Seventh-day Adventists know Health Ministries as historically one of the oldest of ministries among us: “the right arm of the message” as named by Ellen White. In those early days it was called “temperance work.” Admonitions about care for the “body temple” concerning diet, exercise and other health-giving practices rounded out what we now call health ministries. The reason for including health issues as ministries of the church is to help believers be well and to share what we have with our communities.
What happens in Seventh-day Adventist health care institutions, clinics and offices of professional providers of many kinds is health ministry? In Southeastern California we are uniquely blessed to have Loma Linda University with its medical center, medical and dental schools, and the wide range of schools such as nursing, pharmacy, physical therapy, dietetics, dental hygiene and health sciences. Adventist practitioners of these healing arts serve in our churches and communities from the desert to the coast in our conference. These men and women are health ministers, giving their time and wisdom where they work and to ministries in church and community.
In our own backyard are world-class health researchers who have global recognition and influence as they study the concepts of healthy lifestyle familiar to Adventist believers.
Most of the congregations in Southeastern California Conference carry out health ministries as well, sometimes in connection with public evangelism or simply reaching out to their community with vegetarian cooking schools and tasting presentations, health fairs, lecture series, poster contests, and exercise. Churches with a gym often offer those facilities for use by their community.
In another area of ministry, the conference director is a board member of several interfaith organizations dedicated to influencing good legislation on alcohol, tobacco and other drugs and gambling. Working together as a united faith group has been an effective way to contact legislators and others and bring about helpful laws. One of the great public health successes is the incredible decrease in smoking.
Healing and teaching about the practices that bring better health to all God’s children is the goal, therefore, of health ministries. It is a continuation of the loving ministry of Jesus.
Highlights of the Last 5 Years
The Health Ministries department is dedicated to provide resource materials that may be used by individual churches. During the last five years the General Conference Health Ministries department held the Global Conference on Health and Lifestyle in Geneva, Switzerland. An important mandate that came from that conference is that all health ministry programs follow the practice of evidence-based materials and instruction. It is a good mandate that is in keeping with California regulations that organizations providing such programs must be up to the same standard as the professional standard of the community. In Southern California, that standard is high.
- A new resource manual is now available to all church health leaders. It is designed for use only in the ministry of the local congregation with ideas for programs and simple ways to highlight a wide variety of health information.
- Video and DVD resources available on loan at no charge.
- Southeastern California Conference is the sole source of materials for the Five-day Plan to Stop Smoking.
- Assistance with connecting with good, qualified health presenters where needed.
- Training for church health leaders, particularly in church officer training sessions.
Goals for the Next 5 Years
- Training for the health leaders of congregations is a very important goal. This will be done by various methods, especially where churches hold training sessions for all local church leaders. Area-wide sessions will also be held. Ideas and materials will be shared, including all the accompanying manuals.
- The materials available from SECC Health Ministries and announcements of coming events will be posted on the conference website.
- Local church Health Ministries leaders will be sent the latest news, announcements, events to come, new ideas, and other educational information via e-mail. This saves time and expense.
- The conference video catalog, which contains a wide variety and number of programs, will be updated with new titles and transition from video to DVD format. Health topics covered include alcohol, tobacco, other drugs, disabilities, fitness, lifestyle, nutrition and vegetarian cooking, science, stress, weight management, and health programs designed for children.
- Because young children and youth should be mentored in church ministry programs, it is essential that ways are designed that will include them in health ministries. The energy and idealism of these youth should be embraced in health ministry work. The Health Ministries department will plan ways to include young members in this ministry.
- Design new ways to educate leaders and members about possible epidemics that appear in society, such as flu and respiratory diseases. Good hand washing techniques, general cleanliness, and other ways of avoiding these disorders, while common, are often overlooked and congregations should be well educated in regard to them.
- SECC Health Ministries director will continue board membership in the California Council on Alcohol Problems; Alcohol and Narcotics Education Foundation; American Council on Alcohol Problems; and National Coalition Against Legalized Gambling and its subsidiary, Stop Predatory Gambling.
We affirm and pray for those who have been willing to share their gifts in the world of Health Ministries, a work that follows the example of Jesus in healing and teaching.