People access and consume media today in a variety of ways. Beyond traditional television and radio, many turn to online sources such as social media, YouTube, and podcast platforms. As we participate in this expanded media landscape, there are now multiple ways you can access our weekly Sabbath School preparation program, Talking Points:
The Michigan Conference Update.
Every Friday the Michigan Conference Communication Department send out a digital newsletter to some 6,000 email subscribers. This helpful publication includes important reports and resources from all levels of our church organization—Michigan Conference, Lake Union, North American Division, and the General Conference. Since Talking Points is always included alongside other weekly Michigan Conference video resources, some people just wait to get Talking Points delivered to them this way. (If you are not on the MI Update email list and would like to be, write a quick note to email@example.com and you’ll be set up right away.)
It’s hard to overstate the impact social media now has on our world. Many people spend hours every day interacting on platforms like Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook—and since social media is where the people are, that’s where Talking Points is, too! Multiple Facebook pages post a link to the latest episode of Talking Points each week, including the official Michigan Conference page, our Sabbath School and Personal Ministries page (MichiganSSPM), the MichiganSSPM Ideas and Resources Facebook group, as well as my own personal Facebook page. Of course, you are not only allowed but encouraged to share the video link on your social media pages, too.
The online home of everything related to Sabbath School, Personal Ministries, and Public Evangelism in the Michigan Conference is MichiganSSPM.org. Here you’ll find not only Talking Points, but local video testimonies, training videos, event registrations, order forms for Sabbath School supplies, and much more. If you haven’t done so yet, take a minute a check out here!
The Emmanuel Institute YouTube channel is the unsung hero of our Talking Points media toolkit. Not only can you make sure you never miss an episode by subscribing to the channel and turning on notifications, but just by viewing Talking Points through the Emmanuel Institute YouTube page, you are helping fund future video resources! By God’s grace, our Talking Points audience has grown to the point that our Emmanuel Institute YouTube channel is now monetized, meaning that every month YouTube pays us for using their platform. 100% of those funds stay in our department to help develop other helpful ministry tools. So, a super simple way you can help the cause of Christ is to simply watch, subscribe, like, and share Talking Points on YouTube.
If you don’t know about AudioVerse, you are really missing out! Available as a webpage and as an app (iOSand Android), AudioVerse is faithful Seventh-day Adventist ministry that posts new sermons, seminars, and other ministry media all the time. Talking Points is available on AudioVerse in both audio and video formats and while you’re there, owe it to yourself to sample some of the thousands of other tremendous recordings archived there as well.
While video may be king of the media landscape, audio is still a central part of many people’s media diet. I personally like listening to certain things more than watching them so I can multitask while doing household chores or driving to various appointments. To that end, we’ve made Talking Points audio available on major podcast platforms like Google and Spotify.
The General Conference SSPM App
Finally, the new and improved General Conference Sabbath School and Personal Ministries (SSPM) app (iOSand Android) is a must for all Sabbath School leaders and members. Working well on phones and tables, this free app allows you to not only access all the Sabbath School lessons in their various forms, but you’ll also find additional resources like the weekly Mission Spotlight videos and Sabbath School commentary programs from Hope Sabbath School, It Is Written, Amazing Facts, and our own Talking Points program.
So how do you get Talking Points? If you like to have the one-stop-shop experience in your Sabbath School preparation, the General Conference SSPM app may be best for you. If you like listening while you drive or work around the house, give AudioVerse or Spotify a chance. If you like to watch Talking Points and by so doing want to help fund future video resources, subscribe to the Emmanuel Institute YouTube channel. But regardless of how you get Talking Points, make sure it is only a preparation tool and not a substitute for your local Sabbath School class!
Pastor Rob Benardo shares an update from the Battle Creek Tabernacle:
We did a three-week series on weekends with a little over 100 people on opening night and ending up with close to 70 by the end of the series. Visitors were between 15 and 25 each night and that includes those watching online. We had six baptisms last week and have somewhere around 10 more at the end of November.
All our numbers were down considerably from the past. We would normally have started out with more like 150 with 30 or 40 visitors. The handbill mailing was disappointing and it’s the same flyer we’ve used in the past. We are learning to use social media advertising, but it is still fairly unsuccessful. By far, personal invitations brought in the most visitors.
Despite the lower-than-normal turnout, we praise the Lord for the visitors that did attend and the decisions they continue to make for the Lord. Overall, we believe it was a very successful series.
Pastor Jorge A. Dieaz III reports about the recent meetings at the South Haven and Eau Claire Spanish Churches:
In the earlier part of the year, our South Haven Church family chose to conduct an evangelistic series via Zoom. Unfortunately, we did not have any visitors.
