Communication Strategy Commission - Report

Documents June 27, 2005

VOTED, 1. To accept the Communication Strategy Commission Report as a study document;

2. To request the divisions to place the document under review and report to the General Conference with recommendations prior to the 1995 Spring Meeting;

3. To refer to the 1995 Spring Meeting for further action the Communication Strategy Commission Report which reads as follows:

The report of the Communication Strategy Commission (COSCO) provides strategies that will address several significant issues affecting the Church in both its internal and external communication.


At the 1992 Annual Council, an action was taken providing for the concerns and issues affecting the World Church to be communicated, under the direction of the President of the General Conference, to all levels of the Church through established print media. It proposed the wider use of the electronic media, and urged that administrations give priority to their use.

The goals of this worldwide communication approach include maintaining unity of belief and mission, nurturing the spiritual life of members, providing information on the position of the Church on public issues, and countering divisive elements.

It was not the purpose of the 1993-1994 Communication Strategy Commission to repeat the work of the former commission; rather it sought to reinforce, supplement, and strengthen its proposals.

At the 1993 Annual Council, a further action was taken identifying Communication as one of the six focus issues that needs to be addressed by the Church. The Communication Strategy Commission, in part, was a direct response to the 1993 action. The report of the Commission addresses the need “to prepare a strategy giving direction to communication within and without the Church.”–Annual Council action 250-93G, “World Survey Commission Report and Recommendations for Strategic Planning,” 1993

Annual Council Booklet, p 28.

The report that follows is in two main parts: a proposed strategy, and other actions which include various types of implementation that should enhance the activating and effectiveness of the strategy.



  1. To adopt the following as the overall strategic statement to govern communication both within and outside the Church:

    Seventh-day Adventists will communicate hope by focusing on the quality of life that is complete in Christ.

    The summary of all of God’s communication about Himself is “God is Love” (1 John 4:16). This love floods the human heart and creates hope (Rom 5:2). God, who is the ground of hope, communicates joy and peace to the Church and its members, so that hope overflows into the world (Rom 15:13). It is only in Christ that we are complete (Col 2:10).

    The Seventh-day Adventist Church looks forward with the “blessed hope” always in view. The Church believes that God provides for humankind a message of hope that enhances the quality of life spiritually, mentally, physically, and socially. Therefore, Seventh-day Adventists will communicate with increasing urgency and insistence this message of hope, in order to change life here and now, and offer the completeness of life that comes only through faith in Jesus Christ.

    Ellen G White repeatedly urges the Church to develop its message and mission in a way that addresses the needs of body, mind, and spirit. In a world of decay, disease, and doubt, we are to communicate God’s original plan for the race which provides for the needs of the whole person.

    The Church already holds a considerable advantage in how it is viewed by its publics. Many, in all countries, perceive the Church as a preferred source for securing a better quality of life. As the Church takes this perception, augments it through a cohesive and deliberate strategy, Seventh-day Adventists will also be perceived as the stewards of a hope that goes far beyond earthly expectations.

    The most effective test of all communication is, Does it demonstrate love and produce hope? The Church’s purpose is to create a communication vision designed to fulfill the great commandment–“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and all your soul and all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” In such communication a quality of life may be offered that brings hope both for the present and the future world.
  2. To request each entity of the Church to develop its communication, both internal and external, within this strategy.

    The actual choice of words used in communication initiatives may depend on whether the initiative is directed internally or externally, the cultural and social milieu in which the Church may be operating, and the entity that is creating the initiative.

    Within this strategy church entities may positively address how best to communicate using the words, slogans, and patterns of thought that are attractive within their culture.

     For this strategy to have a global impact there must be agreed priorities in concept and planning. It therefore proposes that the General Conference work with the divisions in formulating plans that will implement the strategy.
  3. To incorporate the following guiding principles:
    1. The Local Congregation: To make the local congregation the primary focus of internal communication.

      The worldwide membership of the Seventh-day Adventist Church is consistently organized into local churches. These local church communities serve as the basis for all of the essential tasks associated with the development of faith and practice. The purpose of communication is to create communities of faith.

      The local church is organized, in God’s plan, for the preaching of the gospel and the nurture of the believers. These two tasks unite individual members into communities, and create the need for communication.

      The rapid and diverse growth of the Church creates special challenges and opportunities for communication, which the Church must meet at the level of the local congregation.

