I was asked recently about how our congregation approaches the issue of officer training. It was a timely question. At a recent meeting of the congregation we clarified our approach to officer training. Hopefully this will be helpful to others as well.
Church Officer Training Program
- Scripture obliges Christian leaders to be on the lookout for, and equip “faithful men who will be able to teach others also” (2 Tim. 2:2).
- Likewise, article 22 of our constitution requires that nominees for the office of elder or deacon “shall be required to undergo instruction as to the office, the Reformed faith in general, the creed, and Constitution of the local church in particular…all nominees must be in full communion with the church and earnestly devoted to the cause of Christ.”
- Providing further explanation of the nature and duration of this training is beneficial for those in training, and for the Consistory, council, and congregation.
- The Consistory shall strive, at all times, to have at least one man in the position of elder and deacon in training (respectively) for the purpose of evaluating his suitability for office and, where warranted, preparing him to fill that office should the congregation elect him.
- The in-training position is not an office, nor is it vested with the authority that comes through congregational election and formal ordination. Nonetheless, this position of officer-in-training will provide the kind of training for office that “book work” or other theoretical training cannot accomplish.
- The congregation should be mindful to encourage the trainees in their undertaking and show them Christian charity as brothers in the Lord. The congregation is encouraged to bring shepherding and diaconal needs to their district elder or deacon (or elder or deacon in training where appropriate).
- General Duties
- All officer trainees shall studiously familiarize themselves with the Scriptures, the Three Forms of Unity, the Creed, the Church Order of the URCNA, and the Constitution and Ministry Handbook of CRCC.
- Officers in training shall be expected to attend all Consistory and/or council meetings where they may participate in the discussion though without a vote. When necessary, those in training may be excused from the meetings, especially when sensitive matters calling for strict confidentiality are undertaken.
- An elder-in-training will ordinarily serve in a particular shepherding district with an ordained elder.
- An elder-in-training may be asked by the Consistory to participate in those duties which are pertinent to the office of elder, including but not limited to: Leading the district prayer meeting, assisting in distributing the elements of the Lord’s Supper,[i] and participating in family visitation.
- A deacon-in-training will ordinarily serve in a particular shepherding district with an ordained deacon.
- A deacon-in-training may be asked by the Consistory to participate in those duties which are pertinent to the office of deacon, including but not limited to: Helping to collect and count the offering, offering a prayer during the collection of the offering, and listening to diaconal needs raised by a member of the congregation.
- General Duties
- Qualifications, Appointment, and Term
- Those appointed to the position of elder or deacon in training must be members in good standing of Covenant Reformed Church and will ordinarily have been members of the church for a minimum of one year.
- Appointees shall demonstrate the qualifications needed for the office to which they are being trained according to 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1.
- Appointees shall desire the office to which they are being trained (1 Tim. 3:1).
- Appointees shall also have shown diligent participation in the leadership training classes offered to the men of the congregation.
- Those appointed shall ordinarily serve for a period of one year.
- When a man has been an elder or deacon in training for one year (or more or less time in extraordinary circumstances), the Consistory shall evaluate the man’s suitability for nomination.
- After this evaluation, the man’s status (i.e. whether he will be nominated for office, reappointed to the in-training position, or released from said appointment) will be publicly communicated to the congregation.
[i] Our church order insists that “The Consistory shall supervise participation at the Lord’s Table” (art. 45). This we do by having an ordained elder distribute an evaluation card to prospective guest participants and by issuing a public warning and invitation. The distribution of the elements is a sort of “administrative” matter.