I want to share with you a pretty exciting thing God has made happen in one of our ECO Mission Affinity Groups. At the beginning of the year, Lisa Johnson, Director of ELI, Dana Allin and I sat down to discuss just how we might begin a pilot project of inviting a Mission Affinity Group into an experience of the Elder Leadership Institute. Lisa has done an incredible job of building on the foundation of ELI by revamping some of the content and the approach so that the experience accommodates the transformational change we hope happens in ECO churches. The MAG relationship is a perfect crucible to experiment and test out some of the enhancements. Lisa and I invited a group of Alabama churches to be the first guinea pigs. I knew from being involved with this MAG that they were interested in strengthening the elder leadership through additional training and hoped to do that together. Westminster Pres and Overlook Pres both in Mobile, Bryan Memorial in Hoover, and the Eden Seekers in Enterprise were the perfect fit.
Over the course of the summer and early fall, we began phase 1 of the ELI experience by establishing a Pastoral Learning Community with the pastoral leaders of each church. We met and introduced ELI, got their buy in and commitment to it. In turn, each of the leaders got the commitment of the elders on their sessions to ELI. We met again three more times via Skype as each of the leaders began implementing the ELI methodology which included the members of the session writing and sharing their spiritual autobiographies. On Saturday, November 19th, our Phase 1 experience reached a culmination point as we met for a day long retreat.
We gathered in Greenville, Alabama, a convenient spot for all the churches and were very blessed by the FPC of Greenville, a PCA congregation, who allowed us to use their beautiful space without charge. Lisa Johnson, having taught the content of the ELI retreat in various settings, and Emily Day, ECO Communications Director, have completed an excellent video series and guidebook which we used to teach us and steer us through the day. The topic of Building a Healthy Team invited each of the sessions to examine their relationships by evaluating their team dynamics centered on the topics of Christ, Community, Conflict, Communication, and Celebration. Following each video, we broke into separate session groups and discussed the topic prompted by the questions outlined in the Guidebook.
All in all, the day was filled with deep joy, deep dialogue, and a deep desire to grow and be healthy leaders. Taking time away from each of our own settings allowed for a concerted and focused experience inviting the Holy Spirit to stir and foster our hearts desire for Jesus and for his bride, the church. Looking ahead, we’ll begin Phase 2 of ELI as we continue to implement the things we learned in Phase 1. As Lisa Johnson shared with us via Tim Fearer, the strength of our leadership comes in our relationship with Christ. Next we’ll look to the Spirit to guide us in deepening community in each church and casting vision for God’s next steps. Stay tuned for future updates!