By Richard Stephenson — Columbia, Maryland … In June 2019, the North American Division (NAD) adopted Zoom as its official video-conferencing service, following NAD Education’s recommendation and endorsement.
NAD Information Technology Services (ITS) completed the migration that August, including setting up seven Zoom Rooms in the NAD headquarters. NAD ITS and NAD Education negotiated a two-year corporate contract with Zoom, and, with the Lord’s blessing, the NAD was able to get a discount of more than 55% off the cost of the necessary Zoom products. One of the crucial terms of the contract that Martha Ban, Director of Technology for Education, and Richard Stephenson, Director of ITS, insisted on, was that this service could be shared with any Adventist institution. Little did anyone know, just a few months later, that this contract stipulation would save the Seventh-day Adventist Church in North America approximately $900,000.00
At the end of March and beginning of April, thousands of NAD churches began to close their doors and attempted to migrate to online worship services in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The vast majority of those churches did not have an existing video-conferencing or live-streaming solution in place. The demand for Zoom skyrocketed literally overnight, and more than one hundred requests came in each day asking for Zoom licenses from the NAD’s Zoom service agreement. Martha Ban and Richard Stephenson worked six days a week filling Zoom requests from our churches, schools, youth camps, retreat centers, conferences, and unions. Licenses were also made available to media ministries such as It is Written, as well as to the GC, ADRA, and other world divisions and conferences.
NAD institutions immediately put these licenses to good use, sharing the gospel message of hope and wholeness to a vast online community. Though the physical doors of these entities had been shut, an unprecedented flurry of online ministry and mission burst forth. “It has been exciting to see how our partnership with Zoom has helped church attendance and school enrollments boom in the midst of the pandemic,” Martha Ban said.
The Zoom services stipulated in the contract not only included video-conferencing capabilities, but also live recording, transcription services for the impaired, branding (so entities and institutions could advertise their unique identity in the local community), and live-streaming capabilities to Facebook and YouTube. It was as though the Lord chose each of these features to be included in the NAD corporate contract, knowing that His Church would need those very features in the near future. “Looking back over these past 8 months, I can clearly see the Lord’s hand leading His Church and His people! I’m awestruck by His incredible faithfulness!” said Richard Stephenson. To date, the NAD has provided 4,200 Zoom licenses, 52 Zoom Rooms, and dozens of other Zoom products (webinars, large meetings, Zoom Phone, etc.).
The COVID-19 pandemic has had a far-reaching impact on the Adventist Church. While some of our churches are reopening physically, we hope that our churches will never close virtually and that they may continue to be a beacon of light for online audiences.
–Richard Stephenson is NAD IT Director; photo by Pixabay
Editor’s note: In RMC we have 58 paid licenses and 171 total users (some are on free education licenses Zoom has provided to eligible schools during the pandemic).
Reprinted from NAD Insider, October 29, 2020, a weekly, internal e-publication.