By Emily Ferguson
More than 30 churches of Christ elders gathered at The Tops for the inaugural Empowering Elders retreat early in August.
Elders travelled from as far as Dubbo, Canberra and Wagga Wagga, with some churches sending their entire eldership to participate in the weekend of resourcing, connection and support.
“As an elder-led movement, churches and pastors rely on elders that are passionate, biblically sound and capable in an ever-widening range of skills and responsibilities,” said Lloyd Irwin, an elder at Northgate Church in Belrose and one of the retreat leaders. “We want to both harness and share that capability that exists within elders across our churches and to affirm and reassure them that their work and prayers, often unseen by human eyes, is deeply valued and appreciated.”
Empowering the elders in our network has grown into an area of focus for the Network Resource Team over the last few years, and it was exciting to see our elders come together for encouragement and strengthening.
“The heart from the beginning has been, ‘How do we empower elders to reclaim their vision for being elders not apart from but beyond the regulatory work and financial management?’” said Nathan Marshall, who leads Church Health and Engagement in the Network Resource Team.
“We wanted to create space for a community of elders where they could input into each other’s lives – supporting, equipping, facilitating and learning from one another. They were really leaning in, and they were just so grateful that space was made for them.”
The retreat ran from Friday night until Sunday lunchtime and incorporated spaces for personal reflection and prayer, facilitation of biblical thinking about eldership, encouragement around pastors and elders working well together, and spaces for recreation and worship.
Jenny Foster is an elder at Missionheart in Canberra and, having attended an online elders’ gathering, decided to come along to connect with others with similar hearts for their church communities.
“It was wonderful to have the time to learn and reflect in such beautiful surroundings,” she reflected. “I had never been to The Tops and enjoyed it immensely. I really enjoyed the teaching, which started from the Biblical perspective and radiated out to our role as elders in our respective communities. I look forward to the next one!”
“The retreat brought us together across the churches and the state resource team, reassuring us that we are not alone in our churches but part of a wider network, all facing similar challenges together,” Lloyd reflected. “It generated conversations, ideas and practical steps to fulfil our roles as shepherds of the church in competent, biblical ways.”
Elders from across churches of Christ in NSW & ACT are welcome to join our next Elders Zoom on Monday 9 October from 7:30pm-8.45pm. Email firstname.lastname@example.org for more details.
Read more stories from churches of Christ in NSW & ACT HERE