The gatherings at the Eau Claire Spanish were in-person. Though we chose not to use Zoom, we did, livestream our series on Facebook. We had a great turnout of 45+ each evening with an average of 10 visitors each evening. While we’ve had no baptisms yet, we are following up with each of our visitors. Many of them are currently taking Bible studies for a deeper understanding and Lord willing and have accepted Jesus as their Savior!
From our recent experiences, the most beneficial meetings have been those held in-person and livestreamed.
Pastor EJ Wolf reports on meetings recently held in Edmore and Frost:
Pastor Darry Bentley, Chad Kreuzer and myself conducted the meetings simultaneously in Frost and Edmore. We had a total of 16 messages (10 on the pillars of our faith and 6 on health) done over 2 weekends. We built a website for visitors to register and learn more about it. Check out www.pillarsoffaith.net
We filmed 12 1-2 minutes video ads that went on social media (to see a sample, click here). Though we had over 300 clicks in our area from the video ads, only one person sign up from the ads.
Nevertheless, Edmore had 6 visitors, and 5 are continuing with Bible studies and are attending prayer meeting. Frost had 5 visitors and we have 4 baptismal candidates.
Finally, Pastor Aron Crews tells about an evangelistic series in Chikaming:
The Chikaming church held a full 20-meeting evangelistic series entitled “Jesus on Prophecy” over April and May of this year. We had 9 non-Adventists in attendance. At the end, 5 made decisions to join the church and continue with a follow up series that has been meeting every Thursday evening and Sabbath morning. Three of them are close to baptism and are in the process of being cleared. The other 2 missed a couple months because of vacation and travel over the summer and haven’t returned yet to the church due to other obligations. I continue to visit them.
Buchanan will be doing the same series starting in March of 2022, so please keep this series in prayer!
What a blessing it was to spend time with like-minded people and to hear of ideas on how to make Sabbath school more enjoyable! Finding out that Sabbath school was first developed as an opportunity to reach out to our neighbors and friends so we could all study God’s word together was reaffirming. People aren’t always open to coming to church, but they are open to studying their Bibles, so why not invite them to Sabbath School where they can see the interaction between those in the class and join in themselves? It is a great outreach program, just as it was intended to be.
Personal Ministries works with all the departments and every member in the church, hence the name personalministries. We don’t have to go to other countries to minister to those who need to know Christ, they are right in our own back yards! When we live what we preach, people notice and want to know why we are the way we are. The way we live our lives is the best testimony we can give—”I am the way I am because of Jesus Christ.”
We need to get back to our grass roots and start doing what our founders had done, going door to door, caring for our neighbor’s well-being, holding meetings, attending prayer meeting where prayer is the main focus, getting together in smaller groups to really sit down and study the word of God and discuss our thoughts. We were given several resources to enable us to work efficiently in the positions we were appointed to do by our church through the assignment of God.
I didn’t realize that the church board meetings were supposed to be about soul winning! We should be planning how to do ministry and missionary work, what we are doing in our area and how we can improve, and then discuss finances at the end. I believe that if we get back to doing that, church finances will take care of themselves.
Strong Tower radio was there during personal ministries weekend, I am so grateful they now have an app. I downloaded it on my phone I can listen to their programs. We don’t have access to the radio station down in Ypsilanti Michigan (yet), but through their app we do!
Attending both weekends has awakened a renewed desire and set me back on fire to work for Christ and tell as many people as I can about the love Jesus has for them. I plan to invite everyone I know to Sabbath School and pray you will to. Let’s fill all those empty seats!
“Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.” (Matthew 28:19) This is our assignment.
– Dianna Tait (Sabbath School Teacher and Personal Ministries Secretary and Detroit Oakwood Seventh-day Adventist Church)
I am already using what I learned!
This year I was blessed to be able to attend both the Sabbath School Training weekend, and the Personal Ministries weekend at Camp Au Sable. These two weekends, both separately and together, really help to relight that fire in me for doing God’s work. The excitement and passion that both Pastor Kameron and Pastor Mark have for this ministry shows in the efforts they put forth in presenting the materials for both weekends. That excitement poured out into those that had attended the meeting(s). I cannot even begin to imagine the amount of work and time spent that they put into preparing and organizing the material that was presented! I’d really like to commend their willingness and excitement to teach these classes each year. I was able to come back to my church refreshed and uplifted with more desire to carry out the Three Angels’ Messages.