      Hope and whole-person development are essential parts of internal communication, and these are best provided within the local church community.
      1. The Church Is Responsible:
        1. To examine and, where necessary, adjust its internal communication systems so that the flow of information is to the local congregation.
        2. To make essential information available through the local congregations so that each church member may be informed and nurtured.
        3. To include the provision of minimum nurturing materials in the appropriate language as one of the criteria for recording a country, area, or people group as entered.
        4. To communicate hope to its members by focusing on the quality of life that may be theirs as they are complete in Christ.
        5. To communicate in love to its members so that hope may overflow in an effective witness.
      2. Implementation
        1. Each division/union to review its communication systems within the church and prepare recommendations to the division executive committee on systems suitable to, and feasible for, its needs. Reports on actions taken and systems in place are to be forwarded to the General Conference vice president assigned to communication.
        2. At least a monthly communication to each congregation from the conference/mission providing nurture, connection with the mission and message of the Church, and information on progress and challenges.
        3. The inclusion within the minimum nurturing materials available to every Seventh-day Adventist the following:
          1. How to accept Christ.
          2. How to live as a Seventh-day Adventist Christian.
          3. How to be part of the life of the congregation and society.
          4. The fundamental beliefs of the Church.

            The preparation of these materials to be the responsibility of the Ministerial Association working with denominational publishers.

            Note: In congregations with nonliterate believers, the minimum materials will be made available in comprehensible formats through the appointed spiritual leader of the congregation.
      3. Projected Benefits
        1. Systems able to communicate effectively and swiftly within the Church.
        2. Every member provided with nurture, connection with the message and mission of the Church, and information on progress and challenges.
        3. An informed witnessing Seventh-day Adventist presence on which the Church can build and expand its mission.
        4. Members from whom love and hope overflow as they demonstrate the quality of life that completeness in Christ creates.
    2. Effective Communicators: To enable congregations and church members to be effective communicators within the context of their communities.
      1. The Church Is Responsible
        1. To include the following four elements in internal communication, each in a contextualized setting:
          1.  To equip: to train and empower disciples.
          2.  To inform: essential information about the Church.
          3.  To educate: basic belief system.
          4.  To inspire: by examples of others.
        2. To provide all internal communication in a way that is sensitive to the varying needs of gender, age, race, language, ethnicity, and culture.
        3. To establish administrative initiatives for timely and full delivery of information to congregations.
        4. To share information in a candid, honest, and responsible way.
      2. Implementation
        1. A training program designed to equip, to inform, to educate, and to inspire developed by the Communication Department in consultation with administration.
        2. Communication methods may include one or more of the following: multimedia, personal presentation, drama, musicals, role playing, and publications.
        3. Aggressive pursuit of communication technology with the goal of developing delivery systems that can be sustained. These systems to be identified and evaluated through the Communication Department.
      3. Projected Benefits
        1. Congregations and church members able to communicate effectively with each other, with other church entities and with their communities.
        2. Communication that can be received positively by the whole spectrum of members.
        3. Effective delivery of communication.
        4. Confidence in leadership and better understanding of issues and challenges affecting the Church and its mission.
    3. Quality of Life: The Seventh-day Adventist Church to become the preferred source for whole-person development.
      1. The Church Is Responsible
        1. To relate biblical truth to present needs in a manner that is theologically correct and experientially satisfying.
        2. To communicate the assurance of the quality of life to be found through an understanding of the Divine provision for whole-person development (physical, mental, spiritual, social).
        3. To enhance the effectiveness of communication, making it sensitive to the needs of the community being addressed, and allowing the people to accept the communication in a way that meets their situation and context.
        4. To devise cost effective initiatives and ministries which contain the capacity to become self-funding.
      2. Implementation
        1. All outreach activity must be sensitive to three basic building blocks of evangelism: 1) relevance to the listener; 2) the listener’s readiness for truth; and 3) permission from the listener to share the Christian gospel.
        2. Ask ministries and institutions to develop instruments to rate themselves, and ask their users to rate them on their effectiveness in communicating a quality of life that finds its completeness in the hope God gives in Jesus Christ.
        3. Ask ministries to listen formally to nonmember concerns about quality of life issues at least once per year.
        4. Use the results from c) above, to create outreach initiatives. These initiatives should affirm the congregation hosting the event and should lead respondents to prefer the Seventh-day Adventist quality of life.
        5. Serving the whole person–spiritually, with compelling evangelistic and worship opportunities; mentally, with high quality education; physically, with information and programs; and socially, through church fellowship and community events.
        6. Design resources which enable ministries and institutions to use information about individual users, or user groups, to structure materials specifically applicable to those individuals or user groups.
        7. Develop instruments for reporting and evaluating which would measure whether or not the Seventh-day Adventist Church is the preferred source for quality of life and whole-person development, in tandem with information which is traditionally collected.
      3. Projected Benefits
        1. Ministries which communicate the Gospel in a way that answers felt needs and creates hope in Christ.
        2. Institutions that provide whole-person development and communicate hope.
        3. A public awareness of the Seventh-day Adventist Church as the preferred source of whole-person development.
        4. Ministry materials for congregations to use which match individual or user group needs with church resources.
        5. Ministries and resources which people use and which have the capacity to be self-funding.
    4. Image Perception: To improve the public perception of the Seventh-day Adventist Church and its members.
      1. The Church Is Responsible
        1. To create and maintain initiatives that portray Seventh-day Adventists as credible contributors to quality of life for people and communities.
        2. To involve all entities, from the local congregation to the General Conference, all institutions from local schools and clinics to major educational, health, publishing and other institutions, in the improving of the public perception of the Church, according to the principles outlined in the communication strategy.
        3. To make the communication of hope that focuses on the quality of life that is complete in Christ a key concept in public communication initiatives.
      2. Implementation
        1. Developing at all levels, under the direction of the Communication Department, an active and intentional plan for involvement in the community with participation and recognition of both church entities and their individual members.
        2. The creation of an international Seventh-day Adventist news network, under the direction of the Communication Department, to provide news and information to the major world news agencies and non-Seventh-day Adventist church press agencies. News will portray international church activities including those that enhance the quality of life.
        3. The development and adoption of a corporate identity package, including logo and signage, under the direction of the Communication Department, for use throughout the World Church.
        4. The establishing of an accreditation program by the Communication Department for use in evaluating the image local congregations project in their local communities. Key qualities include appearance of the church, hospitality of the congregation, and community interaction.
        5. The instituting of a multi-tiered program of media relations and crisis management to address the information needs of the mass media at all levels of the church, with focus on how Seventh-day Adventists contribute to the quality of life in their communities.
        6. The inclusion of basic public relations and mass communication training in all formal theological and pastoral training, and in continuing education programs for pastors.
        7. Local church communicators and pastors will receive similar training in how to evaluate and take advantage of local communication opportunities. All such programs are to be built around the communication strategy of the Church.
        8. The development and implementation of five- and ten-year image awareness programs by each division which address unique needs in each division.
        9. The provision of opportunities for communicating, through a variety of fellowship and worship styles, to meet the needs of diverse communities, just as we recognize the value of language and ethnic diversity within the Church.
      3. Projected Benefits
        1. The public perception of the Church increasingly focussed on its fulfillment of the Gospel Commission in a way that improves the life of the individual and the community.
        2. The entire Church working together for better acceptance by its publics as it carries out its mission.
        3. Cohesion and consistency in image perception.
      4. Divisions and Unions

