowledge any and all attempts by those who reached out to him, but I don't want to overplay them either.

To be honest, my dad went through some very bitter years and he probably drove a few concerned members away. But his emotional state through this period of his life was all the more reason why he needed a more intensive effort to help him. It wouldn't have been hard. At the time we lived in one of those famous "Adventist ghettos."

I know the pressures of being a pastor are great, but the stresses my dad had after leaving the ministry and the church have been far greater. Maybe it's not so much because of leaving the ministry as turning his back on God. Although it's been slow in coming, I believe he is making a turn around back to God. Right now I'm not sure if his beliefs are truly "Christian," but I know he is seeking a better understanding of God.

There is a large void that needs to be filled in the area of ministering to ministers. My dad needed someone to help him. Since he was the person who was supposed to have the answers for his church members, he didn't know where to get help for himself. This is a shame. Please understand that I don't want to get into the blame-game with the church. This church is made up of fallible people, most of whom (I choose to believe) are trying their best.

However, something does need to be done in this area. I'm not sure what, but I have a burden for this. I hope that I can spur capable people on to start an organized project, not only to reclaim ministers and their families, but to help them before it gets to a crisis stage. Pastors and their families need to know the church cares for them personally, and not just for what they can do to serve the church. The chapters in the book Prophets and Kings on Elijah instruct us not to cast off God's servants who lose faith.

I know a pastor who acknowledged to me his need for help with some faulty thinking over his pastoral role. He told me he couldn't get help from the organized church. This is very sad! It would be wonderful to have a support system in place through which people can give and receive whatever type of support is needed.

— by a Concerned Daughter
NOTE: If you know of any ministry that specifically targets former Adventist pastors with love, concern, and the offer of fellowship and is working, please contact us here at the Center for Creative Ministry (800.272.4664). We'd like to include your story in this newsletter.


HURTING parents


A Plea from the "Give & Take" section of the Adventist Review

"LONELY PARENTS: My greatest heartbreak happened when my son stopped attending church. I began searching for texts, quotes, any words of hope that he would return. I began corresponding and sharing with other parents of children who weren't attending church. But when our house burned, all my materials were destroyed. I would like to begin again. If there are parents willing to share their experience—how they have clung to their faith, what has encouraged them, etc.,—please write to me."

Lois K. Carscallen
8235 Sunnyside Road
Sandpoint, ID 83864

Please share your stories with us here at TogetherAgain, too. We want this newsletter to be helpful, encouraging, and practical. We need stories from parents, churches, etc. that share both what has worked and what has not worked for you. You can contact us at the Center for Creative Ministry in the following ways:

Write to us: TogetherAgain, 2935 Pine Lake Road, Suite J, Lincoln, NE 68516

Call us at: 1-800-272-4664
Email us at: info@creativeministry.org
Fax us at: (402) 437-9502

Please, let us hear from you!


BOOK review

Seeking His Lost Sheep

by Fordyce W. Detamore, (Hagerstown, Md: Review and Herald Pub. Assn., 1989)

Detamore, now deceased, was a well-known Adventist Evangelist.

This little book is a classic. If you can get past some out-dated terminology (originally published in 1965 by Southern Publishing Association) and some politically incorrect vocabulary (like the use of the term 'backslider') this book is a gem. The book is out of print, but you still might find a copy in your church library, your pastor's library, or even in an Adventist Book Center (800.765.6955).

Detamore was widely known in Adventist circles for his enthusiastic evangelistic crusades. As a student at Andrews University, I remember attending a meeting he conducted. At the time he was officially retired. I sat and marveled at his energy in proclaiming the gospel and the special message of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Someone asked him how he liked retirement. His response? "I'm not retired, just re-treaded!"

Less well known was his passion for ministering to those who once fellowshipped within the community of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. During virtually every crusade he conducted, he sought out and tried to love back to God and the church missing and former Adventists. As to his final success, only heaven will tell the complete story.

This book is really a syllabus sharing how Fordyce ministered to and expressed concern for them. For example, on page 9 he writes these words:

"For years pastors have urged me to write out detailed suggestions regarding how to work for backsliders. (Notice, I did not say 'how to deal with backsliders' but 'how to work for backsliders.' There is a vast difference. We often deal with backsliders, but what a pity we seldom work for them!)"

He shares practical advice on how to find the names of those who no longer fellowship with the Adventist Church and how to approach them. He shares personal stories of former members that he has met and how they found their way back into fellowship.

If you can get your hands on a copy, I recommend that you read it and keep it handy. You will use some of its ideas and suggestions again and again.


Reaching New Generations

A Survey of the Members of Five Successful Congregations

Five Seventh-day Adventist local churches were identified in the Pacific states which have a proven, multi-year record of winning and holding younger adults from the Baby Boom and Baby Bust generations. In order to identify the transferable learnings from these churches, in-depth interviews were conducted with the pastoral staff, recent converts, reclaimed former members and inactive members, etc.

This report details the results of the survey of the members of five churches. It identifies nine significant characteristics of Adventist churches capable of reaching and winning new generations.

Of interest to TogetherAgain readers is the factor, "A strong ministry with former Adventists." The report states that two out of five members in these churches report that it was "this congregation or one of its pastors or members" who helped bring them back to church. More than 1,000 church dropouts have been reclaimed in recent years in these five churches.

"An inclusive attitude and church program that is appealing to both former Adventists and spouses who have no Adventist background is an important element in the effectiveness of the congregations in this study. This factor explains much of their success in reaching and winning persons in the Baby Boom (those born from 1946 through 1964) and 13th generations (those born from 1965 through 1981)."

