Event attendants discuss digital evangelism, branding, innovation, and projects.
The 2018 Global Adventist Internet Network (GAiN) Conference was held at the Korea International Exhibition and Convention Center (KINTEX) in Goyang, Korea, from August 8 to 12. About 250 participants from 40 countries, all of whom work for the Seventh-day Adventist Church in media and communication-related roles, attended the event hosted by the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists (GC) Communication Department.
Some GAiN attendees serve as communication directors in local regions, others are Hope Channel and Adventist World Radio producers, church administrators, internet developers, journalists, IT experts, and software developers. All of them came looking for ideas, suggestions, and projects that will assist them in developing more effective online ministry, said organizers.
Adopting the motto “Mission First. Go Forward!” the program focused on internet evangelism, identifying the event’s purpose as “how to find people, establish relationships, and take them all the way to baptism,” according to GC communication director Williams Costa.
Speakers such as Kennedy Global founder and CEO Kurt Kennedy, GC Communication associate director Sam Neves, GC Communication assistant director Brent Hardinge, and Center for Online Evangelism director David Sharpe presented on various topics including branding, funnel marketing, calls to action, digital marketing, and search engine optimization.
Kennedy’s presentation focused on how the power of a brand helps give a company its value. Neves, on the other hand, argued that the Adventist brand shouldn’t promise freedom, healing, and hope — but help in understanding the Bible, which leads to the others. “It is Jesus who brings the freedom, healing, and hope,” he explained.
Hardinge discussed an update of the Adventist.org identity project. He showed participants the design principles operating on the latest website version, and its flexibility and variability. He talked about more features and functions including, among others, one for signing up for a Bible study and another that helps someone find a local church.
Sharpe offered two presentations about search engine optimization. He works at the Center for Online Evangelism, which provides resources to help church organizations enhance their presence online and also provides services for writing marketing copy. Sharpe introduced a new pastor, “Pastor Google,” whom he described as “the most popular pastor in the entire world, who is believed by most people before anyone else, and who freely uses non-Adventist sources to describe Adventist doctrine.” And he concluded, “We need to do all we can to take control of our own story.”
Besides the keynote presentations, digital projects were presented to improve the “resources box” of the attendees. Some were related to better targeting through Facebook, a method that, in South America, resulted in about 200 baptisms and about 3,000 Bible studies. Others are related to a better use of WhatsApp, used in Japan. Neville Neveling showed how more than 14,000 Japanese people asked to study the Bible on their mobile phones.
Costa gave an update on an ongoing project called Adventist Communication Training (ACT), created to offer communicators training resources for more effective communication. Materials include study guides, interactive games, eBooks, and quizzes for trainers to evaluate students. The content of the training is in the process of being completed, and currently, designers are working on the graphics production and visual features.
GC General Counsel and attorney Jennifer Woods informed GAiN participants about the new European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). “It is important to become acquainted with these data regulations and, because of [the GDPR] restrictions, they should be given serious consideration,” she said. “Infringing these new privacy laws can prompt hefty fines.”
Hardinge, along with Jennifer Stymiest, GC Communication assistant director and Adventist Review Ministries communication director and news editor Costin Jordache introduced the future Enterprise Content Library (ECL), a shareable database for text, images, video, and metadata. The ECL will allow a global news infrastructure to be developed, facilitating a greater collaboration among Adventist news outlets around the world.
The project is currently being developed in partnership between the world church Communication Department and Adventist Review Ministries, which publishes Adventist Review and Adventist World magazines. The software solution would allow Seventh-day Adventist Yearbook entities around the world to publish news articles to a central repository. Once posted to the repository, the story would be translated into major languages and made available for distribution by any official Adventist entity around the world.
“The goal is to develop a culture in which Adventist news from every part of the world may be available to a global audience, in various languages, on a consistent and timely basis,” they said. It is expected that a future Global News app would help to host all church news stories in one place.
The GAiN conference included the presentation of two awards. Established by the GC Communication Department in 2008, the NET Award acknowledge meritorious contributions to the church’s online ministry through internet technology. Adventist Church president Ted Wilson introduced the awards, after sharing how much he appreciates the work of the communicators in using media to spread the gospel.
One of the 2018 awards was presented to Roberto Roberti, a Brazilian whose work is interacting with thousands on South American Division Facebook pages. The second 2018 award was presented to Neville Neveling, from Namibia, for his work in using WhatsApp and other social media platforms to send short sermons and other evangelistic content to thousands of people.
GAiN conference attendees joined the Northern Asia-Pacific Division’s International Mission Conference for morning and evening worship programs. Also, on Saturday, August 11, attendees of both conferences came together in the main auditorium for the morning and afternoon programs.
The next GAiN conference will take place in Jordan in February 2019.