        Because of the wide range of different technologies needed in order to communicate with local congregations, the different public perception of the Church in countries within divisions, and the necessity of using communication platforms and approaches adapted to differing contexts in which the Church operates, further development of the strategy must continue at the division and union level.

        1. To request each division to utilize the participatory process developed for the “six focus issues” to implement and develop the communication strategy, and to provide reports on strategy initiatives for review by the Communication Strategy Council.
        2. To request the division/union committees to implement the communication strategy within the division territory, and to set measurable goals for review and assessment of communication initiatives.
      5. Institutions Utilizing Mass Media Outreaches (including Media Centers and Publishing Houses)
        1. Recommended: To request institutions utilizing mass media outreaches (including media centers and publishing houses):
          1. To implement in the world the communication strategy by developing programs consistent with the Strategic Statement.
          2. To accept a key role in communicating to the non-Christian and secular audiences.
      6. 1994-1997 Planning Cycle
        1. Recommended: to adopt the following planning cycle for 1994-1997
          1. Administrative Actions
            1. Annual Council 1994: Distribution of the Strategy as a study document to Church leadership.
            2. Division Yearend Meetings 1994: Explanation and preliminary presentation of the study document at division yearend meetings.
            3. Spring Meeting 1995: Discussion and action recommending strategy to the General Conference Session and Annual Council 1995.
            4. Division Midyear Meetings 1995: Presentation of the strategy to division midyear meetings.
            5. General Conference Session: Discussion and adoption of the core strategy at the General Conference Session.
            6. Annual Council 1995: Final action on detailed plan.
            7. Division Yearend Meetings 1995: Adoption and implementation of the strategy by division yearend meetings.
          2. Implementation Plans
             The implementation of the strategy requires:
            1. The distribution of the strategy.
            2. Training to understand and use the strategy.
            3. Baseline research to establish standards for evaluation and measurement.
            4. Trial use of the strategy.
            5. Contextualizing the strategy for specific regions and activities.
            6. Adoption of the strategy as the standard for communication.

