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THE ELDERS AND THEIR WORK
Training Course and Handbook
THE ELDERS AND THEIR WORK
Training Course and Handbook
4 The Elders and their Work Training Course and Handbook
Training Course and Handbook The Elders and their Work 5
Introduction: How to use this book 7 Acknowledgements 8
1. What is an Elder? Opening worship 9 Introduction 9 “Elders” in the Bible 10 The development of the office of elder in the history of the church 12
2. The Elder’s “Job Description” 15 Opening worship 15 Introduction 15 The elder and the Minister 18 Young elders 19 How are elders to be elected? 19 How is an elder to be “released”? 20
3. Work and Mission 23 Opening worship 23 Introduction 23 Questions to consider: 24
How easy is it for visitors to come into your church? 241. Having experienced your church life, would a stranger come to understand more about God 2. in Christ? 25 A special note for small churches If someone met you outside the church, and came to 3. know that you were a Christian, what picture would you be giving of God in Christ? 25
Discussion 25 “Homework” 26
4. The Pastoral Work of the Elder 27 Opening worship 27 Introduction 27 Pastoral care 27 Knocking at the door 28 “An important conversation” 29 Absent members 31 Prayer 33 Looking after yourself: Bible study 33 Group exercise 35 Learning more about pastoral care 35
6 The Elders and their Work Training Course and Handbook
5. Visiting those who are ill or grieving 37 Opening worship 37 Introduction 37 Ministering to the sick 38 Christian healing 38 Visiting those who are terminally ill 39 Ministering to those who are grieving 40 How should I respond to grief? 41
6. “Bridging the Generation Gap”: Ministering to Young People 43 Introduction 43 The first meeting: Gifts 43 The second meeting: Pains 45 The third meeting: Dreams 46 The fourth meeting: Questions 47 Resources for the task 48
7. The Elder and the Connexion 49 Opening worship 49 Introduction 49 The Presbytery 49 The Association 51 General Assembly 52 The Church beyond the Connexion 53 Appendix: History of the Connexion 54
8. The Elders meet together 61 Opening worship 61 Introduction 61 The purpose of the meeting 61 Arranging the room 62 The agenda of the meeting 63 Financial matters 66 Legal responsibility 68
Conclusion: What Next? 69
Training Course and Handbook The Elders and their Work 7
Introduction: How to use this book
In writing this book, two types of use were in mind:
1. A training course for elders or elders-elect. If you are leading a course of this sort, then note that there is far more material in each session than could sensibly be used. It is essential to prepare before hand and to pick and choose the issues which are most relevant to your situation. Do not worry about leaving things out – you can always come back to them on another occasion.
A “training course” can be one of a number of things:
It can be a full weekend together, as at Trefeca, where the aim is to present each aspect over some six • sessions, as well as allowing time for fellowship and informal conversation.
It can be a series of meetings on a weeknight, or two or three Saturdays, for a church, pastorate or • presbytery.
It can be one or more discussions within an elders’ or presbytery meeting, a chance to leave the day to • day agenda and look at things from a different perspective.
In each case, one person or a small group must plan ahead, time the session(s), and see how best the time and people available can be used.
And, of course, the leader and all those present will have their own ideas and experiences to contribute in addition to what is on paper here. Do not hesitate to use your own ideas, refer to local examples (without breaching confidentiality, of course), and ensure that this is your course.
2. A book to be read by an individual elder, or to be distributed amongst the elders for them to read at home. If that is what you do, then you will think and consider rather than “discuss” in the sections marked “Discuss”. You will have more of an opportunity to look at every section than those who meet in a group, but please don’t feel that this is an examination syllabus! If you come across something which you think should be discussed with all the elders or with the presbytery, make a note of it and ask if it can be placed on the agenda of the next meeting.
If you come to the conclusion that a training course should be held in your church, pastorate, district or presbytery, then ask if one can be arranged. If that is not possible, ask the PCW Director of Training what courses are available.
Warning: The work of an elder is not something that can be learned from a book. This small book cannot give you all the answers, or make you the “perfect elder”. Its purpose is to help you to think about the work and how you could do it more effectively. We wish you God’s blessing in your studies and in your work.
8 The Elders and their Work Training Course and Handbook
Acknowledgements This work is based to a large extent on the work of two former Wardens of Coleg Trefeca, the Revd Tom Wright and the late Revd Gwilym Ceiriog Evans, and successive Assistant Wardens, most especially the Revd Jenny Garrard.
They prepared courses for Trefeca and the Connexion, and considerable use has been made of their material. We acknowledge also the permission of the United Reformed Church for us to use, without payment and without restriction, material from a number of publications:
Being an Elder by Dr Stephen Mayor
Exploring Eldership by the Revd Peter McIntosh
Called to be an Elder by the Faith and Life Department
United for Mission: Study Kit for Elders
“...Some are called to be elders” by the Faith and Life Department
Similar permission was received from the Church of Scotland to extensively use materials from its Frontline series of training leaflets. Special acknowledgement is made of the leaflets Ministering to the Sick by Isobel Grigor and Ministering in Loss Situations by Ken Lawson, which form the basis of Chapter 5, and “Bridging the Generation Gap” by John Bell, used in Chapter 6.
Permission was received from the Uniting Church in Australia to quote from two of its publications:
Your Church Can Come Alive by Rowland Croucher (1990); and
Elders in a Church Come Alive by David Merritt (1991).
We give thanks for these denominations’ ecumenical commitment in this regard. Using the material from other churches, adaptations had to be made in order that this book should reflect the order and traditions of the Presbyterian Church of Wales. It is hoped that this book will also be of use within the URC, and for deacons in Congregational and Baptist churches, Class Leaders and Church Council members in Methodist Churches, and so on.
NB The Candidates and Training Department updated this handbook in 2014, and it is now offered as a revised edition of the original work.
Training Course and Handbook The Elders and their Work 9
1: What is an Elder? OPENING WORSHIP
Reading: Acts 20.17-38
Father God, lead me now as I seek your way for me. Create in me a new commitment to your service. Place before me the example of Christ Jesus. Fill me with the wisdom of the Holy Spirit. This I ask, trusting in your grace. Amen.
This chapter, after an introductory exercise, includes both a Bible Study about eldership and a brief account of the development of the office in subsequent church history. Each of these sections can form a session on its own. If it is desired to cover one only, then it is strongly recommended that the Bible Study be used, and members of the group be invited to read the historical section at home. If it is intended to use Chapter 2 as the next session, the exercise “By next time” at the end of the chapter will link the two sessions.
There is not in the Presbyterian Church of Wales such a thing as a “job description” for elders, nor a clear list of the duties of the elders’ meeting as a whole. What is found in The Book of Order and Rules is an emphasis on the responsibility of an elder to the local church and the Connexion.
An elder in the Presbyterian Church of Wales is a man or woman called to serve the local church through a ballot held prayerfully and under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Elders, together with the minister, take responsibility as a team for the life, worship and witness of the local congregation. According to their talents/gifts they are to visit the sick, to teach the young, to guide and support those who are seeking Christ, and to train and encourage believers. They are also expected to have a care for the Connexion as a whole. They shall be managing trustees of their local church and they are to work with their fellow elders and the ministers