The first week after attending Sabbath School Training I called a Sabbath School Counsel meeting and together we reviewed all the notes that I had taken from that weekend. I was able to share and give copies of all the material that was presented at the meetings to each person on our Sabbath School Counsel, everything is posted online and accessible at www.MichiganSSPM.org. During our SS Counsel meeting I was able to share how to find more resources that were available to teachers, ideas on how to better teach our Sabbath School classes, and also how to be more organized with our time in class. Another thing that I appreciated was the advice given on how to get more people interested in attending Sabbath School classes, as well as the weekly Prayer meeting.
The weekend after Personal Ministries Weekend our Personal Ministry Leader and I shared the awesome information we had learned with our congregation during our 10 minutes of PM time in our worship service. As shown by Pastor Kameron and Pastor Mark’s example, we gave everyone a copy of, and reviewed with them, the Grow Cycle Chart from www.GROW.advenitst.org. We shared our own church’s evangelism plan for the next year, and how we were going to help train everyone so we can all take part in the work to lead people to our amazing God. We discussed how important Evangelism is, and how it does work when we organize our church, and ourselves, in such a way to be led by the Holy Spirit—and it all starts with preparing the soil. That afternoon after potluck, we led over half of the congregation that was in attendance out into the community to go door to door collecting funds for Hope for Humanity. We all had such a great time and ended the day hot coco and fellowship back at church. This attendance was double from our last year’s effort! We are looking forward to getting more people excited to participate in doing God’s work.
I wish that everyone would take advantage of these exciting training classes that our Conference offers. If I could just bottle up half of the excitement from these weekends and share it with everyone, the love for leading people to the Lord would be pouring out of our churches. Thank you to everyone who is involved with putting these training classes on, your efforts are so much appreciated. Blessings!
– Valerie Elswick-Wohlever (Personal Ministries Leader and New Haven Seventh-day Adventist Church)
I was not disappointed!
Everyone at some point in their life has taken on a new job or headed into a new field that required more than what was initially expected. This happens often in the change of board members and accepting new positions in the church. I was privileged enough to become the Personal Ministries Leader for our church and was super excited about it. Yet that initial fire to do the Lord’s work cooled off when a few personnel changes took place, and I encountered a couple hiccups in the road. I was feeling defeated and even tried to resign. I’m thankful my pastor gracefully said that wasn’t going to happen and encouraged me to get back on the figurative horse and ride. That ride led me to training this November with Pastors Howard and DeVasher and this girl is on fire again! The theme was “Get Your Ducks in a Row,” oh boy did I need this! My ducks were lost, but now they are found—and in a row!
Sabbath evening was kicked off with encouragement from the Conference Personal Ministries duo. I was encouraged to see two men speak about taking on their new jobs as the Sabbath School and PM leaders and to see their enthusiasm for their new jobs. We learned things to do and what not to do. We saw out of scripture our calling, our mission, and our duties. We were taught what our jobs were and what was expected and most of all we were given the tools to do so!
We were taught to never say “I’m just…” or “I’m only…”. When we think we can’t do something because “I’m just one person” or “I’m only able to do so much,” it becomes a defeating mindset and Satan loves us to get defeated before we even start. We also learned that from Pastor Howard that, “The Lord doesn’t work by the majority, he works by the committed,” reminding us to stay committed in our daily relationships with the Lord and to our tasks. However, the saying that stuck with me the entire weekend even until now, was that the “Holy Spirit only hits moving targets”. We are to keep moving forward, it doesn’t matter if it’s only 1 person, 10 people or mighty army just keep moving forward!
The theme of the weekend was organization, and the pastors did not disappoint! They came ready to teach and teach some more. They showed us in Scripture how God is magnificently organized and that even Satan is organized in how he goes about. We learned our job isn’t about us, it’s about us being the hands and feet of Jesus and encouraging others to be the same. The church tends to want to pray and pay for missionaries to do the work when Jesus has called us all to do it! Our job is to encourage a revival and reformation in our churches, to use our authority with our influence to lead God’s army into battle.
The battle sounds hard, but with the Holy Spirit with us, we can do mighty things in Jesus’ name! Our mission is to proclaim the gospel of salvation and “enlist every member in active soul winning service for God.” We learned the GROW cycle (GROW.adventist.org), how to prepare the soil, how to plant, cultivate, harvest, and preserve the new church members.
Through events such as community outreach, prayer walks, dinners for needy, stop smoking seminars, depression seminars and cooking classes, we can get to know the people in our areas, then we can plant spiritual seeds such as literature distribution and invitations to Bible studies.
Those who we study the Bible with will be cultivated and taught the ways of Jesus, and with the Lord’s blessing will choose Jesus in the baptism of His Spirit and become faithful members. Lastly, we continue to help them grow, help them stay encouraged, and most importantly get them involved in the work!
