Elders, Deacons, and Deaconess' Retreat
31st January 2019
Under the theme of 'Keeping', this year's South England Conference (SEC) Elders', Deacons' and Deaconesses' Conference at Staverton Park in Daventry attracted record numbers of nearly 400 participants with many not being able to get registered. The weekend event which took place from 18-20 January was led by Devotional guest speaker, Pastor Patrick Carter from the Emmanuel church in Atlanta, USA with four SEC directors who did workshops on the theme.
Carter's daily messages inspired and challenged the participants to be relevant when it comes to Retention. His three points for accomplishing this are first, to be insistent on meeting the needs of those whom we wish to retain. Second, be persistent with them; that is, in the same way, that God does not give up on us, we must be persistent in supporting those who need help for retention. Third, we must be consistent in our ways and attitude. He said, our message does not change, but the style for reaching out must be tailored to a continually changing society to be relevant.
Pastor Ebenezer Jones-Lartey, Ministerial Association Secretary and organiser of the event said, the theme was pitched against the backdrop of the conference's broader theme of 'Retention' to address the 'Keeping' of the Lord's flock. He said the leaders of the church, including the elders, deacons and deaconesses are the keepers of the congregation.
There were four workshops at the three-day event and were led by Conference directors; Pastor Michael Mbui, Pastor Wayne Erasmus and Dr Chidi Ngwaba, including one for Deacons and Deaconesses by Jones-Lartey.
Jones-Lartey addressed the role deacons and deaconesses play in retaining members. He says, "The deacons and deaconesses are spiritual ambassadors for Christ. Their purpose is to bring Christ's ministry of health to the local church.
"They must ensure that their local church is a place that meets the following criteria:
- Trust – is the local church a place where people feel safe and secure?
- Belonging – is the local church a place where people feel they belong? The deacon and deaconess are conduits for relationship and community
- Hope – is the local church a place where people think they can find meaning and purpose in life?"
He added that if the church fulfils the above criteria, people will stay.
Mbui's workshop focused on exploring how and why leaders need to train members for effective disciple-making. He says, to retain those who join the church and those who are still growing in the Adventist Church, the leaders must be intentional in training them to follow Christ's vision and mission for their lives and their church. He added that effective training involves observing, listening and participating.
Erasmus' workshop focused on the changed and changing landscape of faith in Great Britain and the challenges and opportunities it presents to the mission for the Seventh-day Adventist Church in 2019. Alongside the overview, he discussed an introduction to the 'Natural Church Development Tool' and how it helps us see our relative strengths and growth areas as we seek to position ourselves better for mission and retention.
Conference President, Pastor Emmanuel Osei, allowed participants to raise questions of concern during the Sabbath afternoon plenary. This was after he had shared with them the initiative of 'Paradigm Shift to Doing Ministry'. Osei, said, "this is about doing ministry differently by allowing ministers to train the elders to run the church while the pastor is freed into the community to grow new opportunities."
[Sam O Davies]