How Many Administrators Does It Take to Run the Church? — Annual Council Report 3

The growth of administrators within Adventism has outpaced the growth of pastors and membership in recent years, according to studies done by the Adventist Office of Statistics, Archives, and Research. In his report to the General Conference Executive Committee on global trends, Archivist David Trim said the number of pastors increased by 85%, while the number of administrators grew by 300% since 1988. He suggested that examining the balance between administrators and pastor/evangelist workers might help us to see greater growth in the numbers of accessions.

Increasing the number of pastors might also help the church address the rate of retention. Currently, we lose approximately 40% of those who are baptized. Membership now stands at 23,967,592. Since 1965, 37,592,451 people have become members of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Of those, 15,132,555 have chosen to leave.

In the global trends report, the number of accessions per pastor in each division was reviewed as well as the number per congregation. Tithe rates in each division were tallied, also, which may inform the conversation later in the week about tithe parity. The North American Division has the highest tithe per capita at $856, and the highest tithe per congregation at $235,546. The Divisions with the next highest tithe per capita are the European Divisions: the Inter-European Division (EUD) at $774 and the Trans-European Division (TED) at $728.

Parity was the most contentious issue on Sunday. And the item that sparked the afternoon debate was seemingly a small one. General Conference President Ted Wilson told the Committee that the North American Division had requested not only tithe parity, but policy parity, to be treated like the other divisions in other matters as well. Accordingly, a vote was taken to amend the GC Constitution and Bylaws so that the North American Division Secretary and Treasurer would no longer also hold the titles of Associate Secretary of the General Conference and Associate Treasurer of the General Conference.

Later, when it was proposed to remove the provision that allows conference presidents in the Division where Annual Council meetings are held to officially attend Annual Council with voice (but not vote), the discussion grew lengthy. It began with Wilson telling how in years past, some Annual Council meetings had been held in other Divisions. In evaluating the cost of moving the meeting to other places, the finance people estimate that it costs $700,000 to $1 million more to hold the meeting at some place other than the General Conference building in Silver Spring. Going forward that just would not be possible, he said. But the debate was not about the money, because conference presidents pay their own way to Annual Council.

The timing of the proposal raised questions in the minds of some. Was this the right time to be sending this message to the North American Division? Elder Wilson pointed out that conference presidents, like any church member, were welcome to attend Annual Council meetings. That did not seem to mollify people. Neither did his suggestion that the North American Division had requested this item. NAD Executive Secretary Alex Bryant clarified that this particular item had not been part of their request. It had not occurred to NAD that this item would be included.

Geoscience Research Director James Gibson asked what the vote was really about. What is the issue behind this discussion? “What is the difference between having the policy in place or not having the policy in place? Really, the fundamental issue is whether the conference presidents should have voice.” When a request was made to table the motion, it also quickly became apparent that not all members had the voting cards needed to take a vote by that method. Finally, members of the Committee were asked to stand and raise their hands on the motion to table the action which succeeded 152 yeas to 116 nos.

Votes on reorganization of several areas of the world church that followed were done by voice. The Ethiopia Union Mission was reorganized into the East Ethiopia Union Mission and the West Ethiopia Union Mission. The Belize Union of Churches Mission status was changed to Belize Union Mission. The Southeast Asia Union Mission was split into three separate territories. The China Union Mission was detached from the North Asia Pacific Division and attached to the General Conference.

Finally, to end the day, a new voting system was tested for possible use at the 2020 General Conference Session. It was referred to as a hybrid system since it combined paper ballots with barcodes to speed the counting. The first trial run was delayed when the counting machine jammed because of a misfolded ballot, but eventually the test votes were tallied, and Undersecretary Moorooven concluded that more practice was needed. By then it was 6:30 p.m. Resolution of voting issues, as well as parity, will await another day.

Bonnie Dwyer is editor of Spectrum.

Image: Leon B. Brown, President, Nevada-Utah Conference, North American Division (NAD), speaks from the floor during the Annual Council 2019 in Silver Spring, Maryland, United States of America. Photo by Brent Hardinge / GC Communication, courtesy of the Adventist News Network on Flickr.

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This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at

It would be helpful to address the length of “membership” i.e. the time from baptism to removal. How many “mass baptisms” which resulted in no attendance or related church participation.

Also, it would be helpful to clarify those who “chose to leave” i.e. how many of the 15k submitted a verbal/written request to leave; how many were removed by discipline and/or similar “non-compliant” reasons (no tithe received, etc)?


That’s a thing? I didn’t know.