The good pastors didn’t just leave us with knowledge but gave us tools that work. We were given practical tools such as online resources, job descriptions, our mission statement, and more. We were shown in the church manual how the job of the whole board is to win souls. As Personal Ministries leaders, we need to help formulate a soul-winning plan and lead out in its implementation. We were given online resources at MichiganSSPM.org which includes articles, training videos, and more. We were given Event Planning Worksheets showing us how to properly plan for events including how to plan our budgets, keep attendance, and track successes.
We were encouraged to be bold, to present what we learned to our churches. This week we did our first 10-minute presentation and presented the GROW cycle. We also went through the expectation of the Personal Ministries leader and the work of the Personal Ministries council. We told the church to expect a busy year of soul winning ahead and we encouraged and challenged them to come be a part of it. We are so excited to continue the Lord’s work!
Our team of 4 who attend the weekend training included myself as Personal Ministries leader, Valerie, our Interest Coordinator, her husband who is our audio/visual leader, and my husband who is our stand-in head deacon. We all left excited and were on speaker phone on our car rides back, as we just couldn’t wait to get home to call each other! It was a great opportunity to have all of us there to hear, learn and to come back home with the great things we learned. This retreat left us all feeling blessed and filled with energy and revived.
We look forward to working with Pastors Howard and DeVasher this coming year. We are implementing the objectives we learned and are excited to see the work be done. Thank you to our church for sending us, thank you to the conference for giving these men this mission, and thank you to Camp Au Sable for the hospitality. What a blessed weekend! I encourage all leaders of the churches to go to your training sessions, no matter your position, you won’t be disappointed!
– Patricia Novak (Personal Ministries Leader and Women’s Ministries Leader and New Haven Seventh-day Adventist Church)
I left EMPOWERED!
My 14th year old grandson, Noah and I were richly blessed at the recent Personal Ministries training weekend. We learned so much about what Personal Ministries is and the authority that God and the church gives us through the position of Personal Ministires leader. I felt empowered!
Talking with other Personal Ministries leaders and sharing ideas made me feel I was not alone. I felt empowered!
Two days after returning from the seminar, I went to my church’s board meeting. I was more ready than ever to share soul winning ideas and to ask questions regarding things under my domain I wasn’t aware of before the seminar. I felt empowered!
This Sabbath as I share with my church family ways for us to share the Blessed Hope we have in Jesus and I will do it with a new confidence! Thank you, Personal Ministry Leaders Kameron DeVasher and Mark Howard for equipping me to better serve my Lord and my Church.
– Mary Ann Cirigliano (Personal Ministries leader, Fremont SDA Church
The Sabbath School Mission offering is not “just another offering.” It is the primary way our local churches support missionaries and frontline evangelism efforts all over the world. Unfortunately, giving to the World Mission offering has been declining for decades now. In recent years, church leaders have been sounding the alarm about the troubling trajectory of mission giving.
The 2008 General Conference’s Annual Statistical Report point out that “In 1930, Adventists gave $6.45 to the mission offering for every $10 they returned in tithe. By 2008, that number had dropped to 36 cents for every $10 given in tithe.” Dr. David Trim, Director of the Office of Archives, Statistics, and Research, further explained how, “In 1932, at perhaps the height of the Great Depression, the average World Mission Offering per member was $5.83. It is striking and disconcerting to note, in contrast, that the average amount given per member in 2010 was $4.81: $1.02 lower than in 1932. This is despite the fact that inflation means the value of the 2010 dollars was already less than the 1932 dollars.” Today, “The average Seventh-day Adventist in North America gives $21 a year to the World Mission Fund collected by the Sabbath School mission offering.”
Because of this drastic drop of mission offerings, front line missionaries and church, school and hospital building projects in the mission field are suffering. But it does not have to be that way! Here is how you can help!
Plan your mission offering to be 1% of your income
Set an offering goal for your Sabbath School Class
Make an offering appeal for missions before passing the envelope
Follow a missionary’s blog and learn how your funds are furthering the Gospel (Read More)
 From the 2008 Annual Statistical Report of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists. The latest Annual Statistical Report, 2016, reveals that members gave 39 cents for every $10 given in tithe in 2014.
 David Trim, “Adventist Church Growth and Mission Since 1863: An Historical–Statistical Analysis,” Journal of Adventist Mission Studies, Vol. 8 , No. 2, Art. 5
 Andy McChesney, “This TV Show Will Make People Upset,” Adventist Review, September 22, 2016