The Lake Union Conference administration chairs the May Executive Committee meeting on May 3, 2023. From left to right: Carmelo Mercado, general vice president, Elden Ramirez, Executive Secretary, Ken Denslow, president, and Glynn Scott, treasurer. [Photos by Katie Fellows]
On Wednesday, May 3, the Lake Union executive committee convened in Berrien Springs, Michigan for the second of three meetings held annually.
The 37-member committee includes representatives from the five conferences who are tasked with helping to develop and direct the work of the church in the Great Lakes region. Members include local conference administrators, church employees, lay leaders, as well as the presidents of Andrews University and AdventHealth Great Lakes.
As president of the Lake Union, Ken Denslow chairs the meeting, which is focused on the day-to-day work, as well as the long-term strategies for fulfilling the mission of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.
One of the main focuses of the union for the next several years is on school enrollment. As such, North American Division Vice President for Education Arne Nielsen was present to shed light on the enrollment trends in the division. He said enrollment is almost back to pre-covid levels.
Today, there are fewer schools but more students, and the reason is because there aren’t enough teachers. Smaller schools have closed and some teachers went to larger schools.
More specific stats are available at www.Adventisteducation.org/stat
A discussion ensued on how to address the teacher shortage. Nielsen said more studies are being done, but one factor is that Covid has taken a toll of teachers’ emotional wellbeing.
Youth Director Ron Whitehead spoke of Newsweek magazine naming Camp Akita and Camp Au Sable as two of the best summer camps.
Additionally, the Division-level Pathfinder Bible Experience hosted 16 teams from the Lake Union. The Stevensville Church put forth three teams which placed first, a first at the Division PBE. “The congregation invested in them, and we see amazing returns,” said Whitehead.
Dental clinics are back, starting with one from each conference. Randy will oversee the on-site clinics but since he is now busy running the Indiana ABC, Carmelo Mercado has accepted the role of planning the clinics.
General Vice President Carmelo Mercado reported on the recent ASI Lake Union gathering featuring Neil Nedley and the new leaders voted. Raised $15,000 for money for Karen refugees, Weimar Institute and FARMSTEW ministry.
President Thor Thordarson says he is focused on making sure the U. Chicago AdventHealth partnership is working. Many things are going well, including high ratings and growth in market share. However, there are areas of risk, such as high turnover due to the heavy workload.
Andrea Luxton said she was grateful for the last seven years leading Andrews University and will move on to a role at the Division as VP for Education, focusing on higher learning.
The university is involved in WAUS radio station, Center for Youth Evangelism, Center for Adventist Research, Adventist Digital Library (puts all of Adventist material online), Horn Archeological Museum, AU Press, International Trauma Center (trained about 4,000 people in the last year), the Center for Addictions, Global Leadership Center, Entrepreneurial Center.
“We are a university day-to-day, but deeply embedded in mission of the church,” said Luxton.
While enrollment is looking stronger than it did for years, there are headwinds. Luxton noted, “K-12 education is the most stressful career. The second most stressful is higher education.” The reason for this is, “Children have been dealing with so much and it’s coming into the classroom, and it makes the job so much more stressful.”
She added that the average tenure of a university president is now three years, when it used to be between 7-10 years.
As of the end of March 2023:
Debbie Michel is the Lake Union Herald editor.