Image Credit: Lacey Stecker

Mission Blessings Highlight Washington Constituency Session

Washington Conference’s 61st constituency session on May 5, 2024 served as a day of reflecting on God’s blessings from the last five years and fittingly began with 280 delegates singing “Great is Thy Faithfulness.”

Constituency sessions are important times for church representatives to gather. They're a time to listen to ministry reports, observe trends, ask good questions, elect leaders, select committee representatives, process church business decisions and reflect on ministry and mission milestones.

Financial Blessings

Living through and emerging from a global pandemic era influenced a great time of ministry innovation, creativity and collaboration, along with a deeper calling to pray to God for "Greater Things."

Washington Conference leaders, like many other entities, prepared for worst-case scenarios in the initial days of the pandemic. With church doors closed for a time, donations for tithe and offerings were expected to go down significantly.

They didn’t. In fact, they grew.

“We didn’t have to lay off a single employee for financial hardship reasons during the pandemic,” said Jerry Russell, Washington Conference vice president for finance. “Thank you for your incredible generosity to the cause of Christ.”

Tithe over a 10-year time span increased by 18.9% in just the last five years. Tithe per capita in the last five years averaged out to $1,153.70.

Russell shared, “Because of your generosity in the last five years, we have 2,321 new members; 1,284 students enrolled (on average); $3.5 million in subsidy for Walla Walla University and Oakwood University; 32,500 church services in more than 120 locations; and 2,573 Sunset Lake campers where 1,292 young people accepted Jesus for the first time.”

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Follow along with ministry reports and stories of transformation in Washington Conference's 61st constituency session video report.

Ministry Investments

Washington Conference’s leadership team decided in the pandemic era to intentionally invest in ministry and grow the mission, particularly through children’s ministry, media ministry, health ministry, outreach ministries and most recently with the launch of public campus ministries.

“God uses different methods to reach people,” said Doug Bing, Washington Conference president. “We planted 12 new churches in five languages in the last five years, and we saw a 24% increase in attendance at our revitalization churches. Yet, we are still asking God for victories as 47% of our churches are still in declining growth.”

Washington’s focus on church planting and church revitalization led to the seating of eight new churches at the session: Auburn Hispanic, Everson Spanish, Gig Harbor, LifeBridge, Lynnwood Spanish, New Life Samoan Puyallup, Refuge and Ukrainian churches.

Membership in this quinquennium surpassed 24,000. Baptisms between pre-pandemic and post-pandemic times grew from 509 baptisms in 2018 to 598 baptisms in 2023. 

In 2023, 13 churches had 12 or more baptisms; 4 churches had 9–11 baptisms; 15 churches had 6–8 baptisms; 29 churches had 3–5 baptisms; 21 churches had 1–2 baptisms; and 34 churches had zero baptisms.

“We are not too concerned with the churches with zero baptisms because we see many are involved in an evangelism cycle,” said Randy Maxwell, Washington Conference vice president for administration. “We are more concerned about getting churches out of decline.”

Additional ministry reports highlighted how Washington’s education system is growing and experiencing a six-year enrollment increase. Most schools in the conference now have waitlists, and the system has hired 10 new teachers to accommodate more students. Auburn Adventist Academy’s enrollment is now 260 students, with a population of 49% male and 51% female students.

Sunset Lake Camp received national recognition from Newsweek as one of the top 500 camps in 2023. Camp leaders are continuing to prepare for long-needed infrastructure updates for renovated hillside cabins, a new dining hall and a new family village — investments that are expected to cost $4–5 million long-term and that will require significant fundraising.

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Washington Conference's education system keeps growing through increased enrollment, professional learning communities, teacher retention activities and more.

Church Business

Delegates processed constitution and bylaw updates such as virtual attendance and proxy voting provisions. Multiple clarifications were added to governing documents, including further definition of “for cause” related to the removal of committee members; type of officer duties; and two typos in an article reference and in a word meaning.

Delegates voted for the disbandment of North Creek Christian Fellowship, a church in Snohomish that experienced good community engagement for many years before facing decline.

With a focused and fast-paced agenda, Washington Conference’s 61st constituency session concluded at 1:14 p.m. Delegates represented a nearly equal number of first-time delegates (49.6%) vs. returning delegates (50.4%).

Earlier in the day, session delegates honored a key local leader, Bob Paulsen, who served multiple terms on many levels of executive committees, by singing his favorite song “Blessed Assurance.” Paulsen died in his sleep the Thursday night before the 61st session.

Electing Leaders

Delegates expressed strong support for the leadership team with John Freedman, North Pacific Union president and nominating committee chair, noting how this was one of his best nominating committee experiences. “God has really blessed this team,” he said.

Washington’s re-elected executive team members are Douglas L. Bing, president; Randyle S. Maxwell, vice president for administration; Gerald S. Russell, vice president for finance; and Michelle D. Wachter, vice president for education.

Delegates also re-elected the following ministry directors and associates: Wilma Bing, associate superintendent; Pam Scott, associate treasurer; José Jerez, trust services and planned giving director; Bob Moore, trust services associate and stewardship director; Abishai Aiolupotea, human resources director; Heather Brueske, human resources associate director; Derek Lane, Adventist Community Services and outreach ministries director; Bill Roberts, ministerial director; David Yeagley, Sunset Lake and young adult ministry director; Nestor Osman, youth ministries director; John Leis, public campus ministries director; Elida Jerez, health ministries director; and Ernesto Hernandez, media ministries director.

“God’s mission for His church is always more,” said Bing. “Our mission is huge to take the gospel to all the world. Greater Things come as we are faithful in oppressive times. Greater Things happen when we stay the course to the end.”

Featured in: July/August 2024