Interesting! Increases in the numbers of administrators has risen faster than the number of professors and students on many college and university campuses too. This is usually attributed to the “extra paper work” the government and other organizations require. Yet this is a temporary problem because the looming issue is that the Internet is poised to do to many splendid campuses what it has done to many beautiful shopping malls. Thanks!


No one is removed for not paying tithe.

I’ve never heard of that happening either.

This sounds like a recipe for disaster. The systems depends on people folding a ballot properly? Why is it, that in 2019, a way to vote properly and efficiently is such a problem?


It’s such a circus with these people. Reminds me of the “hanging chad” thing in Florida - where they also seem challenged.

It’s almost like there are a significant number of people that are incented to keep the voting public; To keep the pressure of herd compliance, perhaps?

“Let’s pray about this vote, pray that it passes!” [prayer for awhile…] “Now let’s publicly vote to see if our prayers are answered. Everyone in favor please raise your hands and keep them up so we can count.”


Matthew 28:19
Perhaps the GOAL of the Baptized WAS Baptism.
Maybe it WAS NOT church membership – at least Seventh day
Adventist church membership.
Did they get Baptized and then attend elsewhere?
Or, was Baptism the terminous of their spiritual plans?
I can understand this.
After Baptism the Baptized may be disappointed that their church
community does not provide the Spiritual Food they are looking for.
Many Sunday church groups provide MORE Spiritual Food than
SDA communities. I hate to say this, but I have found it so, at least
here in Macon, GA. [several Methodist, several Baptist congregations]


Why the need for so many admins? If that many admins are needed, what does it say about our approach to admin? Efficient or not efficient? Instead of all these ‘meetings’ establishing/correcting/perfecting this or that, perhaps a better use of time and monies would be to study a better way of admin. Can somone tell me of a sound business .org where the increase of admins to workers in the stated proportion(85% to 300%) is successful?


‘Administration’ as a category is a misnomer.

It is true that there has been an increase in the number of Conferences and Unions with an increase in Presidents, Secretaries and Treasurers who are Administrators.

Along side is the proliferation of ‘Ministries’ / Departments whose role is to promote and develop the work of volunteers in these respective disciplines. Whether these people should be regarded as Administrators is debatable.

The church operates by virtue of many volunteers who should be counted into the picture.

It is often the case that ‘the Pastor’ has become a congregational Administrator.


i think i’m getting tired of this constant issue of voting systems not working when it counts - pun intended…does any other organization on earth have the same issue we always seem to have…what is everybody else doing, that we aren’t doing…


just a guess… honesty, transparency, professionalism…


you’re sounding a bit jaded…:smirk:

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On the positive note, our present GC ruling leaders deserve credit for being consistent across the board for ignoring what matters most to our church such as finances, budgeting & equality and focused on issues that only matters privately such as sexual orientation and abortion. If only they can reverse their priorities.

Way to go, church. Keep on leading.


Mel –
Mainly HONESTY first!!
With mismanagement of the Voting SystemS it shows NO
professionalism, and definitely NO transparency.
It DOES APPEAR they are attempting to HIDE SOMETHING!!
Maybe “Palm” some of the undesirable Votes. I thought about
that with the “red” and “green”.

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One way to reverse this is to stop taking ministers out of the field to put them in an office. Let Managers manage, let Accountants account, let Administrators administer, and let Ministers minister. If you fear they lack proper “spiritual guidance” give them a spiritual guide in the office or an ethicist for guidance.

While ever we have a hierarchy that is filled by theology graduates, our ministers will “aspire” to move up the hierarchy, whether they are suitably trained or not.

And track who voted how.


Counting honest votes? :thinking:


The root of disproportionate growth of administrative people versus front line people is our tithe system. When money flows up, the people who receive it want to spend it. And, unfortunately, the way our system works, they get to decide. We don’t.

The only money that should flow past the local conference should be just enough to cover operating budgets at unions, divisions, and GC. And those budgets should be approved by the entities providing the money. Why engage in the monkey business of sending money someplace, laundering it in some mysterious fashion, and either leaving it to bureaucrats to spend or redistributing it? Why leave it to distant administrators to decide how to allocate the money generated by local churches? The most money possible needs to stay very close to home and never flow up and around. The bureaucracy does not generate a dime of income. But unfortunately, it decides how most of our money is spent.

Imagine for a moment what would likely happen if the grass roots constituency had approval rights on the budgets of all organizational levels. I firmly believe a lot of things would disappear because they add little or no value locally. The priorities of those of us in the churches would no doubt be different than the priorities of the administrators.


The only thing that will happen is that one may not be nominated for a church office. :smiley:

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