Thursday, December 10, 2009

Read and Learn Thursday: Officer Training Ideas

Recently I spent four weeks in the new elder training program at my church. I was there as the "understudy" because next year I will be in charge of the program. So I was paying careful attention to how it was being done.

There are four weekly meetings that cover Presbyterian polity and church history as well as a brief overview of Presbyterian theology. Presentations about the work and mission of several of the most important committees are also made by the elders who moderate those committees. This year we added a "continuing ed" session for the session in the spring that was very successful. It is hard to digest all this new information, so the continuing ed meeting (led by our Executive Pastor) gave new and not-so-new elders the chance to ask questions. We're planning to do this again in 2010.

A number of years ago I learned the importance of consistent and thorough officer training when I served on the Administrative Commission of a church in our presbytery that was so conflicted that fisticuffs had broken out before a session meeting and security guards were hired to maintain order in worship. One of the biggest problems in this conflicted congregation was the total lack of understanding about the roles of the pastor, session and congregation in our polity. We were shocked to learn there had been NO officer training for a couple of decades there. One of the first things we did as an AC was to conduct officer training for the session and any elders not on session who were willing to attend.

Most churches conduct officer training in the fall so that the officers can be ordained and installed by January. What is your officer training program like? What works well? What needs improvement? Please share your thoughts about officer training in the comments!


Elaine said...

Are there any pre-packaged curriculums or training materials available or does every church just do its own?

You mentioned Presbyterian theology, I know of at least one church that includes a fairly intense spiritual development course. Anyone else doing that as well?

Norman, Oklahoma

Quotidian Grace said...

Former PCUSA Moderator Joan Gray wrote Spiritual Leadership for Church Officers, which is meant for use in officer training and has a great spiritual development component. I'm planning to use some of it in the training I'm responsible for next year.

Anyone else used it?