              While this may take a period of several years, measurable results in these areas can be achieved early in the implementation cycle.
          3. Recommended:
            1. To request the newly established Communication Council to make the development of a three-, five-, and ten-year implementation plan its highest priority.
            2. To adopt the following three-year implementation plan as an interim plan until the formal plan is in place. This interim plan is to be coordinated with the larger church calendars. (The work of coordination to be the responsibility of the vice president advising the Communication Department and the Communication Director with assistance with scheduling from the Assistant to the President.)
              1. 1995
                1. Third Quarter: Development of a training curriculum for understanding and using the strategy; budgetary provisions made in the 1996 budgets for implementation of the strategy.
                2. Fourth Quarter: Baseline research done in 100 targeted markets, with at least 40 percent of the targets being in areas where the church has little or no activity. The baseline to include 10 basic questions common to all divisions.
              2. 1996
                1. First Quarter: Beginning of a year long strategic review by institutions, departments, and world divisions on how to contextualize and adopt the plan to local situations; the development of action plans for implementation commencing in the first quarter 1997.
                2. Second Quarter: Initial reports received from all world divisions of a Crisis Management Plan, including four standard components:
                  1. Written crisis management protocols.
                  2. Named spokesperson.
                  3. Chain of command in a crisis.
                  4. Strategies for anticipating crisis response.
                3. Third Quarter: Initial reports received from all world divisions of results of the strategy in the area of evangelism, including three standard components:
                  1. Baseline research prior to evangelistic endeavor.
                  2. Summary of how the strategy was used in the evangelistic endeavor.
                  3. Research following the evangelistic endeavor to measure and evaluate results.
                  4. Fourth Quarter: Initial reports received from all world divisions of public identity activity, including three standard components:
                    1. Baseline research in targeted markets.
                    2. Three percent improvement of public image in markets with an established Seventh-day Adventist presence.
                    3. Five percent improvement of public image in markets with no Seventh-day Adventist presence.
                  5. Report to Annual Council 1996 of three trial initiatives.
                    1. Crisis Management.
                    2. Evangelism.
                    3. Public Identity.
                  6. Registration of regional implementation plans for 1997.
              3. 1997
                1. First Quarter: Launch of regional, contextualized implementation, to continue through all of 1997.
                2. Second Quarter: Report to Spring Council 1997 by world divisions and church institutions of implementation launch.
                3. Third Quarter: Survey of strategic initiatives by the Communication Council.
                4. Fourth Quarter: Report to Annual Council 1997 on progress of regional initiatives.
              4. 1998

                First Quarter: Review and evaluation of regional initiatives by each region.
      7. Communication Strategy Council
        1. Recommended: To appoint a Communication Strategy Council for the General Conference as follows:
          1. Membership:
            Chairman, Vice President assigned to Communication
            Secretary, Director of Communication Department

            In addition to the chairman and secretary, fifteen persons representing various communication functions and skills including the following:

            One person from each division

            Communication department leadership


            Public Affairs and Religious Liberty

            Broadcast ministries

            Institutional Public Relations

            Lay communication specialists
          2. Terms of Reference
            1. Implement the theme of communicating “hope by focusing on a quality of life that is complete in Christ.”
            2. Recommend action plans to departments, divisions, and/or institutions to assist them in creating communication that is coherent and consistent with the strategy.
            3. Report to divisions or other entities on specific ideas that the division and other entities can use to solve problems the divisions have presented to the council during its annual meeting.
            4. Identify and disseminate creative communication initiatives of the divisions and institutions.
            5. Access individuals who can assist the council in developing plans and ideas for recommendation.
            6. Set priorities in the developing of strategic communication initiatives.
            7. Establish costs for projects and initiatives recommended for implementation.
            8. Receive and review reports from divisions on development of the communication strategy.
          3. Administrative basis
            1. Constituted by and report to the General Conference Administrative Committee.
            2. Report to the General Conference Strategic Planning and Budgeting Committee through the Administrative Committee.
            3. Meetings will alternate annually between Maryland, USA and locations in the world divisions, the General Conference to fund travel expenses.

Other Recommendations from the Commission:

  1. Communication Structure for the General Conference
    1. Recommended:
      1. To organize communication at the General Conference level so that it is a part of the President’s office under the direction of a General Conference vice president assigned to communication (see attached diagram).
      2. To define the role of the general vice president with the communication assignment as follows:
        1. Responsible to the General Conference President for the total communication program of the General Conference in both internal and external communication.
        2. Chairman of the Board for the Adventist Media Center and for Adventist World Radio.
        3. Presidential advisor to the Communication Department.
        4. Presidential advisor to the Office of Mission Awareness.
      3. To assign authority to speak to the general public and the media on behalf of the General Conference as follows:
        1. The church spokesperson(s) to be carefully selected by administration, and perform functions designated by administration using the following