Elders: The Care and Feeding of Elders in a Progressive Congregation: Retreat

* Retreat

I imagine it’s pretty common for elders and staff to occasionally take a weekend off together, to sort through church issues and build relationships. It’s a good idea. Here are some keys to making it work —

— Everyone has to be there for the whole time. Demonstrate that this is important to you by getting there on time and staying to the end.

— Spend plenty of time together in purely fun activities. I’m a terrible party planner. I mean, to me the idea of a good time is typing up a post on elder-staff relations. I’m boring. But the young ministers can’t go one way while the old elders go another. This is not vacation. It’s not a time to celebrate your autonomy. It’s a time to bond across minister-elder lines. A little self-discipline helps. Have fun for a purpose.

— Pray together.

— Work on relationships before you work on vision or mission statements or such. Discuss barriers openly. Be forthright, yet loving.

— Leave spouses at home.

— If you run a ministry that might have a crisis while you’re out, appoint someone to fill in while you’re out so you don’t have to be the one to resolve it. After several people have cleared calendars to spend time together, don’t let your failure to plan ahead interfere.

— Be present. Year ago, I heard Patrick Mead preach on the importance of presence. He made some excellent points. Nowadays, it’s hard to have someone’s undivided attention. People want to text message, check email, talk on the cell phone, etc. rather than listening. Turn off the electronics and listen without distraction.

— Have a clearly defined goal for the meeting. It could be as simple as everyone learning to get along better or defining better the relationship of elders and ministers. It can be defining the vision of the church for the next 10 years. But define it first.

— You may need to invite a facilitator to help lead the discussion. It can really be helpful to have a neutral third-party from outside your congregation to facilitate the discussion. There’s real value in objectivity.

About Jay F Guin

My name is Jay Guin, and I’m a retired elder. I wrote The Holy Spirit and Revolutionary Grace about 18 years ago. I’ve spoken at the Pepperdine, Lipscomb, ACU, Harding, and Tulsa lectureships and at ElderLink. My wife’s name is Denise, and I have four sons, Chris, Jonathan, Tyler, and Philip. I have two grandchildren. And I practice law.
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One Response to Elders: The Care and Feeding of Elders in a Progressive Congregation: Retreat

  1. "leave spouses behind"

    Now here is a topic to be discussed, "The care and feeding of the wives of Elders, Deacons, and Ministers."

    My mother was a preacher's wife for 36 years. When my father was killed in an auto accident, one of my mother's most cherished discoveries was that she was no longer a preacher's wife. It was a great relief and a big statement about our congregations.

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