The Pacific Union Conference, in cooperation with the Center for Creative Ministry, completed this third study in a series of reports on research and strategies of churches in that Union. You can purchase this report for $20 by calling AdventSource at 1.800.328.0525 and asking for catalog #420182.


Heart-hugging Ideas

Ways to Help Prevent Someone From Leaving Church

1. Invite a new member, a widow/widower, a divorcee, or a single member to share Sabbath dinner with you this week.

2. Next time your friends plan a social get-together, invite a new member to join the group.

3. If someone in your church is going through a crisis—divorce, loss of employment, unwed pregnancy, child rejecting parent's values—reach out and let them know you care.

4. Visit an elderly member and ask what you can do to help.

5. Call absent members and let them know you missed them.

6. If you have a critical, legalistic person in your church who drives members away, think of as many creative ways as you can to shower the person with deeds of kindness and love.

7. Let the children and youth of your church know you notice them and that they are important to your church family. Give them responsibilities.

8. Invite people to your home for potluck, making it easy for everyone. Remember that it's the fellowship that counts.

9. Call, visit, take food to, and/or send a card to someone who's sick or whose loved one has died.

—Reprinted from the Lake Union Herald, August, 1997




Safety Through Resolving Conflict

To truly create a safe place in the church for returning members, a conflict must be addressed effectively. If conflict has caused someone to leave the church, how can a third party intervene to acknowledge the pain and make amends? If a present conflict can be arrested with some skills that have a good chance of keeping a member in church fellowship, how does that work?

Join host Paul Richardson and Mike Aufderhar as they address resolving conflict with their guest, Bruce Boyd, pastor of the Son Valley Adventist Church in Kelowna, British Columbia. Discover how Bruce with his conference administration have dealt with several church conflicts effectively.

As always, the TogetherAgain roundtable is a large electronic "round table" where those who wish to call in (1-800-ACN-TALK), fax or e-mail us are included in the dialogue. Join the growing network of friends reaching friends who have quit coming to church.

February 13, 1999, 6-8 p.m. Eastern
Call 800-ACN-1119 for satellite details



SafetyZone Kit

A Workshop for Friends Reaching Friends Who Quit Church

Most missing members are looking for a safe place to come back to church. This eight-part workshop helps churches and members build safe places through relational bridges. Materials in the kit include: Leader's Guide, Participant's Guide, Overhead Transparency Masters, Training Videos.

Catalog #420422--$99.00
Order by calling AdventSource at 1.800.328.0525

TogetherAgain Roundtable

TogetherAgain Video Seminar on Reclaiming Missing Members

Quarterly TogetherAgain broadcasts are made on reaching former members. These two-hour videos can be used in training events for your congregation or missing members ministry. Ask for the "TogetherAgain Uplink/Reclaiming Roundtable" video tape by event date.

Cost: $14.95
Order by calling AdventSource at 1.800.328.0525

Welcome Home Kit

Mailing materials and Guidebook for a Reclaiming Ministry

A 24-page Guide Book to help you set up a Reclaiming Ministry in your church. Also included is a Homecoming Kit of artwork on a CD-ROM disc to be customized for use on a reclaiming Sabbath of your choice (including letters, response cards, refrigerator notes, posters, bulletin inserts, etc.).

Catalog #420375 -- $49.95
Order by calling AdventSource at 1.800.328.0525



God Comes Through!

It's always darkest just before dawn

He did it!! He came through again!

Oh, I'm sorry. You may not have seen last issues' editorial. In it I lamented the fact that I had lost my job and the prospects for a new one were getting slimmer every day. I sent out numerous resumes and had several interviews, but every door that opened, even just a crack, shut with a resounding THUD!

Even so, I continued to trust. I wanted to continue in ministry. But, I figured if God was finished using me as a pastor, it was futile to insist on staying in it. So I simply waited to see where He wanted me to go next. At the same time, we prepared to move back to Michigan from California and began checking out non-denominational job possibilities.

Then it happened. I had an interview that lead to an interview. The first interview was for a pastoral position in the Midwest. That position went to someone else. But the president called me about another open position, one at an academy. I visited with the principal on the phone and that led to a personal interview on campus. And they offered me the position. My wife and I prayed about it for a few days, felt God's leading, and then called to accept the invitation.

What was interesting to us is the fact that this position had been filled … several months before. Then, two weeks before school began, the person hired decided to take a different job. That was just about the time I interviewed with the president for the pastoral position. God knew that call would take place. And God knew that I couldn't be invited to fill that position until it did. I didn't know.

All I knew was that for eight months I tried to find work and was unsuccessful. And I really began to feel that God was telling me that my career in pastoral ministry was over. Then, SURPRISE!!! It wasn't over. It's just that He knows the end from the beginning and I don't. And I'm glad He does!

Why am I sharing this? Because as we minister to those who used to be among us, we sometimes feel that the work is futile. We see no immediate progress. We see no movement back to God or the church. We begin to wonder if God has indeed called us into this ministry and we begin to lose heart.


There may be a phone call that needs to be made. A letter that needs to be sent. An email that needs to be received. A meeting that needs to be held. A hug that needs to be given. Each person and each situation is unique. I don't know how God is going to work in each one or how He is going to try and love each person back to Himself. But I do know that He is there. He is with you in this ministry. He walks with you as you visit, He stands by your side as you write letters and type emails. His arms surround yours as you hug those you care for.

If you're discouraged, turn to God. If you despair, do not give up. It's like a poster I saw. A large bird had a frog in its mouth it was trying to swallow. But it couldn't because the frog had its webbed hands around the bird's neck squeezing it shut. The caption says, "Never, ever, give up!"

Till next time,

—Gary E. Russell