Elders from several churches in Idaho Conference recently gathered for training at Camp Ida-Haven.
The 2022 Elders Retreat was so well received that Idaho Conference administration decided to make it an annual event, rather than every other year.
The retreat's purpose was to provide training and inspiration to local church elders to equip them for ministry in their churches. Elders also learned how to assist pastors in the care of the congregation and in the church’s outreach ministries. Spouses and families were invited to attend, all at the expense of Idaho Conference. They experienced the beauty of the environment and delicious food.
This year’s guest speaker was VicLouis Arreola III, Pacific Union Conference vice president for Asian Pacific ministries who recently served as the coordinator of multi-ethnic ministries for North American Division.
He also serves as founder, president and professor of Pacific Institute of Christian Ministry, an equipping school for lay pastors and church leaders in North American Division. Arreola began Friday evening with an introduction to the ministry of local elders. He continued with sessions on visitation, sermon preparation and church revitalization.
The sessions were not just lectures. For sermon preparation, he provided several methods of developing sermons. The attendees were divided into five cohorts and tasked with developing a sermon outline based on one of the methods. Each cohort shared their sermon method, topic/title and scripture they would use for the sermon.
David Salazar, Idaho Conference vice president for administration, provided the worship service. He shared "Anchored in Change," based on the experience of Ruth and Naomi. Salazar moved through Ruth’s life experiences, showing how her faith in God began as “borrowed faith” from her mother-in-law, Naomi, and developed into her own faith in God.
He began the sermon by asking for four volunteers who sat one behind the other. The person at the back was given the task of drawing a simple shape with their finger on the back of the person in front of them. Then each successive person would draw their interpretation of that shape on the person in front of them.
The last person would draw on paper what they thought had been drawn on them. Salazar called the exercise objective truth. Each individual interpreted it as they felt it. The final result and the original shape were not close to the same. Even objective truth is viewed differently from one person to the next, based on our own experiences.
Salazar also hosted the “Elder-to-Elder Open Forum,” beginning with an icebreaker where groups of two introduce themselves in 90 seconds, then moving on to merging two groups and having the members introduce their partner to the others in just 60 seconds.
Elders asked questions about conflict, including how to deal with a visitor who becomes a divisive distraction or a church member who demonstrates harmful behavior. Other questions included how a church can grow, especially with a small congregation.
Saturday evening’s session concluded with a graduation. Each elder who attended was given a certificate of extension education, with continuing education credit provided by Andrews University and La Sierra University.
Arreola was assisted in the weekend by David Brown, Idaho Conference pastor, who is transitioning to Montana Conference. Brown also serves as the field director for Pacific Institute of Christian Ministry. Those who graduated were invited to continue their education with the second session of the Elders Certification Training, either online or in person. Further information can be found at picm.org.
Elders from churches large and small participated in the weekend training. Twelve churches were represented: Caldwell, Eagle, Emmett, Garden Valley, Idaho Falls, Meridian, Nampa, Payette, New Plymouth, Olive Tree Ministry Center, Ontario and The Experience. They all left equipped with more tools and resources to assist in their church's ministry.
Joyce Biggs, a church leader from The Experience, said this about the weekend: “I really liked the way Arreola presented each phase of the lessons in a methodical and clear way. The stories he used for illustrations were inspiring and encouraging. I appreciated the chance to present, using his instructions as well. I wish we had been able to have one more session on Sunday morning so we wouldn't have felt so rushed, with so much information stuffed into our heads.”
At the same time, Hispanic elders were receiving training as well. Fredi Murrieta, Nampa Spanish/Magic Valley Spanish district pastor, led out in their training.
Several young elders attended, beginning to learn what their role as elders involved. Elders came from Boise Hispanic Company, Caldwell Hispanic Company, Jerome Hispanic Company, Nampa Spanish Church, Payette Spanish Church and the Twin Falls Hispanic group.
Elvis Diaz presented sessions on Adventist leadership and how to develop and manage an interest list. Development includes how a church finds people who are looking for something more in their lives and management is how the church moves the interests into membership and discipleship. Diaz serves as the director for sales and marketing for El Centinela and Spanish language books at Pacific Press Publishing Association.
Oscar “Mike” Sánchez provided additional training on the church budget, Sabbath School and the need to reach Generation Z. Sabbath School is a ministry for all ages that can make a huge impact on the life of a church and its members. It's a way to increase church attendance and membership. Sánchez is the associate treasurer at Idaho Conference and has a passion for pastoral ministry.
Plans are underway for next year’s Elders Retreat, to continue to provide those who are chosen to serve as elders with the tools they need to assist in the administration and ministry of their local church.